Dean Blunt

Dean Blunt @ Arcadia Missa, May 20 – Jun 25

19 May 2016

Dean Blunt is presenting solo exhibition W44VEY at London’s Arcadia Missa, opening May 20 and running to June 25.

There’s little information on the theme of the exhibition itself, aside from some typically cryptic press release text, below, and a YouTube video featuring 40 seconds of noise and images piles cash of cash, screens and online purchases via bootleg branded outlets like ‘Pay_Pall’ and ‘HedEx’.

“Glam frieztgerald white suits
Did calprio decide to go after chickens and pigeon eating them alive in front of ppl with friend they also trash the party by breaking all the windows
They get ostracised ” W44VEY

The London-based artist, producer and musician, who became known first for his work with cult band Hype Williams has spent the last couple years carving out a career under his solo moniker and releasing an album as Babyfather in April, while also presenting exhibitions at Space, the ICA and, more recently, Cubitt Gallery.

See the FB event page for details.**

  share news item

Babyfather @ Bloc., Apr 7

4 April 2016

Babyfather and ‘special guests’ are performing at London’s Bloc. Autumn Street on April 7.

London-based artist, producer and Hype Williams co-founder Dean Blunt is a known member of the project, which released its debut BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow on Hyperdub on April 2.

The record, which features contributions from Arca and Micachu (aka Mica Levi), is a pastiche of tracks of murky grime and hip hop influenced electronic numbers with titles like ‘Greezebloc’, ‘Esco Freestyle’ and ‘Killuminati’ and a looping vocal sample that declares, “This makes me proud to be British”.

See the Bloc. website for (limited) details.**

  share news item

Dean Blunt @ The Echoplex, Mar 11

11 March 2016

London-based musician and artist Dean Blunt is performing LA’s The Echoplex on March 11.

Presented by Gene’s Liquor, the lineup also includes Delroy Edwards and SFV Acid, all of whom are introduced on the FB event by way disparaging quotes from critical reviews, one by British actor Idris Elba and one by Resident Advisor writer Angus Finlayson.

The ex-Hype Williams performer who’s since built a considerable catalogue around his own Dean Blunt moniker is releasing an album from his new project Babyfather on Hyperdub in April. He’s also presented a series of exhibitions and events in the art sphere, including Space, ICA and Cubitt Gallery in London, and collaborated with the likes of James Ferraro.

See the FB event page for details.**

  share news item

Dean Blunt @ Cubitt Gallery, Jan 27 – Feb 28

25 January 2016

Dean Blunt has a solo show at London’s Cubitt Gallery, opening January 27 and running to February 28.

There is little information to accompany the announcement of this show and it has no title. Hype Williams, the elusive music collaboration that once featured Blunt and Inga Copeland recently produced a chilling and beautiful new track, ‘Distance’ (listen below), which was also unannounced prior to its release.

Read aqnb‘s review of Blunt’s show, Brixton 28s held at London’s [space] in 2013 for an understanding of the nature and power of Blunt’s work as both an artist and recording artist.

Running at the same time as the Cubitt show, Blunt and Nina Cristante will also be presenting an  exhibition, hot16 together at Copenhagen’s Years.

See the Cubitt Gallery website for (limited) details**

  share news item

Newman Festival @ Druskininkai, Jul 3 – 6

6 May 2015

The inaugural Newman art and music festival is happening at the Lithuanian town of Druskininkai, running from July 3 to July 6.

Set in the small spa town—built on the bank of river Nemunas, surrounded by nature, and known for its mineral waters and curative mud—the festival posits itself as an exploration of the clash of human nature with modern technology, analyzing how media “extends and redefines a human being”.

Participating in the festival are, to date, six musical and visual acts, including: Jerry Paper (the 11-dimensional caricatured sonic persona of New York-based musician Lucas Nathan); Canadian and Berlin-based singer, songwriter and producer Dan Bodan; Hype Williams member Dean Blunt; Colombian producer and “pop surrealist” Lucrecia Dalt; Berlin-based duo and Mykki Blanco producer Amnesia Scanner; and Norwegian contemporary artist and musician Lars Holdhus (known as T C F).

 See the festival website for details. **

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 2.30.50 PM

  share news item

Dean Blunt’s New Paintings @ [ space ] reviewed

15 October 2014

Notoriously elusive Dean Blunt gives little away in the materials surrounding New Paintings, his latest exhibition for Hackney’s [ space ]. As viewers enter the room, two short wall-mounted phrases – “the good die young” and “ball in heaven” – are the only introduction to the wide open exhibition, and his deliberate withdrawal of context immediately feels overwhelming.

The honorific description of the death of young people sets up the idea that this is going to be a show dealing in similar themes Blunt has touched on many times before, in both his music and visual art: that of gangs and crime, or rather, how those things are glossed over or even abetted by our superficial societal obsessions. Just last week he shared ‘TRIDENT PART 2’, a spoken word track about violent events in Hackney and the police’s response. He’s often critiqued popular culture’s attachment of glamour to untimely death, the morphing of it into yet another distracting commodity in a world that’s full of them.

Standing out of the press information that circulated before the opening of New Paintings on October 3, “the good die young” seemed like a brutally clear-cut indication of what to expect, conjuring the idea that this might be a collection overshadowed by violence. Bodies have featured prominently in Blunt’s work before, and black bodies in particular: he explored the sexual objectification of the young men in his uncomfortably slowed-down take on D’Angelo’s How Does It Feel’ video and gangs and gentrification in his Brixton 28s exhibit. The bodies in Blunt’s work are there to step over or to accept drinks from, dehumanised by marketing or by literally being made out of plastic.

Stepping into [space] this time, though, the emphasis is on the vast emptiness, as there’s not a body in sight. Eight near-identical and simply detailed ‘paintings’ hang, two on each wall, the room oddly symmetrical and serene. It lacks any of the physicality or immediacy you might expect from a show prefaced only by an angrily tongue-in-cheek line about the glory of youthful death; a line that projects wartime notions of “honour,” but resonates more today with young people caught up in gang violence and police brutality.

Dean Blunt, New Paintings (2014) @ [ space ]. Courtesy the gallery.
Dean Blunt, New Paintings (2014) @ [ space ]. Courtesy the gallery.

The paintings deal not with the bodily truth underpinning the statement “the good die young,” but the cultural deflection of it. Instead of canvas, the frames are stretched with denim: the “painting” element of the show consisting of identical logos emblazoned on the top left-hand corner each fabric base. They seem to say, ‘don’t think about homicide statistics: check out the luxury texture of these selvedge jeans’. The emblem is the Evisu jeans brand, everything engineered to project an upmarket ideal, including the clean boutique feel of the cavernous space that dominates the room and that feels full of ugly truths unsaid. It’s reminiscent of the cover of Greg Tate’s essay collection, Everything But The Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture – which shows a pair of low-slung jeans, and featured prominently in Blunt’s Brixton 28s – in that it once again foregrounds the garment as a piece of commercially packaged cultural identity.

In place of a real conversation about life and death, denim becomes a stand-in for skin, fashionably glossing over the topic. The emphasis in the initially functional-seeming title now falls on the ‘New’; as long as there’s something new to be had, something material to be gained, who cares about anything else? The mind goes back to the hand-based images on the press materials, such as the National Lottery’s ‘finger’s crossed!’ symbol – hands implying action and power, and yet being used to sell a capitalist dream for corporate interests; of free wealth to society’s hardest done-by. “Ball in heaven,” of course, because monetary satisfaction is the ultimate answer to all of earth’s horrors.

Dean Blunt New Paintings Poster
Dean Blunt, New Paintings exhibition poster

What’s the difference between blue and Osaka Blue? One’s a colour recognised universally from preschool up, the other is an invention by Calvin Klein to sell jeans. Blunt names one of his paintings “Untitled (blue)” and another “Untitled (Osaka Blue)” in a nod to this commodification of colour. In the stark presentation of the gallery, colour is slight and presented in twos: pink and white go together (because they’re feminine?), blue and red go together (the UK flag, Bloods vs Crips?), “Osaka Blue” and yellow. The pairings feel weighted, perhaps because they’re the only representation of variety or choice in the room: your agency in this jeans-wearing world is pared down to “what colour logo would you like on your uniform?”, as everything surrounding the option is starkly empty.

Violence doesn’t enter this space, but rather a suffocating awareness – despite being in a huge, open gallery – of the limitation of the options presented to particular parts of society. Perhaps to young black men, specifically. The message of the eternal “ball” tells them that their bodies aren’t as important as what they’re clothed in. Save up, take a gamble, keep your fingers crossed: because blood will wash out, but your design brand jeans are forever. **

Exhibition photos, top-right.

Dean Blunt’s New Paintings is on at London’s [ space ] running from October 2 to December 7, 2014.

Header image: Dean Blunt, New Paintings (2014) @ [ space ]. Courtesy the gallery.

  share news item

Cuss Group Video Party #4

18 September 2014

The fourth Video Party from Johannesburg’s Cuss Group is available to view online now, featuring a contribution by London-based artist and musician Dean Blunt launched on the night of September 17.

Exhibiting a new video and GIF by the ever-prolific and nebulous artist and musician, the video features footage from the CUSS group Video Party Harare intervention held in Zimbabwe (their first in the country) in April, as well as footage of Dean Blunt, a dog and a Ford explorer, already featured in a YouTube video for his track DEF Freestyle‘, released in January this year. There’s also the familiar vocal mumble and warbling synth organ line featured prominently on his defining 2013 album The Redeemer.

Following the Cuss Group Video Party retrospective, featuring work by Hannah Perry, Rachael Crowther and Dan Szor a few months back, this new video was made available for download between the hours of 7pm and 9pm as a “torrent to own” on its opening but is still available to view online.

See the Cuss Group website for details. **

  share news item

Dean Blunt + Cîroc Boyz @ Orleans, Aug 23

21 August 2014

Dean Blunt is throwing the Cîroc Boyz all-night dance party at North London’s Orleans Wine Bar on August 23.

Likely named in reference to his May 2014 event at ICA, Urban, at which guys in crisp Cîroc shirts were present, Cîroc Boyz continues in a similar vein. The night will feature tunes by Blunt, who will be DJing throughout the night with a little help from his friends, and precedes the release of his new album, Black Metal, due out later this year on Rough Trade, following up 2012’s The Narcissist II, 2013’s The Redeemer, and early 2014’s Skin Fade.

The former Hype Williams member is also doing his best to branch out from just music, taking part recently in a talk at Scratcha DVA‘s Rinse FM show about Black Metal, doing a ‘reading‘ of said album at Bristol’s Off The Page book festival in September, and putting together a gallery show called New Paintings at London’s SPACE studios for October.

See the Orleans Wine Bar FB event page for details. **

  share news item

Dean Blunt and the art of the impasse

27 May 2014

“THE TURN UP IS REAL” said the writing on the wall at Dean Blunt’s Urban event at the ICA last month. The words were scrawled beneath a white projection screen, the only interruption in the otherwise blank slate the audience faced as club-ready hip hop played in volumes whose snares pierced the skull. Nicki Minaj’s Chiraq and Drake’s Days In The East blasted as the audience steadily swelled beyond the available number of seats. As U.O.E.N.O. played, Future crooning about the turn up in the club in synchronicity with the words on the wall, the room packed out to the extent that some were being stopped at the door. It was sweaty. In the darkness, flashes of UV white radiated from audience members fanning themselves with their new copies of The Redeemer.

The phrase clung to my memory of the whole event, because staring at it formulated a disproportionate amount of the experience, and because it took on new meanings that were presumably unintentional. The turn up was, both in terms of people knocking back beers and dancing to the club anthems, and in terms of people queuing out the door to get a peek at what this mysterious NTS/Dean Blunt collaboration might entail, pretty real.

Event images from 'Urban' by Dean Blunt. Image courtesy NTS Radio.
Event images from ‘Urban’ by Dean Blunt. Image courtesy NTS Radio.

Until it wasn’t. Gradually, the familiar, slightly sardonic tone that some of Blunt’s work takes on began to bleed through the spray-painted words. The turn up was forced. Guys in Cîroc shirts (the Diddy-endorsed vodka brand) floated around the venue empty-handed, formal sponsors of a party that wasn’t really happening. Music attempted to force a vibe onto the audience to a painful extent. It was 9.15pm – and after around an hour of waiting – before anything happened, and that something turned out to be the projection of a DVD of American stand-up Kevin Hart (Laugh At My Pain). At 9.25pm, people began to leave.

There was a lot to engage with here, with the Cîroc brand representatives looking bored and Hart’s eardrum-grating catchphrases ricocheting around the room in conversation with the hip hop catchphrases scrawled on the walls: the result was a strong, surreal portrait of mainstream culture’s commodification of black men. Hart, during the intro to his full-length performance, took the viewer on a walk around his childhood neighbourhood during which he riffed on white stereotypes of a black upbringing, feigning embarrassment about not having been a great basketballer. It’s notable that in his success narrative, the first white talking head appears in the DVD at the same point they start talking about Hart’s commercial breakthrough and the big bucks.

Installation view of 'Urban' curated by Dean Blunt. Image courtesy ICA.
Installation view of ‘Urban’ curated by Dean Blunt. Image courtesy ICA.

That portrait felt momentarily perfectly achieved; then, it began to feel stretched. Around an hour after Laugh At My Pain began playing, I chose to leave. Apparently Blunt later took the stage himself to read a poem. It crossed my mind several times during the days afterward that the whole event may have been an exercise in driving out the audience members only interested in Blunt’s work on a surface level, but it struck me as sad that the true result of this seemed to be that only those for whom the turn up was ‘real’ –i.e. those drinking and chatting in groups – were the ones likely to stay. Those who came to engage were tested to the point of discomfort, or worse, boredom.

A few days later I found myself in a parallel position at a venue 100 times larger, as I chose to slink away from Miley Cyrus’s extraordinarily hyped Bangerz tour before she played ‘the hits’. The circumstances, on the surface of it, were entirely different: rather than stretched thin, the show was a sensory assault of John Kricfalusi’s stoner cartoons, a grotesque parody of Fade To Mind-like liquid gold imagery that poured itself into the shapes of enormous tits and cherries being put into bodily orifices, and stage-dominating puppetry that included pantomime horses and a 60 foot inflatable puppy.

Installation view of 'Urban' curated by Dean Blunt. Image courtesy ICA.
Installation view of ‘Urban’ curated by Dean Blunt. Image courtesy ICA.

Something that made a clear distinction between the two shows was the obvious gulf between the intentionality of their cultural signifiers. The Cîroc logo dominated Blunt’s event at the ICA; a quiet comment on his refusal to be an entertainer or commodity in an industry that wants to pigeonhole him, while Cyrus somewhat obliviously rolled around holding her crotch on the hood of a gold car, rapping badly, surrounded by shirtless black male dancers and dollar bills raining from the ceiling. The image of hip hop lay like an awkward bumper sticker over Cyrus’s cowboy-boot-wearing show, as her music scarcely ever managed to raise the true fire of the genre, erring instead on the side of watered-down ballads and woozy country-pop. Hip hop signifiers seem shallow and strange to Blunt, but to Cyrus they are as fun and ridiculous as a cartoon baby head that shoots lasers from its eyes or a dance routine with a great big shark, and that’s as far as the thought process seems to go.

Where you might perhaps find a parallel between the two shows is in the general confrontational approach they took. Bangerz is all about sticking two fingers up to the prudes who think they own a female child star’s body and mind, and revelling in a nonsensical, accelerated world built on a hyperactive blend of anything you can find on Tumblr – sex, pop, cartoons, drugs, and everything else. Meanwhile, Blunt also rebels against a role society has forced upon him, by exposing the crudeness of that role. Both shows are designed to test their audiences, to ask: “who did you come here to see? Are you sure you came here to see me?”

Miley Cyrus, 'Bangerz' tour. Image courtesy E Online.
Miley Cyrus, ‘Bangerz’ tour. Image courtesy E Online.

One crucial difference seems to be that Miley didn’t want me to leave, whereas it feels as though Blunt almost did. Cyrus and her mother repeatedly described the tour as a ‘party’, first and foremost, in an  interview with Fuse News earlier this year. She may have also waxed lyrical about the ‘educational’ value of the art she wanted to expose her audience to, but fundamentally, the Bangerz ethos is just about cutting loose and having fun. Watching the Bangerz tour exhaust itself of visual rabbit holes that never once aligned with the tepid, conventional music, I couldn’t have felt less ‘turnt up’. And although Cyrus was setting out to antagonise conservative critics, I’m pretty sure that’s not the effect she was setting out to have on her audience. Blunt, though, seemed determined to prove from the offset that the turn up was very much unreal; that it was all an illusion balanced precariously on catchphrases and logos. Where Cyrus set out to create a party and only managed to generate the empty, commodified shell of one, Blunt provided a thoughtful recreation of the commodification inherent in hip hop culture. Though the result of both was an emptiness, the processes couldn’t have been further apart.

Though coming from opposite ends of a spectrum, Cyrus and Blunt both found themselves playing against their audiences, and watching both in one week had a strange symmetry. The sad, sweaty viewers who winced through Kevin Hart while clutching their copies of The Redeemer wanted nothing more than emotional engagement with an artist who gave them tracks as beautiful as ‘Papi’ and ‘The Pedigree’, while the many children (and empty seats) at Bangerz contradicted both the artistic ambition and the party mindset of Miley’s image. That disjunction is the hinge on which both performers are working, refusing to deliver the expected; but in withholding so much from an audience that you humiliate or simply bore them, you risk losing them entirely. Whether or not that’s the aim, it leaves the question of whether a point is worth making to a turned back. **

Dean Blunt’s Urban event took place at the ICA in association with NTS Radio on April 30, 2014.

  share news item

Dean Blunt – ‘Walls of Jericho Pt.2’

28 November 2013

It feels like there’s a continual subtext to Dean Blunt‘s releases. Especially when dropping such a short and sharp video as this one, featuring said performer in a Stetson staring out over a body of water, while his typically breathy talk-singing relays, “you’ve got a problem, when it comes to honesty”, with added guitar inserts. That’s over the original orchestral sample of ‘Walls of Jericho’ from this year’s The Redeemer album, released on Hyperdub in May.

But whoever it is that’s going to “come running back” to him, as his Brixton 28s exhibition at [ space ] in East London confirmed, Blunt’s not here to give us any answers. **

  share news item

Unsound 2013 reviewed

28 October 2013

The preceding, End-themed edition of Unsound marked, in certain respects, a shift in the festival’s character. At one of the panels, the organisers themselves admitted – perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek –that they may simply need to take a break. The consensus among commentators was that a particular formula, which the Krakow-based festival has developed over recent years, was beginning to wear thin and the question of ‘what now?’ became pressing. Hence, 2013 saw a remodelling: the traditional-at-first-glance Unsound schedule (bespoke artist collaborations, commissioned projects, a cutting-edge label showcase, touches of classic avant-garde, club nights and a dose of metal) gained a more radical form.

The first unexpected move began in controversy but ended with a definite win: the widely discussed ban on photography and filming during events (almost entirely complied with), contributed to a more active listening experience. Witnessing a concert unmediated by electronic devices, along with near-consensus rule adherence, enhanced audience response to the music (at least for the more static shows; the strictly dance-oriented ones have always managed to engage the crowd). Instead of traditional documentation, the festival decided to publish drawings similar to courtroom sketches; quite unexpectedly, the audience – and even the artists themselves, as proven by illustrations from Mik Musik‘s Wojciech Kucharczyk – contributed equally in turn.

DJ Richard. Illustration by Antek Skapski.
DJ Richard. Illustration by Antek Skapski.

The musical content itself was at times refreshingly fearless, even though – as stated – the usual Unsound structure didn’t radically alter. Due to this year’s theme of Interference, noise enjoyed a strong representation (Mika Vainio, Anna Zaradny), as did the voguish dark-hued strain of electronic music (Regis, Samuel Kerridge and White Material label’s DJ Richard, Young Male and Galcher Lustwerk, whose performances at Hotel Forum resulted in a fierce techno-pogo to which I was, despite the seasonal ‘Unsound curse’ of fever and coughing, a willing participant).

One of the recurring themes of the festival was the observance of how artists most celebrated by today’s music media (e.g. Laurel Halo, with a techno-based set vastly different from prior recordings, or Tropic of Cancer sounding like a Cure tribute band) failed to provide live highlights. Conversely, and especially during the Hotel Forum club events, unexpected favourites emerged: the merciless technoise of RSS B0YS, or the dynamic, engaging techno of Stellar Om Source, who appears entirely comfortable with her new style. Polish music is currently enjoying a great moment, mirrored in an Unsound edition which focussed on local artists more than usual: among the highlights of the entire event, I’d count not only the internationally-acclaimed Stara Rzeka, but also the surreal soundplays of 8rolek and Lutto Lento, and the dark synth-spaces created by Wilhelm Bras.

This year’s edition was brimming with renowned acts, beginning with a rare staging of Robert Rich‘s Sleep Concert, through Earth‘s crawling doom monoliths, to Detroit techno veterans Underground Resistance, who interestingly applied an expository structure more typical of rock concerts to their performance. Charlemagne Palestine & Rhys Chatham‘s playfully ritualised collaboration at St. Catherine’s Church managed to polarise the audience: many left shortly after the beginning, while the rest stood enchanted.

Interference manifested itself not only in inter-genre osmosis, but also in general multi-disciplinarity. While Unsound has always keenly played on the liminal ground between the arts, this year those themes were stressed more than ever. The ultimate innovation (in festival terms) was a staging of Stravinsky’s ‘Oedipus Rex’ directed by Jan Klata; in the same noble Stary theatre, Dean Blunt‘s quasi-confessional solo performance also took place. Installations held in the Bunkier Sztuki gallery managed to become festival highlights. Steve ‘Kode9’ Goodman’s project AUDINT, a multi-sensory experience delivered via wearable SubPacs, expanded on his published interest in sound-as-weapon. Richard Mosse‘s ‘The Enclave’, a 40-minute film shot using Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued 16-mm infrared film often used for military purposes, within the conflict areas of DR Congo, was a challenge aimed at expanding the frame of war photography. Mosse’s footage and Ben Frost‘s field-recording-based soundtrack resulted in a hypnotic, unreal narration with an undercurrent of anxious awareness stemming from viewing an actual, albeit underreported war. Chris Watson‘s ‘Whispering in the Leaves’, a rainforest soundscape located in the picturesque Botanical Garden, was enjoyable – partly due to the lush surroundings – but lacked immersion.

Restoration under the sign of Interference proved to be successful, but the question of ‘what now?’ still remains – not only in relation to Unsound itself, but the wider notion of festivals per se and the currently-held ideals of musical progression. And yet, judging by this year’s bill, there may be no need for excessive worry, with fruitful ideas coming both from the tape/CD-R/internet underground and from long-established artists. As for the state of festivals, the continued focus on inter-disciplinarity is an interesting phenomenon to note, and one which may even result in a Convergence-themed edition next year.

Unsound runs in Krakow annually in October.

Header image: Richard Mosse. Illustration by Elena Harris.

  share news item

Dean Blunt’s ‘The Redeemer’ out today.

Dean Blunt - 'The Redeemer'.
1 May 2013

Delivering his audience from the evils of anticipation, London-based performer and artist extraordinaire Dean Blunt has dropped his second solo album proper, The Redeemer on Hype Williams label World Music and LA’s Hippos in Tanks.

Littered with subverted pop cultural references, Biblical allusions and samples of very private-sounding answering machine messages the album makes leaps in fidelity and composition. A typically cryptic baring of his soul and a wistful lament over modem love, pastiche and collaboration abounds, with a dedication that reads as follows:

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 11.27.40 AM

Make of the what you will, buy the album and pay particular attention to ‘Demon’ featuring Joanne Robertson. Hands down, album of the year. **

  share news item

Dean Blunt – ‘Road 2 Redemption’.

Dean Blunt - 'Road 2 Redemption'.
22 April 2013

In the lead up to Dean Blunt‘s highly anticipated, and we daresay brilliantly promoted, second album, The Redeemer, out on Hippos in Tanks, May 1, the musician, artist and self-made myth, has dropped a new track, not to appear on the forthcoming track listing but enough to get the romantic vibe, his press has been alluding to.

With the upcoming album to include track titles like ‘Seven Seals of Affirmation’, ‘Walls of Jericho’ and ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven’ there’s no mistaking the spirito-mystical bent of Blunt’s recent direction, in line with a growing post-science current towards a sort of neo-transcendentalism that new media artists like Theodore Darst and groups like The Eternal Internet Brotherhood echo. As they say, “where Science fails, God prevails”. See The Redeemer track listing below. **


1. I Run New York
2. The Pedigree
3. Demon
4. Flaxen
5. V
6. The Redeemer
7. Seven Seals Of Affirmation
8. Walls Of Jericho
9. Make It Official
10. Need 2 Let U Go
11. Dread
12. Y3
13. Papi
14. Mmix
15. All Dogs Go To Heaven
16. Imperial Gold
17. Predator
18. Brutal
19. Pa

  share news item

Dean Blunt @ [ space ] reviewed

3 April 2013

On walking into [ space ] in the East London borough of Hackney, it’s clear that Dean Blunt’s Brixton 28s exhibition isn’t here to make things comfortable. There’s a homeless looking white man lounging on the floor, next to a brown mannequin dumped in the middle of the gallery and dwarfed by a giant misspelling of the luxury brand, Moschino, on the far wall. The aforementioned human is sporting the classic ‘dumpster chic’ of a predominantly white art audience here tonight, in contrast with the leather motorcycle jacket and Nike accessories of his synthetic counterpart, a bottle of Moët & Chandon smashed across its head. The man doesn’t stay long before getting up and casually walking away and it’s unclear as to whether he’s actually part of the exhibition or just a badly mannered loafer taken to lying on gallery floors. Nevertheless, the juxtaposition is striking.

A handful of early arrivals linger among the sparsely endowed space to mumble awkwardly evasive hypotheses of the meaning of the exhibition, drinking 50p beers and chattering about the elusive personality of Blunt who, unsurprisingly, is not present tonight. That’s all rather than confronting the blatant implications of the work at hand; blatant, that is, for anyone familiar with the sociocultural context and local vernacular of the once notoriously crime-ridden, since gentrified, area of Brixton in South London.

Dean Blunt, Brixton 28s. Install view. Image courtesy of [ space ]. Photo by Lewis Ronald.
Dean Blunt, Brixton 28s. Install view. Image courtesy of [ space ]. Photo by Lewis Ronald.

The 28s, a gang centred around the borough’s Angell Town and noted for rearing the notorious Qozo ‘Quincy’ Medici, plays the backdrop to a clear theme of black cultural appropriation by a white population. This in itself is hardly a new idea but still a relevant one as it affects the lives of people living in these areas, rapidly overrun by a grit-seeking Middle; a bourgeois creative class after cheap housing and a sense of cultural ‘authenticity’. Since moving to Berlin and then Lisbon, Blunt has doubtless been struck by the changes to an area once deemed too dangerous for cabs to enter. The same has happened with Brixton, which is why the chosen location of this exhibition, in a centre of this aforementioned urban neocolonialism, is so significant. It’s as if Dean Blunt, himself a British black man from Hackney, is reinhabiting the art gallery, perceived as an elitist garrison against the local populace it is effectively excluding and pushing out.

Accompanying the exhibit is a blurb littered with the urban slang that would be impenetrable to a person outside of the community it references, listing past and present members of the old and Younger 28s, which is likely lost on the audience tonight. On one wall there’s an enlarged canvas print of a signed photograph by hip-hop artist Asher D. An original member of one of the first outfits of its kind to find crossover success in the UK, So Solid Crew, he’s seen leaning over an estate balcony in a singlet. These allusions are further charged by African-American writer Greg Tate’s book Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture held by the collapsed dummy in the centre of the room.

The literature is a late addition to the exhibition, along with a DVD of All Dogs Go to Heaven –a reference to a track from Blunt’s upcoming The Redeemer record –propped on the frame of an amateurish sketch depicting a seemingly shady transaction, drawn on the back of a poster. On the opposite wall there’s a projection of a man doing lower back extensions, on loop, and reflected by the very same mirror that featured on an early press image titled ‘Dean Blunt, ‘Play your position #1’, where, instead of a projection, the words “Seal’s Greatest Hits” were scrawled backwards across it in crayon, to be reflected back on the gallery wall.

Blunt is ever the type to frustrate and confuse his audience, which is why the gallery staff is apparently instructed to conceal and deny a surprise performance set for later in the night, only for aspiring performer JStar Valentine to appear for a live rendition of Blunt’s ‘The Narcissist’. His a capella version of the track first appeared on YouTube in 2012 and tonight he’s wearing the same outfit as the mannequin with the black Nike cap, in contrast with the identical, though white, design worn by an equally pale dummy head, titled ‘WHITEBOY’ in the electronic press folder.

Leaving the exhibition, there are leaflets featuring nothing but the image of two heads, side-by-side, in profile and each captioned by the words, “Fade” and “Whitewalls”. The connotations, like ideas of fast-disappearing communities, endless cultural imperialism and those quaint cottages dotting the English countryside, flood by. But it seems the answer to the predicament Dean Blunt presents in Brixton 28s lies, not so much in a statement but the question, ‘whose space is this, really?’ **

Dean Blunt’s Brixton 28s ran at [ space ]in London from Friday, March 22 to Sunday, March 24. The Redeemer is out on Hippos in Tanks, May 1, 2013.

  share news item

Dean Blunt exhibiting @ [ space ]

Dean Blunt. BRIXTON 28s.
20 February 2013
The name Dean Blunt, has been popping up everywhere since splicing from his original Hype Williams project with Inga Copeland. There’s been a play in Switzerland, an exhibition in LA and a performance with James Ferraro in West Hollywood. Then there’s the acclaimed mixtape-cum-solo debut The Narcissist II, officially released on Hippos in Tanks in November last year and his recent Berlin premiere of The Narcissist live at CTM Festival.

Now, the ever-elusive musician and artist returns from rumoured relocations to Berlin and Portugal to his old stomping ground in London at [ space ] gallery in Hackney. Running for a brief three days, the BRIXTON 28s exhibition starts at 7pm Friday, March 22 and runs till Sunday, March 24. It comes with a limited edition print at the gallery and the following blurb:
“wat da f**k u chattin bout fam?? one ah pennys crew was called da one ah penny crew so fall back wid ur wrong info…ur right when u say there were only 28 ov da orignal 28s azwad squidley fudge husler pb killerman archer millitant dego jim jim meastro cox cyco bandit dandy gummie boomie swifty balmore omar jiffy ribz keith headley bullet scotty demus da twinz micheal brodrick bully…dis is da original 28s….then came da younger 28s beaver quincey loverboy shortman flowers nolan gutsy kboy ninja half-e jahbi jacob peanut yardie.“**
  share news item