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SVA Alumni Wyatt Stevens and House Music’s New Vanguard

He embodies a "new energy" running through the NYC subculture

"I don’t want to hear any excuses about a lack of gear keeping someone from making music," says MoMa Ready, a.k.a. Gallery S., a.k.a. Wyatt Stevens (BFA 2017 Film). "I wrote the opening and closing songs for my first album on my phone with GarageBand while I was on train rides into the city."

That album, Soft, Hard, Body, released digitally this year under Stevens’ own Haus of Altr label, is just one of many projects the artist and musician has undertaken in the past three years, as he and a handful of other up-and-coming producer-DJs have driven a resurgence of interest in New York City’s techno-music subculture. Though it has an international profile and is connected with similar scenes in Berlin, London, Los Angeles and Mexico City, the community is still relatively small—on a good night, a lineup might draw 250—but it’s passionate and growing. Earlier this year, Vice singled out Stevens as one of its major figures, someone who is both "deeply in tune with the new energy coursing through the city" and "the source of a fair amount of it."

"I think Brooklyn has the best, most progressive scene in the world right now," he says. "It’s maintaining the music’s roots in Afrofuturism but pursuing new sounds, new ideas. And it’s brown people, people on the spectrum and women who are leading the charge."

Stevens performs hour-long sets about three nights a week, at any of a handful of venues in Brooklyn’s Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods, as well as in Ridgewood, Queens. Through Haus of Altr, he releases his music and other projects, including skate videos made with friends on the Lower East Side. (A longtime skateboarder, Stevens credits the pursuit as a major artistic inspiration.) There’s also "Youth Report," a series of short, impressionistic films he began at SVA, which incorporate stop-motion and video and document the everyday lives of people in his circle. And then there’s Halfmoon BK, the online radio station for which he is a programmer and house DJ, and which produces local events as well.

If all this sounds sprawling and unpremeditated, that’s because it is. Stevens' exposure to the filmmaking and art worlds as a student left him dissatisfied; each, in his view, is too driven by careerism and commerce to allow for unfiltered expression.

"Art should be about creating the zeitgeist, not being subject to it,” he says. “That’s what I want to do."

A version of this article appears in the spring 2019 Visual Arts Journal.

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