The Kalashnikovv Gallery; rise of the underdogs championing the blue-chip outsiders

The Kalashnikovv Gallery is a hyper-vigilant and rebellious art movement born out of punches in order to roll differently within the cut-throat art industry. It is an emergency siren in recognition of what the ‘art world’ often is; a blood-sucking species of butterfly. Its Directors, MJ Turpin and Matthew Dean Dowdle are artists and long-time collaborators, which means that they have had to cut their teeth against the sharp edges of art spaces that will rinse you in a blink. They grew sick from a system that would often seize creatives just to chew them up and spit them out, lining some suit’s pocket in the process. The Kalashnokovv Gallery can see the negative spaces and rebels against this commodified bankruptcy by putting artists first; always ensuring that they are treated with respect and receive the lion’s share of profits.

The Kalashnikovv is an independent gallery which means that it doesn’t have to rely on a model of external funding or grants to survive. It can see that this anaemic model has contributed to the ephemerality of alternative art spaces in South Africa, as well as the gatekeeper status of the well-established, and refuses to accept this as the status quo. This is an unconventional hybrid space, where the commercial gallery practice is used to facilitate project spaces with room for more edgy experimentations. The Directors have somehow learnt to work a system that worked them, with no surrender of their vision to create a resiliently rule-breaking practice able to champion the blue-chip outsider.

Both Turpin and Dowdle are ‘slashers’, embodying multiple talents and professions (gallery owner/curator/DJ/artist etc.) which enables them to locate artistic practice in places which others may find surprising. They refuse the hierarchisation of different forms of creativity and instead, create hyper-pollinated encounters between multiple inspirations (art, music, fashion, digital culture, branding, design…). While this may be unsettling to those that doggedly guard their own definitions, it is embraced by Kalashnikovv as a necessary weapon against the reductions and redundancies of a pre-defined ‘culture’ completely at-odds with the contemporary.

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Stasis is not an option and this is reflected in the diverse approaches of Kalashnikovv’s emerging and established artists; in the home that is created for ‘controversial’ practitioners such as Ayanda Mabulu, Vusi Beauchamp, and even the Gallery director/artist himself, MJ Turpin; in the creative collaboration on events such as the Basha Uhuru Youth Day Arts Festival and the Fakugezi Digital Africa Festival; in the experimental multi-disciplinary approach of projects like Kalashnikovv Radio and the Black Cube Sessions; in the collaborations initiated with other galleries… the list of ‘taboos’ goes on and on.  The Kalashnikovv isn’t bound by a fear of failure by someone else’s definition; they are transgressive counter-culture in constant execution.

In a testament to the true potential of the under-dog, perseverance and perspective have seen the Kalshnikovv grow from strength to strength; soon expanding through the opening of a Gallery in Berlin, which will no doubt act as platform for the continued exhibition of South African excellence and as an interface for further exciting transmutations. Be sure to check out Kalashnikovv’s latest exhibition GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! which features a collaborative encounter between creative practitioner Jana Hamman and the gallery itself, running until 24 May. You can also keep up-to-date with the many manifestations of the Kalashnikovv movement through their Facebook page, Twitter, or Instagram. Here’s to the misfit realisation of a sustainable dissident space and to an insurgent force rearticulating what South African art can mean!

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