It’s Not Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, Baby!

“London.” Pet Shop Boys/Martin Parr.

Earlier posts by Marc Mayer and Ben Street have noted the relationship between pop culture, art, and music as well as recent attempts to curate this “magic.” It’s Not Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, Baby, at the Bozar Centre for the Arts in Brussels, is another such attempt. Taking a cue from its featured artists, the show is loud, flashy, and great at drawing crowds—making it an ideal headliner for the summertime, when sunshine, Batman, and vacation compete for attention.

In the curator’s note, Jerome Sans writes that the show “is a gathering of artists, most of whom were visual artists before becoming musicians, or whose visual roots at the heat of their artistic process are often little-known and viewed as separate from their musical fame.” Did you know Yoko Ono made art? Featured “musical legends” include Patti Smith, Brian Eno, Chicks on Speed, Fischerspooner, Devendra Banhart, Pete Doherty, Yoko Ono, Miss Kitten, Antony, The Kills, Bryan Ferry, Riceboy Sleeps, and David Byrne.

Here’s the rub: at admission, you choose between two pay exhibits: Rock n’ Roll or Mapas Abiertos, a traveling exhibition of contemporary Latin American photography, organized by “rituals of identity, scenarios, and alternative histories.” Given the choice between Rock and Maps, most museum-goers chose Rock. Shoot. If you’re under 26, see both: admission is only 1 euro ($1.57).

Rock ‘N’ Roll is uneven in its range from musicians who happened to go to art school to revered artists whose work embraces multiple disciplines–like Laurie Anderson (Season One), Yoko Ono, and Brian Eno. The curator chose to avoid hierarchy and chronology in favor of a “free passage into the universe of each artist.” In these universes, not all stars are equally bright. Moreover, some of the wall text seemed to serve less as an introduction than as a justification for inclusion in the show. An improvement would have been the excerpts from the catalogue interviews about how the contributors approach their visual and musical interests. I complain, but it’s a fun exhibit. With the rain as an excuse, I spent nearly an hour watching music videos from the recesses of a bean bag chair. These included two Pet Shop Boys videos, one by Wolfgang Tillmans and the other by Martin Parr. Even without the super-saturated color that’s a hallmark of Parr’s photography, the sense of humor is distinctly his.

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