The Vinyl Resting Place
"In the exact doubling of the real, preferably on the foundation of another reproductive medium - advertising, photo etc. - and from one medium to the other the real evaporates, it becomes an allegory of death, but even in its destruction it confirms and increases itself excessively: It becomes the real as such, a lost object's fetishism." 1
The relatively obviously successful jazz-musician Dexter (Bing Crosby) is sitting around the edge of a swimming pool where a small model-sail-boat ("True Love") is floating. He is singing, singing about each others dream of togetherness that once was. He is singing for the little sister of his former wife Tracy (Grace Kelly), who he still loves. How fortunate that the belle just happens to come by and listen. Or is it her actual fiancé who comes by in the evening before his wedding, and hears the ex of his beloved singing yearningly? No idea. Anyhow, Frank Sinatra is the gossip-reporter who, as a guest and correspondent, comments about the planned marriage and the emotional chaos in high society. He also falls in love with Tracy, but in the end he finds himself together with his prickly colleague. Louis Armstrong and his band are there as well and are responsible for the live music at the wedding. The real musicians play themselves.
"True Love" is a Cole Porter composition from the MGM-film "High Society", one of the best known and best liked Hollywood-musicals in 1956. "True Love" was nominated for an Oscar for best song, but lost to Doris Day's "Que sera sera."
Is it just by chance that the work with the identical name ("True Love", 2009) by Gregor Hildebrandt reminds us of a Tony Award (the US-American theatre and musical award for Broadway productions) medal? That the small warmed up vinyl record, formed as a lace doily in a frame alludes to this important honour in show business?
The Oscar is a figure with a streamline form, the Grammy is a Grammophone, and the Tony Award is a fat silver medal. Gregor Hildebrandt's framed doily is more an ironic comment, showing his respect for the musical that came away empty-handed. At the same time it expresses his distance to the self-promoting trophy-spectacles in the art- and music-business.
But isn't it coincidentally a celebration of the romantic love in an artpiece which has a kitschy film as background? Isn't it a monument for love - and with it a memorial for the old recording media which provided the soundtrack for our lives and love?
You may look at culture as a phenomenon of memory or look at memory as a phenomenon of culture, the reminded past, at any rate, is the result of cultural backward-projections. A way to connect this retrospective preservation with the actual experience is through the extrapolation of once experienced situations in art. Even in its transformation the work receives duration.
The time absorbing artistic work on the magnetic-tapes and records as well as their time-saving, sustaining "nature" help the artwork's transitoriness and memory stay present. The passage of time is directly and indirectly one of the central themes in the artist's work. And its preservation.
For his pictures and installations he uses audio-carriers like cassettes, videotapes or vinyl records. Record-bowls are stapled together to form endless columns, recorded tapes are applied directly to the canvas or the photographs, used in room-filling installations. Streched as nets or sorted hundredfold in cases, they become mirrors. As curtains they swing in the wind.
So the songs, chosen and recorded by the artist, become the emotions transported within them and are converted into the artpiece. They evolve from the tapes and records. And eventhough you do not really hear anything, the songs are preserved in the artwork, archived, and are retrievable for the spectator.
Early photography already carried the promise to be a collective form of interaction and subjectivity. Looking at it this way, in the 1960s the music cassette and the recording-technique were a real breakthrough, a project of cultural self-empowerment, that as an instrument of self-determination possessed democratic dimensions. It promised independent creativity, was a counter-cultural medium, was underground and subversive. It became mass media, but the cassette-scene felt themselves to be a subculture, in various contexts the new technique served to distribute political and socio-political positions. With only little effort and avoiding the music-business-companies, for the first time people were able to record their own tapes. So the invention and development of the recordable cassette in the late 1960s was a revolution. But the question that remains unanswered is whether Phillips (the electronics-company) wanted a radical change of hierachical class-relationships and the structures of copyright and production or not. 2
The three big pictures "Keine Tränen - Tuxedomoon" (2010, No Tears - Tuxedomoon) refer to each other formally and in regards to content. In very complicated steps the recorded tapes are glued lightly to the canvas and pressed only on certain spots. Then the black coating of the magnetic tape leaves a trace when all the tapes are taken away and glued to the next board. In this way you get a negative version of the first picture as it was, both refering to the same tape. They transport a fragmented memory of the same music that is complete (visually and imaginatively) only in the dual image. The informal character in this case results from the artistic treatment of the sticking tape and the half controllable frottage-technique, of the heavy gestures of the artist. Brushes and everyday-objects leave their traces on the canvas.
Layed out exactly side by side, the cassette-tapes build a geometric striped pattern. Thin strands flow down the picture-ground. Streams? A curtain of rain? A black and white, grey and brown noise. The flicker, shimmer, whirr of the picture-surface is like the roaring and murmuring of an unfiltered noise-recording. Fine ambiguities and the indistinctiveness of the borders connect the visual event with the well-known acoustic interference. Like the background-murmuring on a self-recorded cassette, there's a diffuse layer of black, white, grey streaks, stripes, scratches underneath the picture, that only under close inspection shows itself as results of material and technique. But the shimmer is torn apart by mighty beatings. Gestures show themselves becoming visible, concentrations and scatterings, wild impetuouseness in the silent flow of the lines. No earsplitting racket, but more an energetic concentration of force. Sharply controlled but nevertheless intimate, sparsely and full of life. The rapid change of the powerful disturbances has a stunning effect. The snow is like a hissing white noise in the silence, like a tone beside the soundtrack, static. The accurate, geometric magnetic-tape-pattern is transformed with wild, gesticulatory strokes into an abstract expressionist painting, intense and personal it reflects drama and lyrics of an inner world.
It looks and sounds as if the pictures would address the overwhelmed individual in a postmodern world. Furthermore they insinuate holding the lively, personal and collective memory. But what events remain in our consciousness? Aren't they, beside the private ones, the moments of mass euphoria, which put the expressions of one's significant inner emotions at memory's disposal?
The hissing and the high often lay close to one another.
"The invention of abstract art is a sign that there are still men in this world, who are able to express their emotions." 3
1 Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976)
2 In 2006 Phillips got the negative Big Brother Award for its implementation of technical dates in Orange-Book-Standard to leave a series-number that can be identified when you burn CDs.
3 Robert Motherwell, 1951
Text: Katja Behrens
Translation: Dean Cronin Taher