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Art & Art History

Revolutions Per Minute

Tuesday, November 13, 2001–Saturday, December 15, 2001

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Artists: Jeremy Boyle, Gabriel Fowler, Chad Gerth, Charles Goldman, Dave Muller, Jason Salavon, David Schafer, Siebren Versteeg, and Carl Warnick

Revolutions Per Minute explores the manufactured properties of record albums, our intimate relationships with them, and their analogs in the digital era.  

PRINT COLLATERAL

Postcard: Revolution Per Minute – Opening Reception

ARTISTS’ WRITING

Phono, 1999

Chad Gerth

These photographs are about five things that are also directly related to vinyl records: sound, memory, time, movement, and surface.

The turntable photographs are real-time documents of preserved sound being released and preserved again by the camera. There is an intersection between the system of the record player and the process of photography. As photographs, they emit no sound, yet a viewer may unconsciously remember or imagine the song depicted—the year, the band, the time period. Durations can be compared and considered. The ghost arm is the result of the leftover time (silence) needed to maintain equal exposure times for each song (seven minutes). Longer songs in this series have fainter ghost arms, but the arc of the needle ’s movement is not always constant because different records are tracked differently.

The grooves of a record require movement and time to decode the information they hold. As time and movement are recorded on photographic film, colors and shapes change, sound is lost, movement becomes stillness, miniscule grooves become patterns. Object and event become process, process becomes surface, and the surface holds information which can be revealed but not decoded. Photographs are two-dimensional by nature, so this information on the surface of the record must be decoded by some other process, possibly memory.

Time can be recorded in many ways. Consider how many ways we are bound to time. Music and sound require time to occur. Photography requires an exposure duration. Memory is instantaneous, but contemplation takes time. These photographs are the result of long exposures, but can be viewed in an instant. How much time passes before the encoded information is unlocked and contemplated?

***

Artist Statement

Charles Goldman

For my installation, titled 33 Revolutions Per Minute, my intent is to explore various notions of time as determined by our culture’s obsession with popular music. In today’s world, popular music has become the soundtracks to our lives. It is both witness and purveyor of our each and every move. Particular songs often become stand-ins for real, lived experience. The same song could be playing while we are falling in love or while we are staring at the ceiling. And, guaranteed, the real life situation is playing out differently than the recorded one, yet the two become blurred all the same. I am interested in how growing up with popular music has warped the expectations we have of our emotions, our lives, and of time in general.

Outtakes, 1966–1999 (2000) is a continuation of a project begun on a Pee-Chee folder in the 7th grade. It is a five hundred foot long by four inch wide drawing of a line of all of my, 1,500 or so, record albums, CDs, and cassettes. The thumbnail sketches are done in non-photo blue lead, commenting on the reproducibility of popular music and the irreproducibility of personal experience. The blue monochrome line is also representative of the hum, the white noise created from the layering of sound and vision. Yet out of this hum, each drawing, ideally, serves as a visual cue towards a specific event in my (and hopefully in the viewer’s) life. The specific will always arise out of the general and vice versa. This truth is especially pertinent when it comes to popular music, considering its large-scale mass production and appeal, alongside the specificity and intimacy it has within our personal lives.

An untitled photograph on the back cover of Kiss Alive! shows two feathered hair youth from the mid-seventies proudly displaying a banner with the Kiss logo and the painted faces of the four members. The young men stand for the photographer, presumably, in front of the stage before the concert begins. Other fans, mostly male, wait patiently for their heroes. The audience extends into the distance. In my version of the untitled photograph, the banner is erased and replaced with the spray painted words: YOUR NAME HERE. Thus establishing a reversal of the hero worship that Kiss and other super groups helped to establish in the early seventies. An evening out of the playing field between the idol and the idolized is offered as a possibility.

Hanging Around Listening to Music (2000) is an eight-hour, real time performance/installation filmed with four video cameras and played back on four monitors. The performance consists of just that—me hanging around listening to music. For the installation, the monitors are positioned on a makeshift stage. The videotapes are randomly played back, creating a discord of sights, sounds, and the memories of both. There is really no such thing as “down time.” We are constantly being fed information and it often comes in multiple doses. Long before the high-tech industry came about, popular culture instigated a confusion between the real and the virtual. Each experience we have is a cacophony of previous experiences, both actual and imagined, combined with the present one, which is also either actual or imagined.

Collaboration (1998) is a manipulated The Best of Frank Sinatra record album. It is a very shoddy method towards achieving an unobtainable dream. The hole in the center of the vinyl is re-drilled slightly off center. A new Pantene blue label is placed over the new hole and a new Pantene blue cover barely covers the old sleeve. On the spine is printed in small, black letters—Sinatra/Goldman.

An untitled series of eight white wool blankets are made to resemble the inside sleeves of record albums. They lie scattered on the floor. The wool sleeves promise comfort and warmth (just like your favorite song does) but the large hole in the center prevents any such possibility. They speak against the empty promises and the futility of popular music’s romantic ideology.

The act of making a compilation tape for a love interest is a very specific and deliberate act. Every song and every segue are carefully considered before being committed to the cassette tape. The message is as complicated and idiosyncratic as any flirtation. A series of six photographs correspond with a series of six mixed tapes made for a past or present love interest. A photograph is taken of each song as the LP spins on the turntable. Each final, contact sheet is a visual record of a series of songs as they pass on their intended messages. The photographs attempt to unveil the reality of what is actually taking place, a needle is passing through thin grooves in black vinyl—nothing else.

Generic LP (2000) is a 45-minute video tape projection of a standard LP with a blank, white label playing on a turntable. My hand appears to place the LP on the turntable, to put the needle on the album, and so on. There is no sound but the needle does follow the grooves and the arm moves through the supposed series of songs. There is an openness and an option to the experience offered in the videotape, just as there is to the experiences offered in the unlimited possibilities of experience and emotion that have been recorded on wax.

What is the value of personal experience when we communicate through shared experiences? Is popular culture actually another language that exists somewhere between Sign and Esperanto? When does the experience of the favored pop star of the moment take precedence over our own? And how is it possible to know what is unique to ourselves when we share so much with everyone else? When one is left alone with only his music collection does that person have everything or nothing? 33 Revolutions Per Minute is a musing on the possibilities of shared, exchanged, and substituted experience via recorded popular music.

***

Agitha Denmark Project

Carl Warnick

Libraries and collections are objects that yearn for order and correctness, yet always drag behind them and contain within them the chaos they were born from. Out of that chaos also comes the need to grow and duplicate.

The original performances of the Agitha Demark Project asked people to “support dissemination” of “duplicated parts” of a sound collection. Those performances focused on the conversational aspects of the piece. This presentation of Volume Two, while not necessarily battling the echoes of past performances, utilizes a more sculptural and economic part of the piece.

Known Issues:

Artist, Album, tracks that are missing:
Eno et al. – Music For Films III – 4,14
Seti – Ciphers – 4
Various – Noise Kills Punk Dead – 40
Soft Machine – Alive and Well – 8
Bjork – All Is Full Of Love – 3
Two Lone Swordsmen – Stay Down – 13-16
The Meters – Funky Miracle – 18 on Disk One
Transporter – Transporter – 9-14

Prina, Hall & Oats

To be in love in this way is to follow the possibly slight tremors of desire towards a moment.

To construct that moment, or spaces for that moment to bloom, is a calculated effort to nurture love.

to mark
to mark yourself
to construct your
interactions with
yourself to scrape
away at what might have been
left accumulated

EXHIBITION ESSAY

Revolutions Per Minute

Dan S. Wang

When I started to develop tastes in music, I started to buy records. That was in the early and mid-eighties when twelve-inch LP records were the standard
medium for storage and playback. Over a period during which I moved frequently and then worked a traveling job, tired of lugging several crates of records around
with me, I stored the crates with friends and stopped buying more. That period happened to coincide with the ascent of compact discs as the standard commercial medium. When I resumed purchasing records around 1994, I stuck with buying the vinyl LPs, since they were still available in the better stores, and were often cheaper than CDs. As other people unloaded their old LPs, used record stores seemed to have better selections than ever.

But something definitely had changed. New vinyl releases typically were issued on a strictly limited basis, and, after a period of dual format release, most new records were no longer issued in twelve-inch form at all. By continuing to purchase LPs, I seemed to have become, without really trying, a record collector. This had nothing to do with the size of my collection (I still only have about six hundred LPs, a very modest bunch compared to the people I’ve known who have thousands, though I’ve probably lost, thrown out, wrecked, and sold or traded at least a couple hundred more) and everything to do with the mentality of acquisition. The same consumer activity which I had practiced all through high school and college and then had lately resumed—namely, shopping for and buying LP records—was no longer a matter governed purely by considerations of taste. Buying had become fraught by the reality of scarcity, such that purchases were now based as much on calculations of opportunity as on taste. In other words, buying a record was no longer simply about the music. The values governing the activity had shifted around me.

The evolution of popular music itself added to my increasingly complex view of the twelve-inch LP. The emergence of hip hop in particular tells of the then-changing contours surrounding the LP format from another angle. Traced to the ghettos of late seventies New York, hip hop is said to have been invented by young, urban black people partly in response to cuts in public school funding for arts and music. In a classic demonstration of resourcefulness, members of these local scenes utilized the turntable and record collection as an instrument in itself. By mimicking and then taking further the tricks of a few local radio disc jockeys, a new breed of DJ crafted a repertoire of scratching, mixing, looping, and sampling. Within five years of its appearance, hip hop DJ-ing was well on its way to becoming a sophisticated artistic practice in its own right.

By exploiting what were then non-standard ways of conducting the playback of an LP, artists discovered, invented, and conventionalized an entire palette of previously unheard or altered sounds. They did so by experimenting with turntable technology that was pretty much the same as a radio disc jockey’s decks, which were themselves not much different from the average end user’s set up multiplied by two—the same home system that was then in the process of being shed by capitalist production in anticipation of its eventual extinction. The forces which finally rendered me a “collector” also provided the setting for an intriguing theme by which to interpret the formation of hip hop: the linking of a marginalized population of cultural workers to the utilization of what became a marginalized technology. By the time the vinyl LP began receding from the commercial horizon, a specific subcultural population already had launched an aggressive redefinition of what turntable and LP technology could be made to do, and in the process helped to pave the way for how the vinyl format would further evolve. As I navigated the changed retail terrain of vinyl and at the same time observed hip hop permeate the pop cultural landscape, I came to see hip hop as a complicated example of an art form which returns a technology to its specificity as it becomes outmoded by capitalism. As standard vinyl LPs became individual signifiers of relative rarity, so did my generic consumer behavior become “collecting.” As the CD became what one “plays,” a vinyl record became what one “scratches” or “mixes.”

If hip hop DJs established the sample as a basic element in one genre’s musical vocabulary, then house, techno, and other dance DJs created entirely new galaxies of sound across their dozens of genres and sub-genres. They did so by using the whole spectrum of turntable manipulations plus digital processing that together now make up the basic skills of DJ-ing. While the conventional narrative locates the birth of modern dance music in Detroit and Chicago, the precursors of what, at times, were essentially noise experiments, range from Stockhausen to Lee “Scratch” Perry to Brian Eno. When considered in the context of such diverse lineages, the great thirst for sounds in the world of electronic music and rave culture is not surprising. This demand produced an equalization of sorts among technological platforms. Digitally generated tracks were pressed up as vinyl so as to lend “turntable-ability” even while DJs obsessively searched the used record bins for odd sounds to be filtered through samplers and sequencers and bought new tracks by the armful for remixing. The observable result to me, the remnant vinyl consumer, is that the world of new vinyl has been transformed largely into a market aimed at satisfying the DJs unquenchable need. The records themselves are twelve-inch single tracks meant to be mixed in the studio and in live DJ sets, and are basically of no interest to a listener of conventional LPs. This is vinyl as raw, unfinished material. The art and craft of DJ-ing required that a DJ become a collector of vinyl, but a collector who shops not for what they want to listen to but rather for what they can make out of it.

To conclude this brief reflection, it is interesting to note that electronic music, more than anything else, has introduced the first significant crack in my commitment to buying primarily LPs since resuming collecting. The playback of electronic music lends itself to the CD, with its capacity for extended continuous play, a potential which was never genuinely relevant to pop/rock-centered music, or even to jazz, and if anything, made possible too many unnecessarily long records. In electronic music, there finally seems to be reason for me to buy CDs from the standpoint of wanting to preserve the integrity of the listening experience. Club DJ sets are tracks mixed, morphed, and segued one into the other; a recorded presentation of the music ought to duplicate that seamlessness. CDs can do that, LPs cannot. More than any debate about sound quality or cover art, it is this difference that to my mind makes the case for CDs. It has come full circle, in a way: when I buy CDs, I am back to being just a music fan and consumer because the condition of scarcity does not exist. Not yet, at least. A future of nothing but file sharing and streamed music may yet render me a collector in two formats. And if that happens, the only thing I wonder about is, what will the music sound like then?

Dan S. Wang is an artist and writer living in Chicago who loves having to get up to flip the record.

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

Revolutions Per Minute is supported by the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago, and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST

Jeremy Boyle

33.3, 2001
Digital electronic circuit and speaker

Gabriel Fowler

Black Dog, 2001
Ink jet print on masonite

Reverse Psychology, 2001
Record albums, chair, mirror, headphones, turntable altered to play backwards, and brochures

Chad Gerth

Phono, 1999
A Day In the Life, 5 Minutes 3 Seconds, The Beatles, 1967

Teenage Riot, 6 Minutes 58 Seconds, Sonic Youth, 1988
The Needle & The Damage Done, 2 Minutes, Neil Young, 1972
Radioactivity, 6 Minutes 30 Seconds, Kraftwerk, 1975
Run, Run, Run, 4 Minutes 18 Seconds, The Velvet Underground, 1967


C-prints, 20 x 24 in.

Charles Goldman

33 Revolutions Per Minute

Collaboration, 1998
manipulated The Best of Frank Sinatra record album

Generic LP, 2000
Video tape projection, 45:00 min.

Hanging Around Listening to Music, 2000
32 one-hour videotapes, stage, and tinsel

Outtakes, 1966-1999, 2000
Non-photo blue lead drawing, 6,000 x 4 in.

Dave Muller

Some X ’s, Y ’s, and Z ’s, 1998
Acrylic on paper, diptych, 32 x 40 in. each

Jason Salavon
Express Yourself from the series MTV’s 10 Greatest Music Videos of All Time, 2001
Digital C-print mounted on Plexiglas, 27 x 38 1/2 in.

Smells Like Teen Spirit from the series MTV’s 10 Greatest Music Videos of All Time, 2001
Digital C-print mounted on Plexiglas, 27 x 38 1/2 in.

Thriller from the series MTV’s 10 Greatest Music Videos of All Time, 2001
Digital C-print mounted on Plexiglas, 27 x 38 1/2 in.

David Schafer

Compression Regression With Floorplan, Platform, and Lighted Display, 2001
Audio CD, playback equipment, plywood, Duratrans lightbox, and paint

Melanie Schiff
Photographs of record covers and Plexiglas

Siebren Versteeg

18 and Life, 2000
Cassette tapes, wooden tape case, and laser prints

Carl Warnick

Agitha Demark Project

Prina, Hall & Oats

CURATOR BIOGRAPHY

Lorelei Steart Headshot1Lorelei Stewart, Director of Gallery 400 since 2000, has organized over 40 exhibitions, including the Joyce Award-winning exhibition Edgar Arceneaux: The Alchemy of Comedy…Stupid (2006). In 2002, she initiated the acclaimed At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago series, a commissioning program that encourages Chicago area artists’ experimental practices. Stewart currently serves as Interim Director of the Master of Arts in Museum and Exhibition Studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She holds a BA from Smith College, a BFA from Corcoran College of Art and Design, and an MA in Curatorial Studies from Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.