States of Independence
Dazed's ultimate guide to US creativity

Rap, memes and captcha elevated to performance art

Speaking to Devin Kkenny, the artist-musician-rapper whose powerful performances are setting art LA alight

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 11.59.16
Screenshot from Devin Kkenny's Youtube track "AC Drips"

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. 

Today, for new artist day, we've turned the site over to our favourite independent galleries to tell us their favourite, freshest American visual artists. From Antoine Catala's ET portraits to Devin Kenny's rap happenings, dig in and take note. 

Over to LA for the next in our series of spotlights on America's next wave of artists, as LA Hammer Museum recommends Devin Kkenny. The south-side Chicago born and raised artist-cum-musician-cum-rapper uses, in the words of Hammer Museum "music, performance, video, writing, fashion design and almost any other means possible to explore and complicate ideas on contemporary culture." His works run the gambit from the studio visit film to the street rap video to the gallery drinks table, playing and poeticising digital culture, from captcha haikus to the heartwrenching performance of the Trayvon meme. He's a a really cool new voice, whose pop culture takedowns showcase a subversively political and philosophical hardline. He'll be bringing his show In The Cloud, On The Ground to the Hammer on the 5th August, and the museum featured him in their Made in L.A. 2014 exhibition, open until the 7th September, but anyone outside of downtown Los Angeles can check him out on his networks

When did you decide to become an artist?

Devin Kkenny: During my battery of standardized tests, I was told I had an aptitude for being a politician, a guidance counselor, and for packing and unpacking parcels... Also at some point making mini-comics became too disheartening.

What is inspiring you right now?

Devin Kkenny: I'm inspired by people doing the right thing, and people doing the wrong thing in ways that we can learn from it...oh and kits for making your own grills. I guess you could follow me on some social network for a constant feed of those things.

Can you tell us a bit about your practice? 

Devin Kkenny: Practice makes permanent. 

I came into art from downloading anime, listening to hiphop, bboying, reading zines and mini-comics, skateboarding, writing graffiti, doing my homework, studying for tests, doing extracurricular clubs, volunteering, and going to the library for fun, so my approach is one that has a pretty big purview for various types of cultural production. I make videos, performances, music, objects, images, and text, which live in physical spaces and online.

What's the work that you're proudest of? 

Devin Kkenny: I'm most proud of the work that prompts rigorous conversations, and allows for seemingly disparate groups to draw connections between each other, also the work that contains an accurate portrayal in the simplest of means.

What's your favourite colour?

Devin Kkenny: My favorite would have to be whatever is the last color seen by my ideological enemies as they perish under the brunt of their own missteps. No. I used to really like pale greens, like seafoam...then warm greys. Or wait, no, my favorite color is the color that happens when you look at a pair of Yeezy Red Octobers for 30-45 seconds without blinking or moving your eyes too much, and then look at an evenly lit white wall. Chromatic blacks come at a close second though.

Or wait, no, my favorite color is the color that happens when you look at a pair of Yeezy Red Octobers for 30-45 seconds without blinking or moving your eyes too much, and then look at an evenly lit white wall. 

Is there an individual who has helped you get to where you are as an artist today? 

Devin Kkenny: Before an artist, I'm a person, so I'd have to say my grandmother helped me most in getting me where I am today. I would not have made it to this point without her. But that's not really an answer to the question is it? ...as an artist? No. Many people impacted me, not one individual. Here's an incomplete list of friends, family,professors, rappers, skaters, mentors, exes, inspirations, mentees, loves, classmates, roommates etc. there's no repeats, and no real logical grouping (neither temporal nor locational) and I also omitted the last names :

Lindsay

Dorian

Sharon

Sarah

Ben

Andrea

Prana

Audrey

Kathy

Cathy

Jim

Jim

Okwui

Rodney

Jenifer

Carolyn

Paula

Justin

Justin

Jamillah

Sandra

Dominika

Lot

Sina

Stevie

Erick

Sarah

Doug

Roxy

Christine

Dennis

Francois

Joao

Irvin

Maren

Peter (R.I.P.)

Jeremy

Carla

Cassandra

Anna-Martine

Niki

Day

Mike

Stephen

Martin

Julian

Leslie

Leslie

Parker

Jesse

PJ

PJ

Matthew

Matthew

Scott

Micaela

Alli

Maggie

Nicky

Matt

Kyle

Max

Rory

Sam

Tiffany

Gilbert

Jason

Eric

Joygill

Tommy

Brigitte

Micol

Becket

Chris

Nick

Andrew

Gonz

Caroline

Nicole

Avery

Averi

Brittany

Brittany

Reggie (R.I.P.)

Nandi

Maren

Joe

Loren

Avery

Joe

Keith

Thaione

Emi

Vyle

Avreeayl

Miwon

Dorian

Barbara

Daniel

Pugs

Monica

Dylan

EJ

Mindy

JooYun

Jennifer

Ron

Deranne (R.I.P)

Danielle

Maricruz

Maria Teresa

Hannah

Joen

Daniel

Walid

Betty

Dorian

Aaron

Abigail

Amanda

Ryan

Brennan

Kanye

Sean

Frank

Curt

Jim

Pat

Dave

Mike

Delvon

Regan

Jamie

Ian

Ian

Alicia

Mykela

Deirdre

Danielle

Douglas

Donald (R.I.P.)

Adrienne

Lizxnn

Kim

Veronique

Erica

Julia

Juliana

Ros

Roosje

Tameka

Brad

Joe

Pete

Mike

Jarrod

Mr. Jones

Vanessa

Erikka

Rodney

Daewon

Eric

Jamilah

Marc

Louie

Jade

Adriana

Cameron

Lee

Raygun

Tupac (R.I.P.)

Christopher (R.I.P.)

Elissa

Elissa

Dan

Helene

Michelle

Aiyana

Sam

Babak

Zara

...

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