Hysteria 1998–2000 uses film footage from the past four decades that shows audiences at pop and rock concerts working themselves into a frenzy. The film progresses from black and white to colour and provides a potted history of the adulation of pop and rock bands, from Beatlemania to crowd-surfing and mosh pits. Aitken never reveals who the performers are – it is the audience who is the star of the show. Aitken has worked as a director of pop videos for, amongst others, Fatboy Slim and Iggy Pop.
Don’t Look Back 1999 comprises three texts in which Banner describes from memory the 1967 ‘rockumentary’ of the same name, whose subject was Bob Dylan’s legendary first British tour in 1965. This film features a seminal moment in pop iconography, in which Dylan holds up cards with the words of his song Subterranean Homesick Blues on, each card being discarded after every line is sung. Her descriptions, each remembering the film slightly differently are written in the present tense, as if she were there with him at his concerts.
Suburban Legend 1999 examines the links between the film The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon. The title of the work refers to the urban myth that Pink Floyd wrote the album as an alternative soundtrack to the film. The synching between the two is supposed to begin with the third roar of the MGM lion at the beginning of the film. Becker calls this ‘karmic occurrence’. Prompted by a user’s manual written by Becker, viewers of Suburban Legend are invited to scroll through the video to link up the ‘best’ bits.
Democracy’s Body – Dance Dance Revolution 2001 explores the cult following in suburban Los Angeles of a karaoke dance routine machine, where players dance to a mixture of American pop or Japanese ‘dancemania’. The game demonstrates the rapid development of interactivity, as it requires the players to use their whole body rather than merely the twitching wrist and thumb action demanded by older video games. Bower’s work highlights the excitement of dance music, bodily interaction with technology and the collective mentality that develops around these pop-driven crazes.
Double Karen (Close to You) 2000 uses sampling techniques to cut and paste footage of Karen Carpenter singing (They Long To Be) Close to You. Carpenter’s performance has been edited to make it appear as if she is singing a duet with herself, that concentrates exclusively on the words ‘me’ and ‘you’. Breitz has stripped the song down to illustrate the relationship between the listener and the performer with its built-in fantasy of togetherness and intimacy. This work describes a stuttering, dysfunctional relationship between the listener and the performer. It also reflects a conflict between private and public personas, alluding to Carpenter’s life and anorexia-related death.
Angela Bulloch, in collaboration with Holger Friese, has created a modular light mixing system that allows 1.6 million colours to be mixed from fluorescent tubes of red, green and blue. Disco Floor_Bootleg:16 2002 consists of sixteen modules in a four by four arrangement, with pixels facing upwards so that they assume the appearance of a lighted dance-floor. The piece runs with two animated sequences relating to the different parts of the soundtrack, which samples Chic’s seminal disco track Good Times.
Dexter Dalwood paints interiors of pop stars’ homes, including Paisley Park 1998 and Neverland (Michael Jackson’s Bedroom) 1999, although he has never seen them. The paintings evoke both our memories of music and the pop myths of our time. His work plays on a ‘through the keyhole’ fascination for the life of celebrities, whilst making reference to the history of painting; he reinterprets seventeenth and eighteenth century history painting - a genre that functions similarly to contemporary media by hyping and aggrandising legendary incidents and characters.
The Buzz Club/Mysteryworld 1996 is a set of video portraits of teenagers dancing in a booth that the artist set up for one night in a club in Liverpool and in Zaandam in the Netherlands. The girls pluck up courage to dance and show off their bodies and the boys try to appear cool, macho and hard. Each person in Dijkstra’s film represents, by default, a different aspect of ephemeral fashion and attitude, which has already rapidly dated since she made the work in the mid 1990s. Dijkstra has created a charming, hilarious and revealing portrait of youth.
Phonokinetoscope 2001 comprises a turntable, vinyl record, amp, speakers and a 16mm projector. The turntable and projector are linked so that when the needle is placed on the record the projector starts. Accompanied by a psychedelic rock soundtrack performed by Graham, the film shows him taking a tab of LSD and riding his bicycle through the Tiergarten in Berlin. It is a cryptic, multi-layered re-enactment of the first acid trip taken by the inventor of LSD, Dr Albert Hofmann, in 1943. It is also inspired by Thomas Edison’s invention of the Kinetophonograph in 1889, an early form of cinema.
May Day IV 2000 captures a crowd of people packed together, milling around or dancing in a way that seems to ebb and flow with lines of energy, despite being a static image. The dancing masses of people illustrate a shift between individualism and a collective tribalism as they subdivide into self-absorbed dancers, romantic couples and adrenalin-fuelled clusters. Gursky seems to glean from this an underlying pattern in which the attention of the crowd is attracted towards whatever is being presented on stage, although that focal point remains outside of the picture.
Gary Hume has gained international recognition for his beautiful high-gloss paintings. His subjects have included a range of celebrities from Tony Blackburn to Patsy Kensit, chosen, says Hume ‘for their ability to describe beauty and pathos’. Michael 2001, his painting of Michael Jackson, suggests a vacuous quality that comes from over-familiarity with Jackson’s increasingly shocking face. The gloss of the works add to a sense of the subjects’ shallow beauty, tawdriness and showmanship, which are themselves an extremely seductive part of pop life and art.
Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore 1999 is a dream-like video of crowds at various dance clubs, covering a period of thirty years. The footage progresses from Northern Soul and jazz funk clubs in the 70s to Casuals and acid house in the 80s and hardcore raves from the 90s. This work reveals a fascination for the culture of clubbing by capturing the authentic spirit of the times and a sense of wistful nostalgia that develops with age. Leckey’s piece charts a time of innocence, irresponsibility and hedonism inspired by the love of music and dance.
Dawn Mellor’s paintings of Madonna, Britney Spears and Courtney Love examine the camp, and near-caricature quality of these female stars. Mellor’s paintings catalogue the cultural references that these pop stars recycle for their changing images - including the popstar as whore, nun, little girl and rock chick - which are in turn used to help prolong otherwise short careers in the fickle world of pop. Her paintings imply desire and fandom and investigate the relationship between artist and female muse.
Chris Ofili’s energetic paintings explore and challenge contemporary black experience, sampling African art, popular culture, hip hop and rap music. Afrodizzia 1996 features hundreds of black faces amidst a cosmic storm of colour and carefully applied decoration, featuring musical icons such as James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Michael Jackson or Little Richard. Names are spelt out onto clumps of elephant dung that have been attached to the canvas. Ofili’s painting captures much of the energy and excitement of the music that he name-checks as well as paying homage to black musical heritage and traditions.
Julian Opie’s work highlights the importance of a clearly recognisable image to aid the consumption and identity of music. Opie’s portraits are developed from photographs he takes which are then digitally reworked. The resulting images use minimal detail to convey the uniqueness of each subject’s face. Opie’s portraits of Blur for the cover of their Best of album continued the tradition of artists producing pop album covers. The romantic, escapist quality of his simplified image of an airport runway, engines – footsteps – voices 1999 is enhanced by a soundtrack from St Etienne, for whom Opie has produced several CD covers.
Elizabeth Peyton paints somewhat idealised portraits of celebrities and friends and has said that she never paints anyone she does not admire. She paints from photographs and her subjects have included Liam Gallagher, Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain and Jarvis Cocker. Peyton’s paintings demonstrate how we begin to build a relationship with celebrities through consuming their images. The paintings have an intimacy in both scale and execution, and the fan’s attention to detail that reflects Peyton’s sincere feelings towards the subjects.
Ricky Swallow produces models from 1960s and 1970s record turntables, to create miniature portable scenes that recall his favourite moments from science fiction films and local museum displays. The needle on these models appear to be stuck in the groove, in an endless present defined by the rotation and twitching of forms, recalling the earlier mixing techniques of DJs Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Swallow and his musical counterparts give the essentially redundant technology of the turntable new life as they remix chronologies and references.
Wolfgang Tillmans’ photographs are suffused with the spirit and inspiration of music, which creates a multiplicity of shifting associations and contexts. The tensions and connections across his images operate as a remixing of musical memories and sensations, from clubs to choirs, Detroit techno to music technology. Tillmans readily acknowledges the power of music, and that colour, light and composition have close and deliberate correlations with melody and rhythm in his contingent work. Winner of the Turner Prize in 2000, his photographs have appeared in The Face, Vogue and i-D magazine, and blur the barriers between fine art and commercial photography.
Pop 1993 is a life-size sculptural self-portrait in which Turk depicts himself dressed as Sid Vicious performing Frank Sinatra’s song My Way. He is also imitating a famous gunslinger image of Elvis which was memorialised by Andy Warhol (which can be seen in Pin-up on the ground floor) and later re-used in Julian Temple’s film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. Embodying the spirit of remixing, the work presents the image of artist and pop star as an embalmed museum icon, made safe and consumable to nullify the shocking effect the young Presley and Vicious had. Pop operates as a wry play on the reduction and commodification of cultural memory and youthful rebellion.
Slight Reprise 1995 is a video of performances by air guitarists strumming to heavy metal in their bedrooms. Wearing’s work is characterised by her investigations into human behaviour, influenced by watching 1970s fly-on-the-wall documentaries. She works collaboratively with members of the public whom she records on film, video or photograph. Slight Reprise has a diaristic quality and is a portrait of fandom and the passionate love of music, but also of wish fulfilment and adult play.