Kenny Dunkan, a native of Guadeloupe and former resident of the Villa Medici, has been selected to form the Mentor and Young Talent duo in 2021. The visual artist is an elusive chameleon, who has made his body a media as much as a medium.
Originally from Guadeloupe, Kenny Dunkan regularly draws on the visual culture of the Caribbean, particularly carnivals,
periods of social, cultural and political role reversal, to develop a work that addresses the French colonial heritage and the persistence of its modes of representation. To do this, Dunkan often starts with his own black body, which he stages through various media, from video to performance, including sculpture and assemblage.
He graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs de Paris in 2014 with honors, and won the ADAGP Prize for Visual Arts at the 2015 Salon de Montrouge. From 2016 to 2017, Kenny Dunkan was a resident at the Villa Medici, Académi de France in Rome.
Translated from "Kenny Dunkan, KEEP GOING!" by Simon Njami
— Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, 2021
"The body is an essential element of the performance. Like a metaphor telling stories that words ignore, as Henri-Pierre Jeudy says: 'Images of the body do not concern the body itself as an entity, they occur simultaneously as images of the world. And language only allows the organization of arbitrary classifications that make the meaning of interpretation always close to illusion.' Rather than being a victim of this famous illusion mentioned by Jeudy, Dunkan prefers to use it to his advantage, especially by staging his own body in an assumed attempt to shatter preconceived ideas and gender visions on the black body. An attempt to deconstruct, to reject these clothes borrowed from history and from a form of contempt for existing according to one's own rules and according to one's own self-perception. Who says self-perception naturally speaks of identity."
Translated from "How artist Kenny Dunkan reverses the vision of the black body"
("Comment l'artiste Kenny Dunkan renverse la vision du corps noir") by Matthieu Jacquet
— Numéro, 2021
"As a child, Kenny Dunkan develops a passion for design which crosses his natural affinity for DIY, and the reuse of raw materials, with his enthusiasm for luxury, George Nelson’s or Philippe Stark’s iconic pieces, and their symbolic power conveyed by magazines. Naturally, his wandering gaze turns to Paris, where the Guadeloupe-born settles down to study applied arts before joining the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs (School of Decorative Arts). After a start in scenography, the student's work moves quickly towards smaller objects and their details when he begins to create adornments resembling chainmail made of nuts and hose clamps: the artist filigree evokes Caribbean sacred costumes and mystical rites, now anchored in an uncertain present by unusual components. If their crafting testifies to the thirty-something taste for know-how, one also perceives behind their precision the stigmata of a colonial past and the piled up relics of a deleterious overproduction, so many constituent elements of an imaginary nourished by a vivid spiritual and material memory."
Translated from "Kenny Dunkan's intimate carnivals"
("Les carnavals intimes de Kenny Dunkan") by Gilles Renault
— Libération, 2021
"Trained in Applied Arts and Decorative Arts, selected in 2015 by the prospective hive of contemporary art that is the Salon de Montrouge and resident the following year at the Villa Medici, the artist illustrated himself seven years ago with the filmed performance Udrivinmecraz – where he danced in front of the Eiffel Tower dressed in a jacket embroidered with 2,500 key rings bearing the image of the monument. (…) A Parisian since he came of age, the 30-something was indeed born in Guadeloupe. A territory commonly seen from the metropolis as a resort lulled by the trade winds, but nonetheless retaining scars of colonization and slavery (...). Kenny Dunkan draws an unbridled inspiration from his life experience, equally marked by the festive and protesting archetypes of a carnival which, 'in the absence of an art center or a museum', gives him his first aesthetic emotions, than by 'an education that is both matriarchal and insular', where a 'distorted view of the world' encourages people to protect themselves from the outside, perceived as a source of permanent danger. All the more so when the domestic sphere rehashes the racist floodgates once endured by an uncle in the army. Or the 'founding myth' of a great-grandmother’s rape, a plantation worker, who ended up in the master's sleeping quarters. This immanent trauma explodes today in two confessions, printed on large plastic sheets, laid out on the floor, that one could imagine ripped from a novel while they take on an autobiographical role: 'My brother and I were convinced that my mother had failed in marrying a black man. We openly condemned her, holding her responsible for our unsightly appearance.' Followed by: 'As a child, I used to take endless showers during which I frantically rubbed my body with a floor-cleaning brush. The coarse bristles were really hurting me.'"
Translated from "The intimate universe of visual artist Kenny Dunkan in the podcast 'l'Oreille est hardie'"
("L'univers intime du plasticien Kenny Dunkan dans le podcast 'l'Oreille est hardie'") by Patrice Elie Dit Cosaque
— Franceinfo, 2021
"In the 'Keep going!' exhibition, Guadeloupe visual artist Kenny Dunkan shows all his personality and his pronounced taste for collections and object associations. A fusion of genres making up his unique vision, deeply inspired by the Creole world. 'He knew how to create his own universe'. We can often read this sentence about an artist to evoke the uniqueness of his work (and sometimes, when we do not know what to say about the artist or his work!). Nothing overused when it comes to Kenny Dunkan. His work, his installations (...) inevitably catch the eye. Opposites create symbiosis, colors explode, pains are also displayed through his art, through this singularity that makes his mark: the mixity, the diversity, the blend of genres as they say. With Kenny Dunkan, you will find photography, video, painting, sculpture, object assembling, collage, superposition, suspended objects... In short, a carnival of inspirations jostles in the young man's head with, in focus, a desire to make syncretism of all this proliferation."
"Kenny Dunkan" by Pap Nidaye
— Le Centre ne peut tenir, 2018
"Kenny Dunkan here offers a very personal answer to this question which has occupied creators and intellectuals since the end of the 19th century, when WEB Du Bois began his major work on black identity. Because his proposal did not fall from the sky. It is part of a story, these works have a story, we could say that they are a story, which is that of the way in which black bodies, that we wanted to shame, have become objects of pride, political objects, thanks to literature, living arts, visual arts. With Transfert 1, 2, and 3, Dual Conditioning System, Lotta Body Set And Twist, and Mas-A-Pwoteksyon, Kenny Dunkan's work immediately poses the question of body representation, of its physical presence in space, and also of its trace. And finally, of its color, which is not frequent in contemporary French creation."