Nostalgia  - Public intervention

Saturday 25th of July 2020,

In collaboration with The AV Club,

New Regent Street, Christchurch

Vinyl records are slowly pushing the sale of CD’s out of the door. So what exactly has caused the resurgence of vinyls? Our public intervention in New Regent Street, Christchurch, (in collaboration with record shop “The AV Club”) where vinyl collectors turned into occasional DJ's, alongside Maori/Indian visual artist Jon Jeet, aimed to shed light on this.

Living in a digital world where audio and visual material from today and bygone eras can be consumed through mobile devices, we tend to take these things for granted. However, with all this clicking and scrolling, we often also feel the desire to unplug from the demands and pace of the digital world. This brings us to Michael and Warren, an iconic couple from Christchurch – well known for their art and vinyl collection, we had the chance to meet and share precious moments with. 

Although Michael and Warren live very comfortably in the 21st century, stepping into their house of new and old treasures made us disconnect from the pressuring murmur of our time. Especially when both of them alternately selected a music album, showed us the album’s artwork, explained its making and context, took it out of its sleeve, put it on the vinyl player and placed the needle on the record. We literally stood there, watching the needle spin all the stress away while coming up with the idea of organizing an intervention where they could pass on their love for art, for music.

During their iconic performance, curious passersby could notice how vinyl, as an analog recording, is not as precise as digital recording. The mark of age and passionate use makes the vinyl go scratchy and itchy at times. However, these imperfections make up the character of a living object, imperfect but theirs. That night, in New Regent Street, Warren and Michael showed us music as an artifact, as a material object that not only generates sounds and lyrics but also stores memories and experiences. Blaming vinyl’s resurgence solely on nostalgia, which thanks to the indestructible appeal of the retro has become a powerful marketing tool, would be a bridge too far. It is about countering and balancing the process of dematerialisation caused by the digital world, urging us to create a more meaningful and authentic relationship with the objects that inhabit our lives. 

Alongside the vinyl performance reminiscing the pair’s younger days in the swinging 60s in London and 70-90s in New Zealand, and to push the boundaries of temporal dislocation as wide as possible, we invited a painter to capture the past and present of that night by creating an artwork on our truck for future speculation. And not just ‘an artwork’, but an “ode to Warren” by artist Jon Jeet, which brings us to an important story that connects all the dots. 

 

The story goes as follows: Jon and Warren met when Jon was thinking of going to art school. Warren, avid art collector and supporter of the arts, offered Jon mental support in fulfilling his dream of becoming an artist. Since Jon always has had a real talent of drawing portraits, the artist wanted to become better so decided to embark on several studies of the human form. Over the course of several years, Warren voluntarily offered to stand as nude model so Jon could practice and become a “better” artist. Both of them saw each other in the most vulnerable states, naturally resulting in a profound friendship and mutual professional respect. The fact that Jon wanted to immortalise his friendship and artistic relationship with Warren, through sensuously rendering the invisible visible, makes it one of the most beautiful actual and visual connections on the outside of our truck. Having drawn the portait, Jon ceremoniously asked Warren to conclude it by following the maze, as depicted on the portait, with a pen. Both hands, both voices and both styles forever united. 

 

This eclectic exhibition, performatively choreographed to form an unsystematic, at times even theatrical arrangement, explores a new dimension of nostalgia: less about loss but about reinvigoration. A live painting performance, accompanied by funky tunes from the 60’s, invites the viewer to think about the past; to make connections between events, characters, and objects; to festively join together in personal and shared memories; and to reconsider ways in which the past could be represented in the wider culture. In short, it incited an emotional connection to the music, between performers and live painting artist, and the place(s) it takes the listener/viewer. In essence, there is a dialectic at work between responses which seem to be automatic and predicated on immediate or felt bodily responses (music, movement and performance) and those responses which are mediated by concept, reflection and recollection.

 

The playful sounds and gradually emerging poetic ode to a long-held friendship encouraged us to slow down time and meditate on both presence and absence of memory. Some of the spectators paused to savor the momentary rush of emotion while others awkwardly watched from a distance. Playwright and theatre director Bertolt Brecht famously railed against nostalgia, saying "we should go for the bad new things rather than the good old ones because the bad new things indicate the directions in which culture is moving". Michael and Warren would say to "cherish both". 

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