From Noise to Beuys: Bennett Simpson on Art and Pop Music

By Simpson, Bennett | Artforum International, February 2004 | Go to article overview

From Noise to Beuys: Bennett Simpson on Art and Pop Music


Simpson, Bennett, Artforum International


DO YOU WANT NEW WAVE, or do you want the truth? So asked the punk band Minutemen in 1984--and the verdict is still out, especially in art. The prominence of pop music in recent art, from rock and punk to noise, techno, and hip-hop, is one of the most ambiguous developments of the past five years. Music figures centrally in the practices of significant and established contemporary artists such as Stephen Prina, Mike Kelley, and Rodney Graham. It is a conspicuous influence for artists otherwise as disparate as Elizabeth Peyton, Jeremy Blake, and Nick Relph and Oliver Payne. It is employed as semiotics, performance, metaphor, structure, sound track, attitude, and target. Within the past two years alone, a slew of museum exhibitions have expressed art's new interest in pop. from "Sonic Process" at the Centre Georges Pompidou and "Rock My World" at the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco to surveys of work by Christian Marclay and Patti Smith to the New Museum of Contemporary Art's homage to Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti. But zeitgeists are messy and often transcend institutions' ability to reflect them. Beyond the museum, art is now scattered with new categories: artists who play in bands (or in groups that function like them); bands posed as art projects; artists working with sound; musicians making installations; and art that works on pop music's codes and mass memory.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Discerning the manifestations of this hydra-headed beast requires first seeing through the thematization or illustration of pop music one now experiences in works by, for example, Dario Robleto or Fischerspooner--to mention only two artists who seem to take pop's glittery subjectivity and hot-wired style as ends in themselves. The reassembly of pop signification this work hinges on (the beat, the hairstyle, the album cover, the stage move), while perhaps making Robleto's installations or Fischerspooner's performances more legible to audiences already familiar with these kinds of objectifications from music itself, does little to distinguish their art from its object, celebrating pop as an endlessly configurable set of codes with no history save nostalgia. One would do well to remember that pop music has been synonymous with cultural and technical miscegenation--mixing and scratching--from its inception in the nineteenth century. At our late moment in the appropriationist arc of postmodernism, in which memory can be synthesized with the drop of a needle or the flick of a mic, the need to make a few contextual distinctions about art's relationship to pop music is pressing, to say the least.

Pop music is most interesting in art when it enables contradictions specific to art itself, rather than simply providing art with a new palatability, theme, or style. For a first distinction, witness the rise of the band as a disaffirmative artistic model. At the moment, actual art bands have never fared better. Buoyed by the widespread "return" to rock, with its distorted nostalgia for the '80s motifs of pastiche and punk, groups such as Black Dice, Angelblood, and A.R.E. Weapons have gone from playing galleries and demimonde gatherings to releasing albums, touring, and finding niches in the commercial music landscape. More complicated, however, is the band metaphor seen in the recent crop of youth-oriented art collectives like Forcefield, Space 1026, and the Royal Art Lodge--or in the scenes around Scott Hug's K48' zine in New York or Barry McGee and Chris Johanson in San Francisco. Seemingly in defiance of the academization and professionalization of so much art in the '90s and symptomatic of the broader artistic turn away from theory, such groups have cohered around a renewed aestheticism directly connected to youth and music culture: cartooning, graffiti, skateboarding, DJing, psychedelia, and club fashion. If the street or bedroom subjectivity of these aesthetics suggests an outsider take on art's discursive relationship to pop, precedents for this work are, nonetheless, not hard to find--in Raymond Pettibon's album-cover drawings for Black Flag and Minutemen, in Jean-Michel Basquiat's stilted hieroglyphs, in the subjects and touch of Karen Kilimnik. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

From Noise to Beuys: Bennett Simpson on Art and Pop Music
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.