Brion Gysin & Ian Sommerville, Dreamachine, 1960/2011
Anthony Kiendl, curator of Sound & Vision: Crossroads at Plug In ICA, highlights the “mythologised promise” of rock music - freedom, rebellion, and, by extension, utopia - through a selection of work that thoughtfully engages with the megalithic intersections of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Most compelling is Dan Graham's Rock My Religion, a documentary style video addressing the origins and development of early rock n' roll and commercial punk. With a perspective easily supported by contemporary knowledge about the music industry, Graham proposes an understanding of rock as a sexualization of past social values for capitalist gain. Disarming people (especially youth) of their productive capacity and feeding them manufactured dreams, rock additionally offers a sanctioned outlet for energy that might oppose the interests of capitalism while, simultaneously, drawing profit through a newly formed market based on the appropriation of the culture and gender of marginalized peoples. The pleasure preached by rock may well be life affirming, but constructed and contained by record companies, its motives and methods are suspect.
Promoted as a focal point of the exhibition Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville's Dreamachine is presented in a carpeted room with cushions, but interference from other works, unfortunately, prevents deeper involvement. I would have otherwise happily surrendered to its claim of mimicking the REM stage of sleep to generate waking dreams. This “gallery effect” (my personal shorthand for the restrictions created when artworks are presented in a formal environment) also limited my engagement with Rodney Graham's kinetic sculpture Rotary Psyco-Opticon. If the bicycle can't be operated, and whirly circles can't be animated, does the work still exist?
And so, with the interactive psychedelic works feeling somewhat off limits, I was glad for Hannah Wilke's uncomfortably sensual dystopian depiction of the dazy freedom of drugs on visual and tactile perception, bodily presence, and sense of self in Hello Boys, as well as Joachim Koester's Tantarism, which resonates with Dan Graham's mention of 18th Century American Shakers through its filmed images of people convulsing silently in synch with unidentified stimuli.
Plug In ICA: http://plugin.org/
Sound & Vision: Crossroads continues until June 17.
Milena Placentile is a curator and writer living in Winnipeg. She co-runs Atomic Centre and is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent.
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