Can You Hear Me? Music Labels by Visual Artists is the first survey on the obscure and fascinating phenomenon of record labels founded and run by visual artists. It reflects on the way these extra-artistic activities contribute to redefining the role of the contemporary artist as a catalyst of intellectual energies and producer of cultural processes at large. Moreover, it tries to understand if and how these activities challenged the art world’s static and modern perception of art and art works.
Spanning 1980 to 2015, the project consists in a book and an exhibition that celebrate the contemporary artist as a multi-facetted producer of collaborative projects. The highlighted labels have released a dynamic spectrum of activities in and outside the art world and remained untouched by its unwritten capitalist code, attempting to develop alternative forms of cultural production and attract new audiences.
Very few know that Andy Warhol had a record label, Earhole Productions, which in 1980 released its only record: The Joke / Chase The Dragon, by Walter Steding and The Dragon People which can be regarded as the first release by an artist’s label. In 1983, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Tartown Record Co. released one single record as well: the iconic Beat Bop by Rammellzee and K-Rob which became pivotal in the history of artists’ labels as well as of hip hop.
Since the nineties, major artists such as Mike Kelley, Albert Oehlen, John Armleder, Carlos Amorales, Carsten Nicolai, and Seth Price started their own record labels. Empowered by the D.I.Y. ethic and the opportunities of the independent music and artists’ “publications” market, they put their individual experience as visual artists at the service of hybrid, often collaborative operations. Even in the era of the dematerialisation of music, most of these artists have continued to release vinyl records and CDs, promote bands, and produce parties and tours.
This project zooms in on 25 record labels from Europe, the United States and Mexico, touching upon their position in a wider tradition of independent music, art rock and artists’ mock enterprises; their performative features; their collective and participative nature; and the D.I.Y. ethos embodied in the production of records and ephemera. As a direct extension of the book, the exhibition presents original artworks, records, ephemera, videos, and rare archival treasures.
Exhibition dates: May 3 – May 23, 2015
Festival with book release: May 23, 2015
On May 23rd, Onomatopee organises a panel and festival in the framework of the Set-Up PROGRAMME in which this publication and exhibition are featured.