Bored and frustrated with the conventional ‘white cube’ galleries in Joburg, longtime collaborators MJ Turpin and Matthew Dean decided to establish their own space that could engage with different art forms – and indeed re-interrogate what ‘art’ is – in ways not being seen in already established gallery and museum spaces. Thus Kalashnikovv Gallery came hurtling onto the Joburg art scene in early 2013. Since then, Kalashnikovv has hosted over a dozen exhibitions plus a range of other festivals, parties and events thrown into the mix. Through this they’ve cultivated a new following for a different kind of ‘art scene’, one which has its finger firmly on the youth culture pulse of Joburg right now. This year the Kalashnikovv familia continues to grow with new artists being signed to the gallery, and a few months ago, the move to a larger gallery space in Braamfontein. Whenever asked what’s next, MJ and Matt answer with the ubiquitous “big things”.
How and when did the idea for Kalashnikovv first come about?
The idea to start our own gallery initially came from a series of exhibitions that we were doing in 2011/2012 called satellite spaces /// the untitled gallery, which were one night shows in transient urban locations that focused on showcasing young emerging contemporary artists. Another key factor was the lack of suitable platforms for young innovative creatives of all backgrounds not just fine art to push boundaries without the pressure of commercial success or viability.
What happened next?
One of the satellite spaces shows took place in 70 Juta, which is owned by Play Braamfontein. This opened up a dialogue between us and the director of Play, Adam Levy. After numerous discussions about the local art scene, creative and youth culture in general we started to formulate ideas that would re articulate the common notion of what contemporary art is, can be and how we could provide an alternative to everything that we believed to be wrong with the current white cube system.
Why Braamfontein as location for Kalashnikovv?
Braamfontein has a diversity that is rare in the city, it is home to Wits university which is one of the beacons of arts and cultural education and thus students and young creatives are always in the area. It also houses established clubs, galleries and institutions like Stevenson and WAM etc. It has an eclectic energy and is completely authentic in the context of an African metropolis in transition.
“Kalashnikovv challenges the conventions of the art gallery in its manifestation, conduct, audience and motivation”; please tell us a little more about this ethos…
First of all we traverse the boundaries between a traditional gallery and project space,We’ve shown artists and ”designers” that other galleries would not even look at usually for numerous reasons. We interact with artists and the public in a way that highlights the inter-connectivity of different creative practises, cultures and lifestyles. Constantly trying to push people’s perceptions of what ART really is, where it can be found and its function in contemporary society.
This year you initiated the Floating Reverie online digital residency; what sparked this and where do you hope to see it going?
The Floating Reverie residency was conceived by JHB based artist Carly Whittaker and Art historian / curator Nicola Kritzinger. Kalashnikovv Gallery was chosen by them to host the post digital / physical manifestation of work that emerges from the online residency. The main reason being that we share similar ideas about the future of art in the digital landscape and ideas of which many local artists are going to represent our country in the years to come.
Another of your associated ongoing projects is the Black Cube Sessions. How do events like this tie in with the overarching Kalashnikovv vision?
Once again utilising the notions of hybridisation and the creating of alternate creative platforms the Black Cube Sessions was a logical conceptual development for us. Creating party or social based platforms with a more curated and specifically designed experiential side to them.
Despite the rebellious black sheep persona, Kalashnikovv is a commercial gallery. Please tell us a little about the business side of things…
To be completely honest Kalashnikovv has and always will be a cross platform initiative between a commercial gallery and project space. We need to sell work in order to financially sustain ourselves, the artists that we show and to perpetuate the creation of new work, but in striving to change perceptions and open people’s minds we also do need create exhibitions/interventions/happenings/performances that are not commercially viable and have no monetary value…
What have been some of the challenges along the way?
Challenges so far would include not having the kind of capital that is sometimes necessary to fulfill our vision of what certain exhibitions, interventions and artworks could potentially be. We like to think big, but often we do need to tone down our expectation in order to conform with budgetary requirements.
Please share with us your thoughts around the notion of accessibility in the local art context…
Fundamentally I don’t think accessibility is the problem per se, more so access to basic arts education and information. But associations like VANSA are doing invaluable work to enlighten and correct these momentary pitfalls if you will.
What’s next for Kalashnikovv?
We are about to launch Kalashnikovv Radio on the 7th of August, this is one of many new media platforms that we will be branching into in the next few months, we are also working with the people from AMAZE festival on producing a very exciting technology symposium called Fakugesi, which will be held in Braamfontein’s new digital precinct – Tshimologong.
Which artists’ work do you think people should be taking notice of and buying right now and why?
Obviously all 10 of the Kalashnikovv artists that have recently been signed to the gallery, we have already scoured the country to find the most promising emerging artists from a variety of disciplines and mediums.
What advice do you have for creative entrepreneurs wanting to make their own thing happen?
Cliches aside – Self Belief and Work Ethic, but before you do anything make sure that your ideas are well researched and relevant in the market you are attempting to enter. You can push as hard as you like but if your concept is poor you will never get where you want to be.
Anything to add…