Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not as Bad as It Sounds

A year ago, the New York Observer ran a piece mentioning some of the ways bands and promoters profit when they apply force to the term "artist" in describing themselves. It went with some research I was doing for a post about music programming in museums, and has birthed the following list of groups that have at one point or another been called "art bands." Oil yourself up and join in the verbal slippage.


Members of Japanther met while students at Pratt, and they've operated in both realms (crafting their own microphones and instruments, making documentary films), playing five shows at major museums in the past two years. Somehow, when people think "art band," they think Japanther. In 2006, they made an abstract video for the Whitney Biennial, collaborating with no less than Dan Graham. Only that last point sounds a little sexed-up, though I didn't see the show and I do not hate their music. More power to them.


Ssion, an “art performance collective” founded by then-art student Cody Critcheloe, had three shows in one weekend at PS 1 to coincide with the release of their LP Bent this past spring. This, I truly regret not seeing. The 2008 show in Chicago in which they opened for CSS was the epitome of good times.


Fischerspooner during their "pop spectacle" Between Worlds at the MoMA reopening, 2009. Image via NYTimes.
Fischerspooner is a “performance troupe” (which sounds okay) and "electroclash duo" (which sounds hideous). They were probably an easy pick to play at Warm Up in 1999; the stretch to calling them artists isn't a stretch at all, they had solid footing in the gallery system before finding an audience in the music world. Also, they dress funny.

David Byrne
Image via Wired
As I imagine it, Talking Heads was making "art rock" when Cody Critcheloe's dad was chasing his mom around the middle school dance.  Incidentally, he also makes sculpture and has pioneered efforts to establish Powerpoint as a legitimate art form. I want to be just like him when I grow up.

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