Museion Bolzano Cleans Up the Possibility of Not-Art

I don’t believe we are thinking hard enough about the relationship between art and life. The recent ‘clean-up’ job at the Museion Bolzano and our all too predictable reactions to the incident—both that contemporary art must actually be trash, or, that being trashed necessarily proves contemporary art to be challenging and subversive—reveal the scope of the problem, the scope of our limited thinking. Continue reading →

Blurred Lines: Pharrell’s All Too Specific Style-Study

A jury found that Pharrell Williams’ and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” too closely resembles Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” from 1977. Determining copyright infringement has always been more art than science; on some level it’s an exercise in pure metaphysics when we try to figure out what a subjective representation is. Relying on a notated score, or the script for how the music unfolds, makes sense because we can simply note-match (more of a science). But in the “Blurred Lines” case, when note-matching doesn’t reveal evidence of direct copy, a hack job, and the jury verdict nevertheless rules that Marvin Gaye was ripped off, we’re left scratching our heads. There is not only a legal context surrounding such a case, but an artistic and socio-cultural context as well. In the interest of unwrapping the significance of the verdict, a quick historical survey of modern aesthetics and the blurring of art and life might help us to establish such context.
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Jay and Bey: P is not-P

As Jay-Z and Beyoncé watch Kanye rush the podium at the Grammys (to interrupt Beck before he accepts the award for Album of the Year), the power couple appear to embody the paraconsistent logic that aptly describes our cultural situation: P is not-P. The Vine, in particular, is a perfect format for this demonstration. We get to repeatedly watch Kanye’s stage-rush as both seriously horrifying and self-referentially comical. The kicker is the E! interview where Kanye reveals (at least during the interview) that he was serious. As a result, the Vine appropriately allows Jay-Z to perform our response to the E! interview when it loops: “uh oh, he’s serious!” We’re just stuck oscillating between interpretations of an event without ever knowing what it is. The same commodity returns to haunt us, sold back to us as its opposite, without undermining its ability to signify itself.

Mark Mothersbaugh Can’t Save All the Pipe Organs

I recently visited the Mark Mothersbaugh Myopia retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver, which is on exhibit until April this year. I also attended the artist’s 6-sided keyboard concert and exhibition talkback last month. But despite my cursory understanding of Mothersbaugh as a composer, pop star, and wide-ranging visual artist, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer deluge of material I encountered.

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Party Like It’s 2014

The video for DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What?” is 2014’s answer to a 1986 call to action: The Beastie Boy’s “(You Gotta) Fight for your Right (to Party)”. The 28-year gap between the two tracks marks a generational divide in ideology that, at the risk of sounding completely ridiculous, warrants a bit of extra thought. First, to the videos:

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Vinyl Revival

How, in 2014, does a vinyl record sell 60,000 copies to become the best-selling vinyl LP since 1994,[1] and top first-week vinyl sales (since Soundscan began tracking data in 1991) with 40,000 copies?[2] This is exactly what’s happened with Jack White’s Lazaretto, which he released in June. Furthermore, the Lazaretto “Ultra” LP with secret tracks, a locked outer groove, an etched hologram, and several other party tricks, accounts for over a quarter of the album’s total sales. Lazaretto marks the resurgence of vinyl over the past several years, a phenomenon that is perhaps more head-scratching than impressive.

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Music for Every Moment

I was recently at dinner with a non-musician friend who volunteered a short and concise theory on the integration of music and everyday experience. He said “there’s a perfect piece of music for every moment.” It’s a wonderfully direct yet jarring statement, or at least it was for me. In fact, isn’t that little codicil (“for me”) precisely the issue? I am capable of doing what he says, of subjectively evaluating some auditory sensory input in terms of its fit in the moment for me. But wait a second… can such an evaluation be perfected for every moment?

Not dissimilar to Lewis Black’s famed stand-up bit about having overheard a stranger say, “if it was for my horse I wouldn’t have spent that year in college,” my friend’s theory both caught me by surprise and also bored into my ear, lodged itself deep in my brain, and refused to be ignored. A couple questions needed to be asked:

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Adam Magyar, Stainless

Back in January of this year, Joshua Hammer provided a wonderful description of photographer Adam Magyar’s recent series, Stainless, in his Matter profile of the the artist. Drawing a distinction between the objectivity of Magyar’s digital scans—of people waiting on subway platforms and entire subway cars full of passengers—and the subjectivity inherent to Misha Gordin’s nightmarish and totalitarian Crowds, Hammer said:

Magyar, an admirer of Gordin’s work, also creates black-and-white photographs and video images permeated with a similar brooding quality, though his human beings are bound not by political systems, but by the limits of perception.

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Hearing Hearing

In his contribution to the first issue of Ear | Wave | Event, Peter Ablinger claims that there is an historical schism between visual and aural art practices along the axis of perception— of observing observation or subjective access. Quite simply, he asserts: “There has never been a Cézanne of music.” According to Ablinger, the history of music composition continues to further refine (if not continuously redefine) the processual activities of shaping sound into various configurations, be they tonal, atonal, or what-ever, while perpetually avoiding hearing. To hear (here reduced to a matter of mere passive reception) is itself simply assumed, and individualistic differences between that which sounds and that which is heard, while often acknowledged discursively, remain external to the imperatives of musical praxis; the circumscription of what is heard remains the focus, over that it is heard at all.

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Album Release: Paul Pêche, One Two Many

I’m gonna start this site out with some shameless self-promotion. Working under the name Paul Pêche, I recently released a new album of pop/alternative/electronica music. The album is titled One Two Many and is only available on bandcamp at the moment. The work contains a wide variety of sounds, some instrumental some not, structured in ways that veer from guitar-driven songwriting to thickly-textured electro-pop to impressionistic, reverb-laden piano textures. Overall, melody, counter-melody, and percussive interplay take center-stage. Listen to the whole thing for free over at paulpeche.bandcamp.com, or use the embedded player below.

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