|02.20.2011, 03:02 PM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Sonic Youth were never just whirring feedback and loads of distortion. For the past 27 years, this famous postpunk band was also a crystallization point for a network that goes from cool to artsy, from avant-garde to sectarianism, and is ambitious and multidisciplinary across all the arts. To shed light on the furthest reaches of this cosmos, an exhibition is currently touring through Europe and now opens in The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art MUSEION in Bolzano for the public: “Sonic Youth etc. – Sensational Fix.” In our recent print issue we ask the exhibition’s curator Roland Groenenboom and the museum directors Corinne Diserens (Museion, Bolzano) and Christophe Wavelet (LiFE, Saint Nazaire), and six artists involved in the project for their own personal feedback.
Here’s one artist more we talked to about Sonic Youth. StyleMag.net presents: Dara Birnbaum, video artist from New York City.
What’s your private link to Sonic Youth?
Private links are to remain private; but if you are asking me what my point-of-origin is with Sonic Youth, it is through Kim. When she first came to NYC from Los Angeles, we were closely linked by mutual friends in the arts, such as Dan Graham and John Knight, whom I felt were also like mentors for both Kim and myself.
Tell us about your first meeting with Kim and Thurston.
I can’t tell you this. What I can tell you is that I remember when Kim first met Thurston.
We were walking down lower West Broadway, in Tribeca. There was a club down there, just below Canal Street. I somehow remember Kim coming out of that club—and our joining up on the street. She was saying how she had just met this guy, whom she really liked. It turned out to be Thurston. For some reason I never forgot this moment, even though it was a small incident, it always loomed rather large.
What’s your favourite album/song of Sonic Youth?
My favorite song is “Protect Me You,” but that is probably because I used that song as one of the sound tracks for my video “Damnation of Faust: Evocation” from 1983. I felt close to Kim at that time and admired her song writing, which developed as an extension of the writing she was doing for art magazines and/or journals, mainly spurred on by Dan Graham, our closest mutual friend. For my video, I asked her what she was working on. I was immediately drawn to one of the new songs she showed me: “Protect Me You.” It said exactly what I was trying to say in my video work: her lyrics perfectly matched the images in my mind—and their intention was exactly the same.
Sonic Youth are considered as an “art rock band” mixing the disciplines. How do you work multi-disciplinarily?
I have used media for over thirty years now and am considered a “pioneer” in the field. In the 1970s, I was considered a “pirate” rather than a “pioneer,” because my main strategy was to appropriate well-known iconographic images from pop culture, such as “Wonder Woman.” Over the past decades, I feel that the real multidisciplinary nature of my work lies in the venues that I used: my attempts to break open new spaces and distribution channels for what was being called “video art.” For example, I “VJ-ed” art works into the clubs; showed work at Grand Central Station, NYC (1980); and set a new precendent for permanent installation work, with “Rio VideoWall,” a large-scale inter-active outdoor installation in Atlanta, Georgia. I also showed work on TV (mainly public broadcast in the U.S. and 3rd or 4th channels in Europe, such as RTB, Belgium or ZDF, Germany) and inserted my works in shop windows, record and video stores, on radio (soft cultural programming, for Swiss National Radio)—in other words, whatever-and-wherever I could find the type of spaces that Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin spoke and wrote about: those “black” holes, which appear in mass media, when it has been overly used and occupied.
What are your current projects?
The largest project I’m working on is a retrospective exhibition of my work and a large companion catalogue. The exhibit will open at SMAK, Ghent, Belgium, in April 2009 and will then travel to the Serralves Museum, Porto, Portugal, in 2010. When the SMAK exhibit opens, I will also be showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, in an exhibition entitled “The Picture Generation.”
Describe the particular Sonic Youth style.
I can’t; I can only provide you with my own personal experience of that sound and style, at its inception, when I knew it best. Personally, I relate it to the type of “white noise” and “no wave” sound that was part of the downtown scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in NYC. In fact, I first remember Thurston playing with Glenn Branca, specifically at a performance of Glenn’s Symphony No. 1, at the Performing Garage, in 1981. I recorded that event, in collaboration with Dan Graham. Later, I produced a work from that footage on my own, as the original project didn’t go forward. In the video, I contrasted the performance with an external thunder storm, taking place in the street. I remember Glenn not approving of it; especially the mix of the music with the sounds of the thunder. But there was a lot of quick attention drawn to the work, especially because a few of us were seen as forerunners of the cross between music and video, pre-MTV. I always liked that work—because for me Glenn had that same thunder in his work as the storm. He also had a type of romanticism, which could be related to nature at its extreme. You can see Thurston’s “lightning” in his performance with Glenn at that time; a rhythmic, pulsating, sexual display of his body. This was pre-Sonic Youth. Around the same time, I remember Kim playing with a woman by the name of Miranda. I started a video work with Kim and Miranda, entitled “Prisoner of Cell Block H,” based on a TV-shown of women in jail. Unfortunately, I never finished it.
What Sonic Youth record would you rather have made the cover design for?
Probably the “Thousand Leaves” CD, as I’m not a big fan of stereotyping, even if there is a dark humor to it. So having a young girl/woman in bed “with rodent ears” on that cover, with a hand touching a rodent in the foreground doesn’t quite “make it” for me. Maybe I feel there is a type of underlying sexism to it, which disturbs me—a young boy touching a small animal and the girl in the background obviously the real “animal,” the real “fur”—that as yet should not be touched. Also I don’t like using animals, even rodents, in art work—and I consider album covers as art works. However, the great thing about Sonic Youth’s album covers is their consistent use of utilizing artists’ work—such as work by Gerhard Richter, or Raymond Pettibone, or Tony Oursler, etc. I’m not sure if they ever used a woman’s art work for a cover……. Hum?
What’s so sexy about Sonic Youth?
I think I’m just supposed to answer: Kim
Tell us about your work to be presented at the show “Sensational Fix”.
The work being screened is „Damnation of Faust: Evocation.“ It is the first part of a Trilogy I did, which re-represents Faustian mythology, from a more feminist point-of-view. The Evocation has a dreamlike, introspective, quality to it and was shot on the streets of lower Manhattan in a playground I live by. I literally wanted to „evoke“ a tension, one which arises from a longing for innocence and renewal; a desire to transcend everyday experience. The work utilized a great many custom-designed special effects, such as fan-wipes and vertical pillars. I was attempting to plunge the viewer into multi-dimensional picture frames; to break the usual singularity of the televisual frame, at that time. I wanted to have a more expressive pictorial language, which could conjoin inner psychological space and external space, representing past and present, memory and reality. There were three scores for the video—including Sonic Youth’s pre-recorded mix of „Protect Me You.“
Interview > Marcus Woeller
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|05.03.2012, 08:45 AM||#2|
Join Date: Mar 2006
It's a shame that there's probably lots of posts that people don't get to see because of the 10 post/link rule. I'll approve any more like this that I come across....
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|05.03.2012, 06:18 PM||#3|
Join Date: Mar 2006
thank you from the bottom of my sonic addled heart
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