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Switch on the power!. Noise and policies on music

Switch on the power!. Noise and policies on music


9 June 2006 - 17 September 2006
Exhibition halls on the first floor
Tuesday to Saturday, from 11.00 to 21.00. Sundays, from 11.00 to 15.00
MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo / CAMM, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas/ Centro Cultural Montehermoso, Vitoria
Xavier Arakistain

Works in the exhibition

SWITCH ON THE POWER! Noise and policies of music brings together artistic works and/or videographic documents by a series of artists from the world of art and music in the same exhibition space.


  • MARCO, Contemporary Art Museum of Vigo (9th June- 17th September 2006)

  • CAAM, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (Atlantic Modern Art Centre), Las Palmas (17th October 2006 - 7th January 2007)

  • Montehermoso Cultural Centre, Vitoria (February - April 2007)

A brief tour of the exhibition

From the 1960s, Andy Warhol collaborated with the famous music group The Velvet Underground. This was the beginning of a new type of contemporary art where artists link visual art with popular music. Warhol's 1966 film The Velvet Underground and Nico is a good example of this interdisciplinary connection. However, in the history of the intersection between music and visual arts analysed in the exhibition, two artists stand out for being pioneers in contemplating popular music as a sphere to intervene in from an artistic standing. One of them is Yoko Ono, and we present her latest work Onochord, and the other is Laurie Anderson, who in works like Oh Superman from 1981, sets the foundations for a type of art that has currently a large number of followers. This is the case of Chico y Chica, Anat Ben-David, Planningtorock, Begoña Muñoz, Tobias Bersntrup and Chicks On Speed. The latter group, composed entirely of women, will present a singular performance while the MARCO is open during the first week of the exhibition. The performance is part of the project Musical Illustrations, a laboratory-workshop, a work in progress offered live which will result in a video documenting the event, which will be exhibited as part of the exhibition.

The social and cultural phenomenon of Rock and Pop has also provided significant examples of artists who in music have used aesthetic and performative strategies common in the world of visual arts. Alaska y Nacho Canut, Siouxsie Sioux and Nina Hagen offer, for the first time in a museum, a detailed history of their careers; Lene Lovich presents The Power of Performance, a short film specifically made for this exhibition, and Peaches offers the visitor the world premier of the video-clip Fuck the Pain Away. Directly influenced by the language generated by Rock, the visitor can contemplate the work of artists such as Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, Jon Mikel Euba and Jean-Luc Verna, who highlight in their work the artistic relevance of performance strategies developed by Rock. For his part, in Un mistique determinado, Carles Congost analyses and recreates teenage pop culture. The success of this collection of strategies can also be found in the group from Vigo Killer Barbies and their video Crazy, made by Silvia Superstar herself.

While the Rock phenomenon developed, in the 1970s the German group Kraftwerk was to popularise electronic music, creating unique works that have been the inspiration for several of the events taking place in music and art in the last two decades. The exhibition contains performances by the group and several videos by another German group, DAF (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft), which in the early 1980s applied electronics to Punk music.

Questioning the frontiers between artistic disciplines and contexts and halfway between club culture, Rock, fashion and art, are two artists: Leigh Bowery, object of several retrospective exhibitions after his death, among which we can highlight that of the latest Venice Biennale, and which this time presents a selection of performances carried out in the 1990s with his music group Minty. In this sphere, we can also include the British fashion designer and performer Pam Hogg, who has created a work for this project containing a mini-collection of clothes and several videos where she sings her songs. As an example of the new practices in the context of current London club culture, the artist Ladypat contributes with a selection of videos of his own or made in collaboration with different artists in this field.

Regarding the relationship between Art, Rock and Politics-in the classical sense of the term- the exhibition includes the emblematic work by Dan Graham Rock my Religion and the video Save the Planet, Kill Yourself by Chris Korda, inviting us to enter the strategies that in the 1990s linked music and political activism. Finally, it is a pleasure to recover -twenty years after it was first broadcast on television, the TVE programme La Edad de Oro, directed by Paloma Chamorro- the video by the British Artist Genesis P-Orridge and his group Psychic TV. With this video we include documentation on the PANDROGENY project, which is currently being developed by Genesis.



SWITCH ON THE POWER! Noise and policies of music brings together a series of artists from the world of art and music that share performance and aesthetic strategies. Through exhibits and/or videographic documents, this exhibition highlights and at the same time delves into the interactions arising between these artistic genres.

Renouncing the temptation to show today's music as yet another theme in art, this project focuses on the singularity of artistic discursive practices that we see as being shared by pop, rock and other musical artists, as well as visual artists. In some cases, these artists have been part of trends such as Happening, Fluxus, Body-Art, different types of performance, etc., whereas others have followed the approaches of the artistic movements that emerged during the 20th century reinventing them by adding their own contributions, building artistic discourses that often transmit alternative values or critical political contents.

In any case, all these discourses have focused on the use of the body, re-constructed from personal parameters, as an aesthetic symbol for their public presentation. A body that has created a language which has often specifically used the voice, and which has been characterised by relating different disciplines such as the performing arts, visual arts, dance and/or different rituals of bodily movement, cinema, literature or design. But above all, a body that moves to the orders of the sound that it creates itself, the sound of musical proposals that have managed to find their place in the contemporary music scene, and which have also taken into account contexts such as the so-called club culture, or the pop, rock and electronic music phenomena.

The title of the exhibition -Switch on the Power!- exploits the capacity of the English language for polysemy (connect the electricity/activate the power), and refers to the spirit of immediacy and independence that has often characterised these musical and artistic movements. The exhibition's subtitle -Noise and Policies on Music- highlights the subversive nature of these practices, noise understood as a form of disturbance that enters a system in order to modify it, and the need to see these practices as policies with their own structures and languages.

Due to the particular characteristics of this exhibition, special attention has been paid to the layout. Instead of building walls to isolate the projections in viewing rooms, the rooms have been darkened and painted entirely black, with discriminatory projections on screens and sound systems, i.e.: visitors can see the projections simultaneously, but can only hear sound from the one that is if front of them. Thus, the illusion of being direct spectators of each of the exhibits is created, while at the same time giving the sensation of seeing them all at once, at a glance.


    Alaska & Nacho Canut
    Anat Ben-David
    Andy Warhol
    Begoña Muñoz
    Carles Congost
    Chicks on Speed
    Chico y Chica
    Chris Korda
    Dan Graham
    Genesis P-Orridge
    Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard
    Jean-Luc Verna
    Jon Mikel Euba
    Killer Barbies
    Laurie Anderson
    Leigh Bowery
    Lene Lovich
    Nina Hagen
    Pam Hogg
    Siouxsie Sioux
    Tobias Bernstrup
    Yoko Ono

Curatorial text

"Since the early 20th century, several artistic movements have redefined, from several fronts, the concepts of Art and Artist, blurring, among other things, the borders between visual arts and other disciplines that were (and still are) considered ‘minor'.

In the meantime, while these struggles were waged in the field of art with greater or lesser fortune, there were serious transformations in the field of popular music. These transformations have materialized as, with a determined absence of prejudice, different musical styles and influences have mixed, enabling the emergence of new cultural and social phenomena, among which we can highlight the unique pop-rock universe, which combines elements from fashion, advertising and the performing arts. Moreover: many of these processes have taken place practically with little or no regard for the opinion of critics, institutions and other controlling bodies, and nevertheless, during the development of these processes, we have also seen the rise of charismatic figures that have acquired social relevance: pop and rock stars. Stars that became what they are by using the tactics of art to differentiate their products and public personae, choosing to explain themselves in elaborate terms and adopting a hyper-reflective discourse where a fundamental role is given to aesthetic issues.

All these events in the world of music are related to the attention being given to the phenomenon of pop-rock and other contemporary music styles in the last few years by a new generation of visual artists, resulting in an intersection between both fields (music and art) that has become one of the most interesting lines of research in the current artistic scene.

[...] In each of these fields (music and art), significant processes have occurred and are still taking place, which are also relevant for the exhibition.

On the one hand, since the 1960s, some pop and rock artists began to produce static and moving images to promote their songs and showbiz personae. These images referred to their performance strategies to present their music and to build their public personae from parameters that often resembled the premises of avant-garde artistic movements. Moreover, a good number of these people collaborated with cinema directors or visual artists to create what was a new product and format called video clip. This collection of performance and aesthetic strategies led to the creation of a complex artistic discourse that projected a real lifestyle, and which was soon to become a cultural and social phenomenon, of crucial importance in the foundation and dissemination of what we now call youth movements and which in turn led to urban tribes.

An essential element of the success of these strategies was based on the potential that the pop and rock worlds have traditionally shown as an instrument for resistance and rebellion in young people, and for being an excellent vehicle for social and political content. In fact, pop and rock have created fascinating works defending socially alternative values, and even though these products have not often achieved massive success, recent publications and authors such as Jeremy Gilbert and Ewan Pearson agree on highlighting the singularity of these musical styles and the politics they represent. In their opinion ‘the phenomenon of pop and rock music, focused on the singers from the 1960s, works following a phono-logo-central logic, with the voice, the logos, as a place of truth invoking an idea of social group formed by the music group and the audience. Regarding the promoters of the protest, the singers were to be the political-cultural representatives of their audience, responding to the belief that music could and should be a soundboard for their audience'.

On the other hand, in the art world, a whole generation of artists that have lived or grown up with products from the music world, have incorporated these languages into their artistic work without forgetting their performative aspect. Artists who -in some cases due to problems for acquiring status in the art world- made use of practices common in music, such as the personality cult, inspired by the Hollywood star-system, the insistent search for a generational element, with its specific problems, the use of mass production and a special interest in the idea of collective creation and that creation is not limited to an album, but also encompasses concert performances. In this respect, as witnessed in the sphere of music, there is a total lack of prejudice when it comes to combining styles and disciplines that once again reject the elitism of art and its determination to embrace the interests of the middle, working and other classes, one of the latest techniques for popularising art.

Likewise, in the field of art, we are witnessing a systematic revision of the 1970s; this revision is unquestionably influenced by the considerable political and social content of the art of that period, rekindling interest in artistic practices such as performance or body-art. All these questions have led to the many artistic projects nowadays that result in a recorded "product". These products are the outcome of the application of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary logic, which has become a generational symptom and is presented as a solution to the new communicational needs and concerns of this ‘New' visual artist, who also projects a kind of non-conformism with the mechanisms that move the art world. Moreover, the artworks being created based on these premises, often attack the prevailing concept of a work of art, because the resulting product defies the traditional parameters of the art market, while at the same time questioning the rigid dividing line between disciplines."

Xabier Arakistain
Curator of the exhibition


Xavier Arakistain

Xabier Arakistain is Director of the Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturunea, the first contemporary art and thinking centre in the State which develops and applies policies of equality between sexes in art and culture. Previously Arakistain worked as an independent curator beginning back in 1999, when he opened Trans Sexual Express, an exhibition in which he incorporated the sex quota as a curatorial criterion. From 2001 to 2003 he was head of programming at the Exhibition Hall of Fundación Bilbao Arte Fundazioa, and from 2003 to 2006 he headed the discussion groups on art and feminism at ARCO Art Fair, from where he launched the Arco Manifest 2005. He has also curated several Leigh Bowery retrospectives and the group shows Para todos los públicos/For all audiences, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 45 años de arte y feminismo [45 Years of Art and Feminism], Switch on the Power. Ruido y políticas musicales [Switch On The Power. Noise And Musical Policies], and, together with Maura Reilly, La Mirada Iracunda/The Furious Gaze.