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Pop Politics: God save arena rock


17 January 2013
a. Pop Politics

Pop Politics: God save arena rock

It’s not an easy task to take on and conceive a themed exhibition without falling into the trap of stereotypes. Being able to observe from outside whilst being right in the thick of it and, despite the a priori presages of an unlikely victory, to get away with it. This is how Iván López Munuera, the curator of Pop Politics: Activismos a 33 Revoluciones, must have felt; the exhibition will remain at the CA2M until the end of April.

The project stems in theory from the massacre that Charles Manson and his Family perpetuated on 9 August 1969 in Cielo Drive, Los Angeles. Looking at the relation that this event has with a Beatles song (“Helter Skelter”) and the end of carefree hippydom. But be warned, this is not an exhibition of fanzines and vitrines in the form of reliquaries, with a whiff of mothballs. The roll call of music, from the aforementioned Beatles to the present day – that López Munuera groups together here under the common denominator Pop – presupposed a catalyst capable of changing entire generations and provoking transformations of a political nature, the effects of which have extended right through until our times.

It is not just music that has found itself immersed in this maelstrom the visual arts also walked hand in hand with the bands that championed this change. The CA2M has given a fair account of this in their short history, with exhibitions by Sonic Youth in 2010, whose base player Kim Gordon was interviewed by Iván López Munuera for the catalogue of the present show or the exhibition of the collective Discoteca Flaming Star in 2008, who also have pieces in Pop Politics. It’s clear that beyond the strictly musical, subcultures have elaborated a steady scene with a form of life that implies all sorts of disciplines, involving professionals from all different fields of creation.

b. Pop Politics The exhibition is organised around five blocks that stem from the configuration of the corporate image of all the movements integrated here. It falls back on figures such as the omnipresent Daniel Johnston or of the vision of the everyday that Red Caballo has gathered together in his snapshots. Spaces of extreme happinessanalyses the spaces where the activity takes place, based on the premises and festivals where the power of these movements comes into being and is made manifest. Here we find a series of portraits in which Ryan McGinley captures the state of satisfaction on the faces of the public at different concerts. In this same block is included Helter, Skelter, Shelter an installation by the German artist, Till Gerhard, in which he recreates a fairground booth where the public can take a sinister break, to the rhythm of Helter, Skelter – a song by The Beatles included in the White Album, that supposes a point of inflexion within the discourse of this show -.

The emancipated fan introduces us to the universe of the melomaniac and to a configuration of figures that go beyond music to become messianic figureheads to be imitated and followed all over the place. Aitor Saraiba analyses this phenomenon in the followers of Morrisey –lead singer of the Smiths- in the city of Los Ángeles or Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams with the band, Depeche Mode. Lorea Afaro also analyses the incessant appearance of these figures by projecting a concert of the singer Amy Winehouse who, recently deceased, has become a new phenomenon of the masses.

Of course there are names such as Robert Crumb or Raymond Pettibon that couldn´t be left out, who constitute along with other artists such as June Crespo, Pepo Salazar or Azucena Vieites a thematic section that fixes on the culture of do it yourself a space from where to show onself off to a public that through sheer numbers has led to the appearance of their own communication media. As a last point, Cover versions, revisited for a second time is a more eclectic block that reunites different pieces looking at the modification and different uses of musical recordings. Under this banner we find an imposing sculpture by William Cordova and interesting proposals by Lyota Yagi and Bozidar Brazda.

A selection of texts by figures such as Greil Marcus, Peio Aguirre and Lucy O’Brien complete this conscientious piece of work, with a reference catalogue, that is worth highlighting. Beyond the complexity of tackling a subject like this, the possibility of rethinking this discourse or the greater or lesser interest that that some of the works elicit, nobody can deny that at these heights Pop Politics is a great exhibition in which one can discern a young hand, who arrives hitting hard. As the great Muletrain proclaimed: God save arena rock. So be it!

Ángel Calvo Ulloa was born in a very small place full of vile characters. In the faculty where he studied nobody ever talked to him about criticism or curating, so now he dedicates his time to reading, writing and every now and again doing the odd exhibition. He loves travelling and feeling very small in a large city. He also loves going back home and once again hating this tiny place.

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