British Simon Reynolds is among the absolutely foremost music writers of the past 20 years, with a succession of crucial books on themes like post-punk and club culture. His last book, Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past (Faber & Faber, 2011) was considered by many to be the most important work on music in the spring. Rarely has a book on popular music had such a huge impact – and so quickly. Reynolds appears to have struck a nerve with this book, where he formulates a kind of ‘diagnosis’ of current popular culture. The book describes a retrospective tendency – with innumerable reissues of classic albums, the old greats from the infancy of rock on endless new tours all over the world, and the immediate availability of all music from all epochs via streaming and download services on the Internet. In addition a great deal of the music of today is itself typified by quotation and paraphrasing of the styles and musical idioms of earlier times: “Are we heading toward a sort of cultural-ecological catastrophe, where the archival resources of rock history have been exhausted? What happens when we run out of past?”
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Bergen Kunsthall has invited Reynolds to give a lecture in the Platform series to reflect further on some of the themes touched on in the book. The theme can also be interestingly applied to the visual art field, in the light of the widespread use in contemporary art of appropriation, referentialism, orientation towards archives of all kinds and a general retroactive recycling of strategies from the history of art.
In his lecture for Platform Reynolds will take up what he calls “recreativity”. In the wake of the publication of Retromania many people have pointed to an objection to the postulate of the book that artists have always recycled, and that originality and innovation are myths. In the lecture he will deal with the emergence of theoretical positions that encourage artistic practices based on copying, appropriation and plagiarism. Champions of such theories can be found across the cultural spectrum from music to art and literary criticism. Writers like David Shields, Jonathan Lethem, Marcus Boon, Nicolas Bourriaud and many others have made DJ-ing, mash-ups and remixing models for theoretical perspectives on contemporary art production. In Retromania, however, Reynolds criticizes mash-up thinking and questions whether DJ culture has reached saturation point. Both Reynolds and those who argue for a remix-based art production do agree, though, that digital culture and the Internet have changed “the nature of creativity”.
_Born in London in 1963, Simon Reynolds is the author of seven books, including the recent Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past (2011), Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84 (2005), Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture (1998) and (with Joy Press) The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock’n‘Roll (1995). His journalistic career began in 1986 on the British music paper Melody Maker, where he became a staff writer. In the ensuing years he has been a freelance contributor to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The New York Times, Artforum, Frieze, The Wire, and Slate. Reynolds also operates an unfeasibly large number of blogs centred around the hub Blissblog
(http://blissout.blogspot.com/ ). After spending most of the nineties and 2000s in New York, he moved to Los Angeles in 2010._
“The biggest musical event of 2011 wasn’t an album or a band, or even a new style. It was a book: Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past, by Simon Reynolds.”
- Dominikus Müller i Frieze nr. 144, 2012.
“The most essential book of the year on music? […] “[a] book that should absolutely interest anyone with close ties to the popular culture of today and yesterday – and tomorrow.”
- Audun Vinger in “Vinduet anbefaler”. Read more here
Platform is Bergen Kunsthall’s lecture series. Supported by Fritt Ord
The event will be streamed live at kunsthall.no. See earlier lectures in the series here