Smoke and Mirrors by Kid Acne

At Kid Acne's solo show, the Sheffield-based artist gave Dazed the story behind those pizza boxes and Prada t-shirts.

Photography by Dan Sumption
Artists, celebrities and people adorned with Frank Sidebottom-esque animal heads (created by Katherine Wallinger) turned out for the private view of Smoke and Mirrors; Kid Acne's solo show at Stella Dore.

Dazed Digital: Your new exhibition at Stella Dore is called Smoke and Mirrors; is it all just an illusion?
Kid Acne: The title was inspired by the classic Fab 5 Freddy lyrics "The hip-hop world is a fantasy" and a quote I read somewhere about 'the wizard behind the curtain'. No matter how much you try to engage people in your work, exhibition openings are all about that transient moment on a Thursday night with crowds of people fuelled on free beer. I've always been fascinated by the 'behind the scenes' of things. My first TV experience was on Rolf's Cartoon Club when I was a kid and a complete disappointment. The first time I went to a night club was in the daytime; I was 17 and had been asked to design the flyers. It stank of stale fag smoke and the floor was sticky from beer. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to pay money to go somewhere like that. Everything's an illusion. It's just a case of making it believable so people can trust in it.
The concept of this show was to create a society and heritage for my characters, something I can build on to create a narrative. There's too much style over content in the 'urban contemporary' scene inspired by misconceptions of a New York youth movement we were sold by the likes of Malcolm Mclaren in the 80's. I wanted to take it back to the rural, pagan days rather than adding to the mediocrity and making indoor graffiti as souvenirs. I did the best I could under the circumstances I was given. The dry ice, costumes and exclusive soundtrack by Cherrystones added to the atmosphere I was trying to create. It was chaotic and DIY, but couldn't have been more perfect in many ways.

DD:Your art has adorned everything from pizza boxes to Prada t-shirts; is there anything you're still dying to spray your stuff on?
Kid Acne: I've never been dying to do anything to be honest. Opportunities just present themselves from time to time. On the whole I never follow things up as much as I should do. The pizza boxes were a way of making artwork easily transportable on a budget. It costs a fortune to ship work abroad, so that struck me as a cheap way of filling gallery space in group shows. The new paintings in this show are a certain size because I can fit them in my suitcase. The first ones I did were for a group show in Brazil last summer, so I'm sticking to the size for continuity. I'm working on a show in Sheffield in August. It'll be the prequel to Smoke & Mirrors called When The Smoke Clears. I'm also hoping to design a range of knitwear in time for fashion week, so am about to make a start on that.

DD: Your last album was called 'Romance Ain't Dead'- who or what do you love the most?
Kid Acne: I like the DIY, punk ethic. People who do what they want and carry on regardless in the face of adversity. Punk isn't about having leather jackets and mohicans. People who think that and look the part, yet contribute nothing are one step away from attending re-enactment battles. At least Teddy Boys wore smart clothes. I love the active participants in any scene as opposed to the passive consumers. Put your neck on the line and do something. It's always worth it, even when it's a complete disaster.

DD: If you could change one thing about the British hip-hop scene, what would it be?
Kid Acne: For a scene that is pretty much looked down on by everyone outside of it, there's a lot of big fishes in small ponds who think they're the cat's pyjamas. I'd like them to see the bigger picture. It's all well and good rapping to your mates about how good you are at rapping, but who else is listening to you? I'd like the same people to do their research and know their history. 2005 isn't old school! Look up Demon Boyz, London Posse, Guttersnypes, Hard Noise, Standing Ovation, Bushkiller, Krispy 3, New Flesh, Gamma, Parlour Talk, Junior Disprol, IG Culture, Ragga Twins, Ice Pick, Katch 22... I've just been asked to help research an exhibition on UK Hip-Hop at Urbis in Manchester, so maybe we can inspire people to do just that.

DD: Who would you commission to paint your portrait?
Kid Acne: I'd ask the drunken fella in the Dragon Bar the other night. By the looks of things he'd got it spot on, but just after, my sketch book got nicked. I feel like Bob Monkhouse when he left his joke book in a taxi. If anyone knows anything, I'd like it back please. There were outlines in there by tons of people including Elk, SheOne, Pete Fowler and Will Barras. I've seen My Name Is Earl so know all about karma.

Smoke and Mirrors runs until the 25th April at Stelladore

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