KENNY EXPRESSES HIS ART THROUGH INSTALLATIONS, VIDEOS AND PERFORMANCES. THE ARTIST WELCOMES US IN HIS STUDIO FLAT TO TALK ABOUT INFLUENCES, CARNIVAL & HYBRIDISATION.
DISCUSSION UNDER THE LENS OF PHOTOGRAPHER ENZO LEFORT.
CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF?
My name is Kenny Dunkan, I come from Guadeloupe where I lived for 18 years, I've been in Paris for 16 years.
I'm an artist, I create installations, videos, performances. I studied at Olivier de Serre, then at the decorative arts. It was my dream, at the age of 6 I was already telling my parents that I wanted to be an artist in Paris.
My family is not a family of artists but they are manual, my mother in particular, my father is a builder, a jack of all trades, who builds many houses. My grandmother, Didi, also inspired me a lot, this way of diverting objects, being able to make something beautiful out of nothing. Modifying objects to change their function is something that can be found in my work.
CAN YOU TELL US WHERE WE ARE ?
We are in my studio/apartment in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. It's a post-covid project, with the idea of bringing everything together in the same place. It will change in the future, notably for reasons of space.
YOUR WORK SEEMS TO BE BOTH MINERAL AND ORGANIC, HALF CITY AND HALF NATURE. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?
Yes, there is this organic/mineral side, always this desire to transform the industrial into organic, of magical transformation. I think of the Guadeloupe carnival, my first aesthetic experience, and I saw all these assemblies of recycled materials, with ostrich feathers, rhinestones, plastics, sequins, and natural materials to obtain a hybrid result. I assemble objects like that, it's a natural way of doing things.
Still on the notion of hybridization, I like to divert objects to change their status, sometimes to make something banal into something sacred, to bring sacredness where it is not expected, how we transform the profane into the sacred.
I'm also thinking of the opposition between dominant culture and subcultures. What is the official culture too, what is the status of an object in this culture.
In the West Indies, there is this hybrid notion of syncretism, this mixture of beliefs from Africa and Europe.
WHAT APPROACH DO YOU TAKE TO YOUR ART?
It's very intuitive, it's all about feeling and intuition, like my whole life in fact. I don't make the difference between my life and my work, because I feel like it wasn't a choice, I don't know how to do anything else.
Since I was a child, I have been dedicated to the thing, to creation.
I use my body a lot, as a medium, as a symbol, as an image, a political, gendered, racialised body. I use it to defend a statement, to be able to be who I want, to play with the expected codes, which I will divert.
It is a question of emancipation too, sometimes I am dominated by an object, sometimes I am dominant as if to regain power. Dominant/dominated relationship at the sensuality, historical level, through consumption too. It's taking back the power over these solicitations. The sensuality of a body allows the integration of the organic also.
CURIOUS TO HEAR YOUR SOURCES OF INSPIRATION...
My family, my childhood in the West Indies with its myths and beliefs.through the Afro-American scene, I think of David Hammons, for me the absolute artist. I was able to meet Rashid Johnson whom I like very much.
In design, Gaetano Pesce.
In fashion, in haute couture, this is found in my work, the gradations of stitching, embroidery, the creation of accessories. I think of this Eiffel Tower sculpture, which can refer to the Paco Rabanne of the 60's and 70's.
Many others, I was very marked by John Galliano of the Dior years, for his total art, the performance side, the incredible soundtracks, the profusion of accessories, the make-up of Pat McGrath. I feel on the same wavelength as these people.
YOUR STYLE ? WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO CLOTHING?
It all depends on my age, on the period of my life. I have a fetishistic relationship with clothing, I have obsessions for certain pieces that I absolutely must have, not necessarily linked to the trend. The trend is obsolescence, it's quickly seen too much.
I really like classics, I have a number of them in my wardrobe.
I have an obsession with proportions, I can buy the same classic in M and XXL to have 2 different wears depending on my mood.
ANY CURRENT EVENTS OR FUTURE PROJECTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL US ABOUT?
My next exhibition will take place in mid-October, during the Offscreen fair at the Salomon de Rothschild Hotel with several artists' solo shows. I have created an installation with new and existing pieces, for an exploration of visual sensations with tinted glass, sound, an immersive experience.
I record the sound of my sculptures, so as not to lose them, it's a reference to the carnival, all these objects in movement.
IF YOU HAD TO ADD A SONG TO OUR PLAYLIST OF THE MONTH?
Nina Simone's "Here come the sun", which I love. It's enveloping, atmospheric, reassuring.
A MANTRA TO FINISH ?
"Tchimbé rèd pa moli" in West Indian: Whatever happens, always go forward!
Kenny Dunkan wears the cloud sweater, the Ellipse denim trousers & the Fenté 125 coat.
Photo credits : Enzo Lefort