Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not Much Compassion for Sympathy for the Devil at the Musee d'Art contemporain

Slater Bradley
The Year of the Doppelganger, 2004
Courtesy of the artist and Team Gallery

In conjunction with the Warhol exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum is running an exhibit on the relationship between art and rock music today. With mixed media presentations, including a working recording studio, the exhibit takes the visitor on a tour through various countries that dominated the music scene since the 1967.

I’ll begin with the recording studio, since it is a somewhat of a treat to see a performance art piece that sustains for such a long period of time. Rirkrit Tiravanija created a “silent” recording studio, where the instruments are fed into a recording consul rather than an amp. This keeps the room quiet, though it is possible to listen with headphones that surround the studio. Musicians are allowed to book one hour of time during the museum opening hours, so visitors see whoever happens to have booked the time slot. This is, in many ways, a taste of not just the experience of seeing an aquarium-like perspective of how a recording studio works, but also, what the studio itself experiences as different groups of musicians work within its confines.

The rest of the exhibit is hit or miss. Most pieces are concept pieces, and without an explanation remain mysterious and somewhat uninspired. The hits include three gigantic pieces by Robert Longo who depicted dancers of the 1980s club scene in New York in graphite (pencil) and charcoal. These iconic writhing bodies are a dynamic study of the experience of movement and its contrast with one’s profession (he depicts “the suits”). Richard Prince’s portrait photos of an assemblage of artists such as David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Laurie Anderson, and Dee Dee Ramone seem less impressive in the day of the cell phone camera, where candid shots of celebrities are commonplace. Andy Warhol’s screen tests of Lou Reed, John Cale, and Maureen Tucker, though, are a good compliment to the exhibit down the street at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Moving through pieces from artists of continental Europe and the UK, the art is less interesting and the musicians less familiar. From World works, Yoshimoto Nara’s drawings are quick splash of the familiar amidst a largely unaccessablem, if not just boring, exhibit.

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