Sometime during Reagan‘s second term, Brad Ellis and I toured the Bingo Building, the former Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery on North Main whose steamless smokestack had been decorated with uppercase letters B, I, N, G and O, in that order, top to bottom. We were considering leasing the ground floor — 6,000 square feet of dank, semisubterranean arcades with a few ancient electrical fixtures but little in the way of gas and water hookups — for $400 a month. Even though our violation of the cobwebs and fermenting catacombs released smells similar to those smellable only in the caverns of Hannibal, Missouri, we decided not to rent the place. Because we couldn’t afford it. Couldn‘t afford the time to fix it up. So we passed; as a result, today we’re neither hip nor rheumatoidally arthritic (except for Brad, come to think of it, who does live in a hipster-style loft downtown and has chronic back pain).
Now the Bingo Building is part of the Brewery, a.k.a. ”the world‘s largest artist colony,“ home to over 400 ”painters, sculptors, photographers, designers, performers and creative professionals.“ Over the weekend, a friend and I went to an open-studio tour there, and as we roved from room to room, I noticed that a lot of the artists had gone out of their way to provide the tourists with background music. As a lover of music, I wondered why someone would want to do that. ”Was it an oversight? Did they forget to turn it off?“ I asked my friend, who used to be my girlfriend before I started asking her stuff like this, and she was of the opinion that it was not an oversight, that the artists were playing music on purpose. I agreed that they were probably doing it on purpose. But what was the purpose?
Suppose you’re making visual art that you consider to be fine. And then you invite a herd of strangers into your studio to look at it. This qualifies as an exhibit, yes? This is you showing us your chops-in-progress. Showing us the direction, at least, in which you‘ve stepped outside your culture to create your own visual language through which we, the herd, might look back inside. Why bring Britney Spears and the Sex Pistols into it? Have you created objects that can be properly realized only when embellished by the Dead Backstreet Kennedy Boys or Toad the Wet Amadeus Manilow?
The Brewery has all sorts of interesting artwork going on, as well as its share of helpless hipsters flaunting the fruits of their trust accounts. But good or bad, it’s hard to look at art as art when it comes with the same soundtrack as a Hollywood Boulevard boomboxT-shirt shop.
One of the few things art galleries still have going for them is that they don‘t play Muzak unless it’s supposed to be part of the art. Playing unrelated Welcome-to-Ralphs-Enjoy-Your-Shopping-Don‘t-Mind-Me-I’ll-Just-Be-Here-Hypnotizing-You-in-the-Background Muzak (and that‘s Punk Muzak, Hip-Hop Muzak, Bluegrass Muzak, Classical Muzak . . . it all becomes Muzak in context) dulls the artwork down to the level of, well . . . Artzak.
I’m overreacting, I know (see ”used to be my girlfriend,“ above). It was an open-studio tour — some of the artists probably just wanted to listen to music to keep from hearing what people were saying about their work. My point is that it‘s very important to know which kinds of music to select to ruin which kinds of artwork. To that end, I offer three brief-yet-hollow suggestions:
Neo-Dada Trustaccountism: Download a MIDI file of the Sex Pistols’ seminal ”Anarchy in the U.K.,“ courtesty of the PunkSka MIDI Archive (http:freehosting1.at.webjump.com165860792pupunkmidi-webjumpmidisexpistols_anarchyintheuk.mid); a QuickTime movie of the Backstreet Boys doing something for MTV (http:dl1.lga2.mtvn.commtvvideoclipsbbackstreet.boystop5.mov); and a (static) JPEG of Jeff Koons‘ stainless-steel Rabbit (1986) from some GeoCities site that spews ghastly fuggin GeoCities pop-ups (www.geocities.comSoHoExhibit9929koonsrabbit_grey.jpg). Open all three in your registered QuickTime Player, set the video to Loop and select Play All Movies, thereby offsetting your non-art with non-music.
French Impressionism: Employing the same complex download-and-open technique as used by the Neo-Dada Trustaccountists, stare at a low-resolution JPEG of Monet’s Palazzo da Mula (www.i-galleries.comimagespalazzo_da_mula_venice.jpg) while listening to a MIDI file of Rick Nelson‘s ”Garden Party“ (http:ctbuyers.comdissoundsgardenparty.mid), thereby offsetting transitory effects of light with a sonic mint julep.
CalArts Text-Based Baroque Minimalist Ash-Can Punk Trisexualism: Similarly, mix a JPEG of Douglas Huebler’s Variable Piece 56 (1971) (www.muzeumsztuki.lodz.plimagesdouglas_hu_1971.jpg) with one Alice in Limp Pearl Korn Bizkits Jam and Temple Chains MIDI file (http:blamo.simplenet.commidinirvanainbloom.mid), thereby offsetting wildly reduced forms and strict, systematic urban compositions with the never-ending pursuit of perpetual high-schoolism.#