press release

An exhibition on interfaces between visual arts and music curated by Johannes Fricke Waldthausen

“Thank You For The Music” addresses the recent history of music. The exhibition examines music and pop culture, their various market mechanisms, and the liberation from traditional copyright restrictions as a ubiquitous source of artistic inspiration — one that has become a global phenomenon and a permanent aspect of everyday experience. Drawing on a selection of more than 30 contributions by contemporary international artists, filmmakers, and musicians, the project attempts to position music culture within a larger social context. The influences and effects of music culture on youth cultural movements are depicted as catalysts for the various criteria of inclusion in and exclusion from different Avant-garde movements since the 1960s.

A main focus within this context is the presentation of a series of contemporary artistic strategies that use various methods to confront more recent music history, as well as the presentation of diverse intersections of music, sonic relationships, and visual media. As a contemporary cross-section of various media, “Thank You For The Music” endeavours to elucidate how music culture and the practices of visual artists influence each other without glorifying one media over the other and without succumbing to the categorization of particular connections between art and music. It is the artistic works, their particular context, and the resulting individual experience that serve as source material.

The ‘60s counter-culture movement and the ‘70s Punk Avant-garde scene serve as an historical backdrop for the exhibition. “Thank You For The Music” addresses the epoch’s value chains and juxtaposes them to the works of two generations of artists — then and now. After Andy Warhol had turned arts into business, Dan Graham noted that “in a time in which artistic production has become increasingly calculated and cynical, we understand (...) that there are few expressive forms of art that allow the exploration of the transcendental by using visual images. In other words, the Modern is essentially dead. Music and the “Rock Star” (...) have appropriated a function of the pictorial in the arts — the quest for the mystical, the transcendental.”

Towards the middle of the ‘90s, an analytical delineation of the aesthetic territories between art, sound, and music seemed to have lapsed. The montage and recycling of existing cultural objects has become a starting point for new artistic production. With the renewed invasion of the art industry by pop culture and the resulting appropriation of pop music into the repertoire of artistic production, the mid ‘90s were accompanied by the impact of a pervasive paradigm shift: the overlapping and remixing of various styles and categories, which has become an accepted cultural technique in itself. The technical possibilities of the computer-generated “rendering” of already existing materials from everyday life have transformed Walter Benjamin’s theoretical model of the mechanical reproduction of the artwork towards a new model of post-production or “field recording”, or, as Simon Moretti simply claims: “arrival on remix or pirate island”.

The show’s title “Thank You For The Music” is a direct reference to a film with the same title by the Finnish artist and filmmaker Mika Taanila, whose work is included in the exhibition and establishes a conceptual springboard. His narrative-fictional documentary about the Muzak Corporation deals with the origin of the psychoacoustic phenomenon known as Muzak, which he presents as a form of ideological control using involuntarily perceived mid frequency sound sources to instil a sense of comfort at work environments, in airports, at shopping malls, and in elevators. Mid frequency culture seems to have become a pervasive daily phenomenon. “Originals” are increasingly being simplified and adapted to prevailing market mechanisms, distinguishable only by copyright assignments. As early as the 1930s, the then newly founded Muzak Corporation proclaimed: “Muzak fills the deadly silence.”

The conceptual backbone of the exhibition is set against the questions of rigid definition, categorisation, and delimitations between visual art, sound and music. “Thank You For The Music” is less of a display of the current positions in contemporary art dealing with the subjects of sound and music as sources of creativity. Instead the exhibition poses questions about interdisciplinary similarities and mutual influence, presenting a fairly open concept of music and its relationship to developments in contemporary visual art. It is an experiment that exposes shifting, co-existing boundaries and reciprocal interactions.

(1) Interview Graham D./Dercon C., Kunstforum, 1995 (Excerpt), in: Graham, D: Rock/music Textes (frz.), Les Presses du Reel, 1999/2002. (2) Bourriaud, N.: Postproduction, Lukas & Sternberg, 2002.

Johannes Fricke-Waldthausen, 2005


mit Saadane Afif, John Armleder, John Baldessari, Sean Dack, Walter Dahn, Jeremy Deller, Cerith Wyn Evans, Sylvie Fleury, Liam Gillick, Dan Graham, Andreas Gursky, Stefan Hirsig, Christian Holstad, David Lamelas, Robert Mapplethorpe, Christian Marclay, David & Albert Maysles, Jonas Mekas, Jonathan Monk, Simon Moretti, Paul Morrissey, Raymond Pettibon, Zbigniew Rogalski, Steven Shearer, Hedi Slimane, Mika Taanila, Wolfgang Tillmans