General News / March 28, 2017

Kurb Junki on skate culture being appropriated & its links with art

General News / March 28, 2017

Kurb Junki on skate culture being appropriated & its links with art

“They think the skate culture is really cool and they want a slice, it is just sort of unfortunate that they would rather take that slice by spending money on a Thrasher hoodie rather than trying to skate down a hill, eat shit and live in the moment…”


If you live in Dublin, chances are you’ve seen the Kurb Junki burgers chalked up on walls around the city centre. KJ itself is a mixed bag of creativity, dipping its toes in streetwear, film and of course skating.

More recently the secretive collective shared ‘Kurb Junki TV’, a Hi-8 film featuring a heavy squad of Irish skaters like Darragh O’Connor, Keith Walsh, Phili Halton, Micheal McMaster and Nathan Treacy. It’s also peppered with bizarre animations and characters.

We caught up with the elusive mind behind Kurb Junki to discuss skating’s place in popular culture and art’s intrinsic link with the board.

You worked with a perfectly eccentric mix of Irish artists from a wide range of disciplines for this, Hugh Cooney and Aoife Dunne being two of our favourites, how did you assemble this crack team?

First of all I want to give credit to all the skateboarders involved in the film, without them Kurb Junki TV would be nothing. Over the past couple of years I have gotten to know a lot of these guys on a deeper level from filming with them, some of them are a good bit younger than me so it’s funny hanging out with them and hearing about the shenanigans they get up to from skating.

There is also a sort of psychological battle going on when you film with different skaters depending on how well you know each other, how confident they are and the atmosphere of the space at the time. Pedestrians get in the way, drunks cheer them on and sometimes security shut you down just before they land their trick. At the end of the day these guys are the ones sweating and bleeding for the video so thank you lads!

As for Aoife Dunne I saw her Degree show in NCAD and straight away knew I wanted to collaborate with her so I got in contact. We met up a couple of times to hang out and talk about our work. She put together few animations for Kurb Junki TV which I chopped and screwed. It was a small donation to an enormous project but it worked really well and I’m sure we will collaborate again in the future, I’m totally into her work and aesthetic as an artist.

I have always loved Hugh Cooney’s stuff since I came across his YouTube channel. I met him about five years ago when I had some work in a group exhibition in a creative space he was running with a few others (Supa Fast). Last Christmas I went to his stand up show ‘Badarse’ in The Sugar Club. Just before he was on stage I ran into him in the toilets while he was in character as DJ Vibesphere. He said “Mr. Kurb Junki, saw your last interview man, good stuff, vibes”.

It cracked me up and I was also surprised he matched up my face to KJ. The day after the show I sent him a message telling him how much I enjoyed the night and asked him if he would be interested in doing something for Kurb Junki TV. He was down so I was hyped. Again, like Aoife’s animations it was a small contribution to a huge project but all these little collaborations are what made Kurb Junki TV something special and unique.

I have a feeling you will see more of Hugh or ‘Judge Grinder’ in the KJ videos. I have to mention Oni Caprani in this answer too because he was another artist involved. We spent a day drinking cans and shooting stuff in my shed, he is a treat to work with and I’d love to shoot more stuff with him again. He’s got this whole Jim Carrey, Gay Byrne thing going on.

Artists trying to capture the cheesiness of 90s/00s film/tv is often attempted, but rarely nailed. How do you tread the line between art and cheesiness so well?

A mix of trial, error and practice. I have been making all kinds of videos since I was a kid and have always hung around with quirky individuals with a weird sense of humour. Sometimes I would just be skating down the street or daydreaming and some stupid commercial, video game or soundtrack will come into my head and give me a laugh so I write it down and find it online.

I collect a huge archive of screenshots, sound effects, videos and songs to work with. Then I like to think about the skateboarder’s personality, the setting and atmosphere of the space and something will come into my head. When I edit skate footage it is generally a really long process and sometimes I will re-edit sections several times. Other times the idea is really vivid in my mind and the first draft works perfectly.

I read in an interview with Craic that you ‘stand back and observe’ the appropriation of skate culture. Will it get to the point though that the culture will dilute so much that it’s no longer specific to the people in it? Or will it have to just adapt and change?

I don’t think skateboarding culture could ever be completely diluted. It has such a rich history and so many passionate people behind it. Once the true skateboarders pass on their knowledge and general philosophy to the younger kids, everything will be ok.

In my eyes skateboarding is about creativity, freedom, interacting with your environment and having fun alone or with your friends. There will always be posers and people wearing Thrasher hoodies that have probably never flicked through a Thrasher Mag but that’s kind of funny to me. They think the skate culture is really cool and they want a slice, it is just sort of unfortunate that they would rather take that slice by spending money on a Thrasher hoodie rather than trying to skate down a hill, eat shit and live in the moment, haha.

Having said that, Kurb Junki is about more than just skateboarding so I am happy enough for people who are down with art and creativity to wear my clothing.

Skateboarding and art/music are intrinsically linked, more than any other sport is with the creative community. Why do you think this is?

That is because skateboarding isn’t really a sport in my eyes, it’s more of an art form. Most of the skaters I have met will have an interest in art or music. If they don’t participate themselves they will have an appreciation for these things. They are looking at board graphics all the time and hearing all kinds of new music in the skate videos they watch.

The whole freedom around skateboarding is like a magnet for creative people, however skateboarding goes through fads too which can sometimes dilute the creativity. The current fad in skating seems to be matching up your Instagram footage with trap music and doing this weird pose with your arms over your face. It’s not my thing but if kids are having fun with it, whatever. In my eyes that fad will die out in a year or so. I’d rather hear white noise than trap myself and I know some people will give me shit for saying that but that’s ok with me, haha.

You’ve been utilising the burger imagery for a while now, how did that come about?

It was actually a few years ago, I just had the combination of a burger and the words Kurb Junki in my head because I was always skating this curb near my house and eating loads of shitty food at the time.

I went out to meet my pal Dipdab one day and just drew it on a t-shirt in my room before I went skating. He seemed to be into it and I just started using that name and image for my skate videos. I guess it also has something to do with an ‘everyone can and should skate for fun’ philosophy… Like you can be really old or unhealthy and just skate tiny curbs to have fun, you don’t have to be some sort of dare devil maniac. I hate when people try seclude skateboarders because they aren’t skating at a high level, it’s all about having fun.

You create t-shirts with that image, are you going to make any more gear, decks, etc?

Yeah, for sure. I have a lot of designs on paper and some in my head. I want to make socks, long sleeves, hoodies and in due time some weird shaped boards. I have also been thinking about making a Kurb Junki secret sauce, I’m pretty sure people would be into that.

I have been working on a website too but I don’t see any of these things coming into production until the summer as I am in Barcelona filming at the moment.

Relative to its size, do you think Ireland has a big skateboarding culture?

I guess relative to its size there are a lot of talented individuals and a nice little scene, we are never going to be like Barcelona or San Francisco but I am grateful for what we have, especially considering how much it rains in Ireland.

People are also pretty friendly with each other because of how small Ireland is, there is definitely a community atmosphere but there is always room for improvement too.

How do you see the landscape of Irish skating over the next 10 years?

It is really hard to tell because of a few things. Skateboarding is going to be in the next Olympics so you will probably have kids training specifically for that worldwide which is kind of weird. Not that I think Ireland will have much of a shot in the Skateboarding Olympics but that kind of event doesn’t really reward creativity or having fun. It’s just about earning points and trying to win a competition.

On the positive side there will be a lot more people in their late thirties, forties and hopefully fifties skating in Ireland. This is pretty common in other parts of the world because lots of people were skating in the 1980s in other parts of the world, they grew older and kept skating. There are way more people skating in Ireland now than there were in the 80s so there aren’t too many older skaters in Ireland at the moment.

How was the premiere night in Anseo? You also screened Kurb Junki TV in High Rollers, do you have any more plans for screenings?

The premiere in Anseo was unreal. I decorated the place with lots of collages, paintings and lighting equipment. The room was completely packed with all kinds of people. So many funny cheers, laughs and comments were coming from the audience. I was laughing and smiling the whole night, I was overwhelmed by the support from everybody so thanks to everyone who came along and helped fund my current filming trip.

The night in Highrollers was a smaller scale event but everyone really enjoyed the video, we had beers and a lot of people went out afterwards so it was a really fun night. It’s always more fun screening videos to a live audience rather than seeing reactions over social media.

Sidewalk Magazine did a little write up about the video and published the first four of ten chapters on their website which I was hyped about because I have been reading the magazine since I was a kid.

I am planning to show the video in a few pop up events around Europe as I am travelling. There is nothing booked yet but there are a couple of skater-run bars in Barcelona I am currently in contact with about screening Kurb Junki TV. My friend also put me in contact with a live online channel from Brooklyn called 8 Ball. They recently screened an older video of mine​ so we have plans to do a full 40-minute screening of KJTV live on the web.

What’s next?

I am currently travelling for four months but I have a feeling Barcelona will keep me here for about half of that time because I am meeting a lot of people, the weather is great and I am gathering a lot of footage.

Barcelona is pretty much the Mecca of skateboarding in Europe and the graffiti/street art scene is really strong too. After Barcelona I’m not sure where I will go but I have Madrid, Faro, Berlin, Leipzig and Copenhagen on the brain. When I get back to Ireland I will be editing a lot, designing a new clothing line and organise a couple of KJ events.

Follow Kurb Junki on Instagram and subscribe to the YouTube channel to keep up with all the latest KJ escapades.

Photo Credit: Craig Dodds