Feature: Bobby Benjamin (Pineapple Black) – A Look Back At 2019 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Over the past twelve months, our magazine and website have been brimming with super-talented, creative souls. We asked a few of them to tell us about their 2019, including Bobby Benjamin, artist and co-founder of Middlesbrough’s contemporary art space Pineapple Black

So, how was your 2019?
2019 has been non-stop. We launched Pineapple Black in January and it hasn’t stopped growing. I’ve been putting on shows with my curatorial side-project Dovetail Joints, I completed my MA in Fine Art and, most importantly, I’ve been able to really push my own arts practice forward, making loads of new work and getting it out into galleries.

What was your best moment?
For me, the highlight is always to see my own work in someone else’s gallery. This year I exhibited at Platform A, my favourite gallery in Boro, The Auxiliary, where I showed alongside some of my favourite artists, such as Basil Beattie and William Tillyer and at The Turnpike in Leigh alongside the works of Theodore Major. All were particular highlights for me.

And your worst moment?
Aside from the terrifying rise in right-wing sentiment under an evil Tory Government, I’d probably say having my work knocked off the wall at my MA Degree show. It’s the type of thing artists have nightmares about.  

Your favourite band/artist of the year?
This is tough. There’s so much good music coming out of the North East right now, and I’ve worked with some amazing people this year. Probably, based on who I’ve listened to the most, I’d say Shakk. He’s been on fire throughout 2019. He gets you dancing and he gets you thinking… that’s not an easy combo. 

Your favourite song of the year?
Again, it’s been a good year up here. ‘Dreams Don’t Last so Long’ by joegarratt, ‘Hindsight is 20:20 by Michael CG, ‘Deader’ by James Leonard Hewitson have all been on heavy rotation in the Benjamin household. 

Favourite TV show of the year?
This is where I tend to fall out of touch. I don’t watch much TV and when I do, I just tend to re-watch The Office (US) relentlessly.

Your favourite film?
I don’t know if it was released this year, but I recently watched BlacKKKlansman, which is hilarious and terrifying in equal measure, as are our times. I love the old Spike Lee stuff; Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing etc. but he really dropped off in the 00’s. BlacKKKlansman though, and Chi-Raq, have been welcome returns to form.

Best book you read?
Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey was an interesting read. I tend to approach anything on this subject with a degree of trepidation, perhaps because it treads so close to home for me. Here though, the writer presents a compelling argument without ever slipping into Irvine Welsh or The Royle Family territory, as I feared it might. I also re-read Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita this year. It’s a brilliant novel that addresses atheism in 30’s Russia and includes a potty-mouthed, pistol-packing cat that walks on 2 feet. What more do you want?

Favourite venue of the year?
Aside from my own? I’d have to say Disgraceland. It’s become my home away from home. If I have a crazy idea that nobody else would let me get away with, I take it to Disgraceland. For my Picasso Baby event, they literally gave me the keys and said do whatever you want, so we did. And they loved it! As with my own projects, there’s a real DIY ethos and independent spirit at the heart of it. The art scene in Middlesbrough is popping right now and you’re seeing businesses try to replicate it and monetise it, but that’s cool, it keeps us on our toes.

What was your favourite gig/show of the year?
Time to blow my own trumpet here… I’d have to say, Picasso Baby. The team of artists working together on it was amazing. People just kept popping up with a brush and a tin of paint. We had Liz Collier stood on a table painting the ceiling, Slutmouth painting a mural in the front room, the girls from GGAlan Partridge plastering polka dots and eyeballs all over the corridor, everywhere you looked there was an artist at work. It was beautiful. Then the event itself, a celebratory party with Lore, Eyeconic, Shakk and Factory Reset all playing live to a packed out building full of the coolest, loveliest people imaginable. It was like CBGTees.

Any upcoming artists we should keep an eye out for in 2020?
Look out for Connor Clements in 2020. He has been my co-director on Dovetail Joints since day 1 and, as of 2020, will be taking over as sole director so I can focus on my own practice. I’m really excited to see where he takes the project! Also, look out for visual artists John James Perangie, Gavin Vaughan, and The Art of Being Queer curator Josh Lewis, who will all be doing big things next year.

Watch out too for releases from Sorry Escalator, whose new record drops this March and is sounding amazing, and Benefits who, based on the first 2 singles, are probably the most important band in the country right now. 

And finally, what has next year got in store for you?
Next up, in January, I’m working with the brilliant Martina Mullaney on her solo exhibition at Pineapple Black and I’m also developing an exhibition that explores post-industrialism solely from the point of view of female artists, both of which I’m very excited about. 

I am also currently planning a new solo exhibition for 2020, which has been in development for a couple of years and will be my most ambitious to date. It will bring together new and re-imagined works to create a succinct narrative of Northern life in a post-industrial town. I’m working with Biffa Polymers to develop work on a scale I could never otherwise achieve and I must say a massive thank you to them for supporting me on this.  I’m planning something special for this one and, when I have a date, you’ll read it first in Narc Magazine. You can also follow me on Insta @bobbybenjamin to keep up to speed with all of the above.

Sentence by Bobby Benjamin

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