From a bone breaker to a queer femme rap collective – London artist Ivan Blackstock on the emerging DIY names you need to know
In every single city across the world you’ll find a forever-evolving street culture: from hip hop to skating, street art, and street dancing, street culture is heralded by youth who, when looking for escapism, bring much-needed soul back to urban life.
The movement started in the Bronx in the 1970s, when African-American and Latino youth started to create inspired by their surroundings. Think of the DJs in South Bronx who laid the foundations for hip hop (think Grandmaster Flash), or graffiti artists like Flint Gennari who inspired Jean-Michael Basquiat and Al Diaz’s SAMO© street tags. Characterised by a DIY spirit, street artists work outside of traditional institutions to create their social and political commentary, making them some of the most innovative and efficient artists in the world. This is a sentiment heavily echoed in the work of London-based choreographer and artist, Ivan Blackstock, who is currently curating a street culture festival called NSF CRXSS PLATFXRM that will run this weekend, August 17-18 at Copeland Gallery, Peckham.
“As an artist myself, I find my inspiration from my peers and the creative climate,” explains Blackstock. “I started out with hip hop, that was the world that I connected to, the mixture of dance, music and art that creates a unique culture, rooted in those foundations. Hip hop is part of street culture, but it’s wider than that now. It hasn’t lost that rawness, that connection to the street – the inner city environment, and the communities that live there are still central. But how people approach it is changing. NSF CRXSS PLATFXRM exists to highlight these new directions.”
“The voices driving Street Culture now are diverse; encompassing art forms but also different gender identities, ethnicities, faiths, abilities, and backgrounds” – Ivan Blackstock
As a multi-disciplinary, multi-event festival, NSF CRXSS PLATFXRM pays homage to how the complexity and diversity of Britain’s contemporary street culture continues to evolve. In doing so, the festival celebrates the young faces defining the movement today, such as London-based DJ collective BBZ and filmmaker Crack Stevens (both Dazed 100 alum).
“There is a thriving and innovative community within street culture, it’s simmering right under the surface,” Blackstock tells Dazed. “I want people to walk away knowing there are different voices and identities within it, and that it’s forever growing and evolving. It’s not monolithic.” In celebration of NSF CRXSS PLATFXRM, Blackstock told Dazed about six emerging street culture artists who are defining Britain in 2018.
KANER FLEX, DANCER
Ivan Blackstock: “Kaner Flex is a bone breaker – a style of dance that is both extreme and beautiful. His style is spectacular, but never safe – he pushes the limits of the human body, expressing something beyond contortion. He is really entrepreneurial within the dance scene. He has made his own market and his artistic collaborations are inspiring and unexpected.
“He often makes work inspired by his life. As an autistic artist his perspective on the world and his experience of it is unique, and he opened that up to other people through his movement and dance. He takes some of the movement vocabulary of hip hop and the street dance diaspora and evolves the architecture of it – for me it’s like physical graffiti, it takes a shape and each physical design he makes feels like he is working through something, creating intricate patterns and meanings. You have to see it live to believe it.”
HYDRATION STUDIOS, RAP COLLECTIVE
Ivan Blackstock: “Hydration Studios are a queer femme rap collective, a music division under NiNE8 Collective. Their voice is something I feel has been missing, particularly in the UK music scene. One of the members is Lava La Rue, someone who has been on my personal radar for a while, so it’s been amazing to discover so much dope new talent within her collective.
“Each artist within Hydration Studios has a distinctive sound, but they come together as a collective to represent something that feels really British and multifaceted. That’s what British culture is right now, so to feel that reflected in sound is exciting and important.”
GREENTEA PENG, MUSICIAN
Ivan Blackstock: “Greentea Peng is an artist who is starting to make noise in the scene, so I'm really excited to have her on the bill. She hails from South London and works closely with underground icon KESH, who I massively admire. Her psychedelic sound is very socially aware, and the spiritual dimension of it appeals to me. When she performs there is aura around her. She doesn’t bring theatrics – her voice communicates with a calm purity and control in a way that reaches into a deeper place. To me, this is not something that people associate with street culture but it’s absolutely there, and she represents it really honestly.”
RUGGED ESTATE, DANCE COLLECTIVE
Ivan Blackstock: “Rugged Estate is the hardest krump dance crew that is bodying the underground dance community in London. These guys are raw, confrontational, and volatile with their movement and energy. Krump is a really potent style that began on the streets of South Central Los Angeles, and has a deeply political statement bound up inside – it’s like a physical protest. It physicalises the feelings of oppression, frustration and anger felt by many people – particularly young black men, but uses that energy to communicate, emote and express. Dance can do that.”
ROWDY SS, ARTIST
Ivan Blackstock: “Rowdy SS is a true multi-disciplinary artist – his works encompass performance art, music, installation. I just love what he does, he has been active within UK street culture for a while now, but his current work really resonates with me right now.
“For NSF CRXSS PLATFXRM, he is bringing a silk wool installation that will inhabit part of our venue. It can be created anywhere, in the street, on a stage, in a club. You’ll be able to watch him create this incredible red silk web, then inhabit it and interact with it. Rowdy is very punk, very guerrilla and each performance is different.”
IZAAK BRANDT, BREAKDANCER
Ivan Blackstock: “Izaak Brandt is a B-Boy who runs UK–Korean breakdance organisation Brkn’ Nest. I have known of him for a while, but recently found out he is also a sculptor and visual artist. His work is inspired by the B-Boy scene, and he creates these laser-cut sculptural works depicting the body of the breakdancer, frozen in time, in the moment. We have commissioned him to make a new sculpture work exclusively for NSF CRXSS PLATFXRM that expands his practice and has a video element. It’s titled ‘FATIGUE’, and explores the repetition, physical discipline and endurance of breakdancers.
“I love how he used cardboard – the classic material of the breakdancer, something you spread out on the street to dance on, a cheap and available material that means you don’t need a dance studio or sprung floor to do your thing. But he takes that material, uses laser cutting techniques to transform it into sculpture. For me, the work really plays with concepts: a mash-up of street culture and what is perceived as ‘high art’.”
NSF CRXSS PLATFXRM is happening on August 17-18 at Copeland Gallery, Peckham. You can find out more here