Archive for the ‘Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Æ MAK-“We Have It Right Here” (2020).

Æ MAK is Aoife McCann.  She creates a fascinating tapestry of music.  It feels classical and operatic and yet also feels very electronic and oddly poppy.

This song begins with muted xylophones -sounding electronic tones playing a pretty melody (which reminds me of Björk).

McCann’s voice comes in and lilts and flutters almost bird-like. She sings in English but with interesting emphases on words.

Her vocal delivery and melodies conjure Regina Spektor.

About halfway through the, until now entirely electronic song, adds some soft acoustic guitar and gentle bells.

The second chorus is almost all voice with simple percussion and a kind of Kate Bush vocal trill.

The electronics come back in and suddenly start getting fuller and louder–filling up your headspace with sounds as her voice echoes itself and adds other lines before building to a remarkably catchy ending.

There’s so much going on in this song even though it often feels very minimal.

And wait until you see her on stage.

[READ: September 21, 2020] On Contemporary Art

I have enjoyed Aira’s novels and was intrigued by this short essay about Contemporary Art.

The entire book is 60 pages and it includes and Foreword and an Afterword.  That jibes with the premise of the imprint itself.  Ekphrasis Press reprints works about visual art that are not meant to be academic in nature–but compelling as prose.

In the Foreword Will Chancellor, talks about how language can throw you off.  He recalls bring a child and seeing the Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear warning.  He wondered how objects and their appearances could diverge.  He continues that Aira suggests this gap between appearance and reality might be the origin of cotemporary art.


The main body of the book is Aira’s essay, translated by Katherine Silver.

He starts by saying he is a writer who looks for inspiration in painting.  He says that cave painters painted facts, but it took a person relating the adventure, the storyteller, to make the episode come alive.

As a lover of art, he subscribes to many art magazines, namechecking Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, art press and more.  He says the magazines look better every year but that their ability to convey art gets worse every year–they cannot properly convey what an art piece looks like.  You have to read the texts to see what is happening.

His essay concerns the Enemy of Contemporary Art who says that today’s

frauds who pretend to be artists depend on a justifying discourse to validate the nonsense they produce.

They say that contemporary art doesn’t speak for itself–that it needs critics to explain it. (more…)

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myopSOUNDTRACK: DEVO-“Satisfaction” (1977).

devoThis has to be the most audacious cover of its time.  Devo took one of The Rolling Stones’ more beloved song and turned it into a weird, angular piece of art.

The original has a simple riff, a surprisingly slow pace an a slinky, sexy groove.  Devo has sped it up and, most importantly, made it angular and complete unsexy.  I have been listening to this song over and over trying to figure out what is going on.

The drums are consistent but there’s all kinds of interesting sounds in the drums.  The guitar and bass are doing one or two repetitive riffs that don’t quite make sense individually, but work well together.  The bass line itself is just fascinating–how did anyone think of that?

Lyrically, the song is the same, but instead of sounding like a guy who is trying to score, he sounds insane.  And the babybabybabybabybabybaby section is hilarious and weird.  Then they throw in a modified “Satisfaction” riff loud on the guitar at the end with the band chanting “Satisfaction.”  Talk about deconstruction.

No Devo song would be complete without the visual element.  All five of them wearing their plastic hazmat suits, moving in stiff/jerky motions, more robot than human.  And of course, Mothersbaugh himself looks crazy with swim goggles on and mussy hair.  Then they show his modified guitar–the first item in close up.  There’s duct tape all over it, and extra knobs and some kind of square bottom section.  It seems impossible that it is making the sounds that he is shown playing on it since the strings (or is it just one string?) seem so loose.

There’s the guy doing flips (Wikipedia tells me he is dancer Craig Allen Rothwell, known as Spazz Attack, whose signature dance move was a forward flip onto his back).  And of course, there’s an appearance by Booji Boy sticking a fork in a toaster.

What on earth did Mick and the boys think of this?

This cover was done in 1977 and it is still remarkable today.

[READ: September 1, 2015] Myopia

We saw Mothersbaugh’s Myopia show at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.  In retrospect I would have loved to spend more time there (although the kids probably wouldn’t have).  So when I saw that there was a book for the show, it seemed like a worthwhile investment.

And this book is a fascinating and comprehensive look at Mothersbaugh’s life and output as a visual artist and a founder of Devo.

Mark was a quiet kid and he was legally blind when he was born.  It wasn’t until he was around 5 that he got a pair of glasses which totally changed his world.  He was always artistic and rebelled against convention.  His world was greatly expanded when he went to college.  But he was at Kent State when the four students were killed by the National Guard. This affected him profoundly and send him investigating the world of devolution.

Of course most people know of Mothersbaugh from Devo–who were huge in their own way in the 1980s.  I was a young lad at the time and while I liked “Whip It,” I never thought they were cool (if only I knew).  But before creating Devo, Mothersbaugh was creating all kinds of visual arts.  He was doing print making at college, he was doing postcard mailers to people. It was only when he realized how much cheaper it would be to make music than to constantly be making print items that he devote some energy to Devo instead. (more…)

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