Bringing art to the charts
From Chapman to Creed, the YBAs are having a go at pop – but, writes Charlotte Cripps, they have a lot to learn yet
Saturday 29 September 2012
It used to be pop stars who started off at art school – now it seems to be the other way round with YBAs including Dinos Chapman fancying themselves as pop stars. While Chapman is set to release a 17- track album titled Luftbobler of electronic instrumental music early next year, Tim Noble and Sue Webster will release a 10-inch record next month, as a part of their first major solo show since 2006, at London's Blaine/Southern.
The artist duo only speak two words on the record: "nihilistic" and "optimistic" (also the show's title), over and over again, creating perhaps the most monotonous record ever made. Both are music fans who are influenced by punk – they look like members of The Cure on the sleeve artwork. Webster is Robert Smith's double in photographs taken by Dennis Morris. He also created the sleeves, logo and metal box for John Lydon's band Pil. Noble & Webster refer to their record as a "spoken-word piece" but while it might not be the type of record you'd stick on at a party, what exactly is the allure of making records for artists? "A lot of artists once harbored dreams of being in a band and a lot of them are music fans," says Sean Bidder, Creative Director of London's The Vinyl Factory, who collaborate with high-profile artists on records including Chapman's and Noble & Webster's.
"The opportunity to make a record appeals to them as a fun and enjoyable thing to do. Dinos has been twiddling knobs in his basement for years without the intention of releasing the music – until I approached him."
There is a long line of YBAs turned record-makers who want their work preserved in vinyl. Sam Taylor-Wood famously collaborated with the Pet Shop Boys to release a cover of "I'm in Love With a German Film Star" in 2008 and proved to be quite a good singer. This can't be said of Martin Creed, whose debut album, Love to You, released in July and costing £250, consists of 18 love and hate songs. It includes Creed's wonderfully hand-painted album artwork of a man in pants underwater but it sounds like the work of a teenager doing band practice in a garage. Despite its slick production by The Vinyl Factory, do we want to hear Creed shouting "Fuck Off" repetively over loud rock music performed by his band? Luckily for the listener, it is only a short, 40-minute album.
Perhaps the most bizarre record this year is the performance artist Edwin Burdis's song "MegaDairyPigFarm" as part of a show at Max Wigram Gallery. The epic musical-like song, with church organ, features pigs oinking with the artist singing strange repetitive phrases including, "Octagonal, hexagonal, square" and "Fat, rich, dollop".
Gavin Turk and Hussein Chalayan's ambient record "Four Minute Mile", in collaboration with The Vinyl Factory, is more listenable, with its birdsong and monastery-like chanting. It starts with the sounds of running feet and breathing, and features Turk talking about art like a stream of consciousness ("I just use my name… I end up mythologising myself") while Chalayan hums and chants. It is limited to only 100 copies, each hand-signed by both artists, pressed on etched vinyl with sleeve and album artwork by Turk.
The painter Stuart Pearson Wright, who directed Keira Knightley in a low-budget film Maze, recorded a limited-edition LP of country and western covers, Lonesome Stu & the Gearshifters Sing Good'Ol Country, on which he plays banjo, ukulele and percussion to his backing vocals. He performed the songs and sold the album at the Riflemaker Gallery in 2010 while exhibiting his paintings of the Wild West, many of which starred him and his girlfriend in cowboy outfits.
Another new record includes a seminal piece of sound art by 2008 Turner prize-winning artist Mark Leckey, "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore". With its sound samples spanning three decades of British subculture – from Northern Soul through '80s Casuals and pre-CJB Rave, it is available as a vinyl LP costing £14.99 – it's also a debut release for the new label The Death of Rave, with Manchester online record shop Boomkat.
David Shrigley released a spoken-word album Forced to Speak with Others – Late Night Tales on Azuli Records in 2006 – a 16-track album of electronic music and spoken word. He asks lots of questions such as "When is Easter this year?", "Do you think I'm an OK type of person?" and "How many times have you had nits?"
The Turner Prize-winning Jeremy Deller, coinciding with his first major retrospective solo show at the Hayward Gallery earlier this year , produced a record with a street performer on the South Bank called Chuck. Deller chose Chuck's songs to perform – Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and Harry Belafonte's "Island in the Sun" and photographed Chuck for the album cover. Deller also released a record, "Exodus", taken from his 3D visual audio artwork. This record features six minutes of Brazilian and Mexican Free-tail bats leaving Frio Caves in Texas – with powerful album cover work of the bats captured in flight by Deller.
The majority of these high-profile records, have been made by The Vinyl Factory who collaborate with musicians and artists to create limited vinyl editions. They oversee the process from A&R to manufacture and retail; all their vinyl is manufactured at their pressing plant in Hayes, Middlesex. "We collaborate with lots of musicians – Bryan Ferry, Massive Attack, Florence and the Machine – but the primary difference with a visual artist is that by and large there isn't a defined idea of what the release might be like from the beginning. The possibilities are endless," says Bidder. "It's a great idea to put ideas on to vinyl but a seasoned pop star has a clear vision or a finished album they want to release on vinyl format. The results from artists are definitely unexpected."
The Vinyl Factory will showcase Noble & Webster's new record next month at their gallery space in Chelsea. "When these editions sell out they subsequently trade hands for up to 10 times the original price on eBay and are cherished as prized collectors items," he says. "There is a history of artists making records that stretches way back and includes the likes of Duchamp, Yoko Ono, Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage, among others. In more recent memory Jeremy Deller created a series of vinyl records about 10 years ago. Vinyl is fun – there is a pleasure to be had from making a record and being able to take that home. "
Tim Noble and Sue Webster's vinyl box set accompanies two Noble and Sue Webster exhibitions; 'Nihilistic Optimistic' at Blain/Southern, London W1, 10 October to 24 November; and 'NO' at the Vinyl Factory, London SW3, 12 October to 4 November. (www.thevinylfactory.com)
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