“Kalashnikovv went from concept to reality through a cocktail of blood, sweat, tears as well as trial and error. In collaboration with my business partner Matthew Dowdle, our first point of departure was a city-based, temporary gallery concept called satellite spaces /// The untitled gallery.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: MARCELINO RODRIGUES
“Life is composed of different inventions”- Mikhail Kalashnikov (inventor of the russian ak-47). Does the name of the gallery have any reference to mikhail?
We chose it as a reference to the kalashnikov being a widely chosen tool of liberation in african revolutions, by extension challenging prevailing white-cube gallery structures and an “elitist air” that we wish to redefine and expand upon; a kind of “liberating art for the people”, disrupting the status quo discourse in its true and simplest sense and essentially attempting to create an all-inclusive creative platform.
Guns aside, what concepts are currently being given life inside the space?
A broad range of practice and concepts at any given time, it can go from a contemporary painting show to a conceptual show utilising installation and live streaming to another location, to launching the first south african graffiti book and back “online” again with the digital residency “floating reverie”.
Tell us how the kalashnikovv went from concept to reality, and how it has grown in terms of side projects and collaborations.
Kalashnikovv went from concept to reality through a cocktail of blood, sweat, tears as well as trial and error. In collaboration with my business partner matthew dowdle, our first point of departure was a city-based, temporary gallery concept called satellite spaces///the untitled gallery. Every 3 months we would curate a large group exhibition in the regenerated urban areas of jhb (i.e. Newtown, maboneng and braamfontein). The series became very popular and momentum built up quickly; the developer of braamfontein area – adam levy – believed in us and our vision to such a degree that he very generously offered us a rent-free space for 3 months. We have been the creative bane of his and carl ascroft’s existence ever since and are planning many more interesting collaborations to come for the next few years ahead. The long and short of it all, in collaboration with playbraamfontein and matthew dowdle, i created the type of gallery that i had always wanted to be a part of as an artist but never found.
Side projects and collaborations at present include: “floating reverie”, an online digital residency project, and the black cube sessions which is one of our conceptual based events combining music and art. We are also in our 3rd year of our 4 day arts and culture youth festival basha uhuru which is done in collaboration with constitution hill every june and last but not least we have just started our own arts development trust called create.the.city to facilitate creative based mentorship and public art projects.
Who is part of the kalashnikovv family at the moment?
Too many people to mention here and constantly growing, just check out our new website dropping mid-june but to give you some idea we currently work with love and hate (cpt), mega bonanza, skullboy, evl jon, lazi mathebula, craig smith etc. But it’s also important to note that we treat our gallery more like an agency, in the sense that we are building an inter- disciplinary creative network as much as a traditional gallery and still very much championing the notion of the independent artist above all else but with a support team.
What types of disciplines and mediums do the gallery incorporate?
All and anything, we don’t believe in the categorisation of creativity or manifestation thereof, this being said it obviously still must be relative to our own aesthetic ethos and vision, we are a ride or die gallery – from durer to digital.
What elements do you consider when you choose an artist to be represented by the gallery – is it an organic process or more strategic?
Their work must aesthetically resonate with us first and foremost, thereafter their theoretical framework or lack thereof. That being said everything is at once organic and strategic, i view the gallery as an extension of my own practice as an artist and by extension all artists we work with as my collaborators.
Can artists approach the gallery openly (international or local)?
Our focus is currently primarily about developing relationships with local artists and institutions but we are open to international collaboration and dialogue.
How does kalashnikovv fit into the realm of south africa’s contemporary aesthetic?
We don’t, some of our artists even exist in the realm of the anti-aesthetic norm. Also it’s important to note that we don’t just prescribe to the notion of creative validation or worth through academia i.e. Studying for a b.a.f.a.
What sort of agreement does the gallery have with its artists in terms of the financial side of the business?
Cheeky – ask my accountant…….aka mutually beneficial and always in favour of the artists.
How has the kalashnikovv challenged your longstanding ideologies to do with ‘art’ and also ‘making art’ as an artist….?
To some degree i suppose but that’s the beauty of the project space//commercial gallery dichotomy we push, its doesn’t always have to be about “the money honey” but also simply pushing all creative boundaries and creating new platforms to showcase this work.
Do you feel that the gallery could be an extension of your work in some way or do you treat the gallery as completely separate from your personal work?
As mentioned above it is completely an extension of my work but also exists in the collaborative realm. I choose to look at it as another medium for me to be creative with and a rare opportunity to be in a constant dialogue with many artists at any given time, they only make me a better artist and i hope i do the same for them. I find curators that are artists to be more engaging, the ability to talk from first-hand experience both theoretically and practically makes the conversation all-encompassing.
If the word ‘creative’ was taken out of the dictionary, what would you replace it with?
Imaginarium or fucker, can’t decide.
If kalashnikovv was a person how would you describe him or her?
Bjork – beastie boys – biko – basquiat – banksy all fucked into one.
Do you think kalashnikovv could function as a space in cape town and are there any plans to expand at the moment?
We have a 2 year plan for ct, so see you soonish…
Does the gallery get the commercial support it needs in order to keep going?
Not every month without fail, but that’s why we sell guns and alcohol inbetween.
you have been dj-ing as m18j92t, is there symbolism in the name? What else have you been involved with in the past which is relevant in terms of your role as co-director at the gallery?
Indeed, now they call me “sunday morning”, i was also in a multimedia band called ‘mtkidu’ for 5 years, fusing art, design, storytelling and music. I guess my experience in other creative fields lends itself to, and reflects itself in, the broad gallery program we curate yearly.
You have been moving around johannesburg for a long time now. What do you feel has been the most relevant change within the city in the last 10 years?
The movement of creative hubs and collectives from peripheries to the centre. This is important as the centres have the potential to be more inclusive and diverse than either suburbia or townships individually.
GALLERY MIX TAPE
‘Never Mind the Bollocks’
‘Life After Death’
‘The North Borders’