Pop Music & The Visual Arts:

Like A Cat Fucking A Dog

Abstract for panel contribution at PLAY IT LOUD, Adelaide Artists Week, 2008

"I will be discussing the undying mania in contemporary art to 'bring something into the gallery'. Music is but one example of this, and it connects to the post-pomo demise wherein the 'anything goes' inevitably bred a 'nothing stays' state of affairs. Lots of 'pop music' - from its imposing iconography to its abject sonica - has thus been dragged into the gallery. However over many years I've never encountered a perceptive comment on music (let alone sound) uttered by a visual arts professional. (I'm also of the view that a well-read person is incapable of reading a film, but that's another story.)

From a broader cultural perspective, however, music is a particularly powerful energiser of scopic/ocular/literary/cerebral practices - in both contemporary and historical manifestations. I will mention this with some examples, making note that Pop Music - being a form of folk that has been progressively mechanised, industrialised and simulated - is entirely based on critiquing itself and doesn't require artists to dabble in its dense meta-clouds of signification. (The same could be said for 'artists working with cinema', but that too is another story.)

Ultimately there's a difference between salacious inapproriateness and plain ignorance. And only a dumb cat would try to fuck a dog."

Postscript - what happened on the panel

Consenting to do this panel was against my better judgement: my attempt to be open-minded and not dismiss the Adelaide Arts Festival's self-professed status as barometer of cultural zeigesitism was doomed.

As I waited at the side of the stage for this event, Chicks on Speed were secretively and excitedly organizing something. A friend was to take photos, but to wait for her cue, after the Chicks stand up and say blah, then do blah, and then they'll blah blah blah. It was like listening to 12 year olds preparing a prank on their maths school teachers. It was embarrassing to him them 'plan' this - especially here at the most numbing intellectual highlight of Australia's pathetic attempt to 'be critical': Adelaide Artists' Week.

No wonder Adelaide Artists Week loved Chicks on Speed. They interrupted the panel, stacked the chairs into a barricade-like pyramid, all the while chanting something about art and politics. It was done with the amateur flair of two entitled high school check-out girls being forced to do a May '68 sit-in performance art piece for their parents' silver anniversary at a posh restaurant.

As Chicks On Speed droned on with their undergraduate performance, I stood up, waved to the audience, walked down the aisle, exited onto the street, hailed a cab, and went straight to the airport. Vale, Adelaide. On the plane, I wondered if I dreamt all of this. It seemed perverse proof of how pop music merges with the visual arts: like a cat fucking a dog.

Text © Philip Brophy. Image © Chicks On Speed.