Throughout history, the greatest art has been made by those working against the grain, and creating outside of their given context. Italian 14th century poet Christine de Pizan’s works were “the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defence of her sex,” in the words of Simone de Beauvoir. People were initially dismissive when Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight” — now widely considered the first rap song ever — in 1979. These artists did not only decontexutalise where necessary, but re-contextualised too, occupying and redefining spaces that were not meant for them, in the name of progress and evolution.
The creators featured in this issue have gone a long way in doing the same. Cole Sprouse, a young man somewhat raised by the internet, here rues the “illusionary, abstract idea of commodity and saleability” that social media has brought to his industry. Steve Lacy, talking to Harry Styles for the issue, cites re-contextualisation as a reason for entering his album into the ‘Pop’ category, explaining: “If you’re black, you’re in ‘R&B’, or ‘Urban Contemporary’. You’re not ‘Pop’. So, I kind of wanted to challenge that thing.” Antwaun Sargent, the art critic and author of this year’s brilliant The New Black Vanguard, perhaps put it best when discussing the vitality of reshaping arts institutions to be more diverse: “The next stage is that we need people in the institution. We need people to commit to remaking the institution. […] These are places with steep histories. I think right now we’re all really excited about being invited to the party […] But I think at a certain point you gotta say, ‘okay, that was cool. Now we need black writers. Now we need black editors.’ We need to have that diversity reflected.”
This issue if filled with people who aren’t happy sitting still. Movement is evolution , and we hope you enjoy getting to know the artists who we feel have defied their context to create work that is bold, exciting and unique.