Allen Ruppersberg — No Time Left To Start Again and Again
Wiels kicks off its summer exhibition programme with shows featuring two major American artists: conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg and photographer Robert Heinecken. London DJ Doug Shipton, who is known for his unpredictable sets embracing obscure samples such as German library music or Czech cinema soundtracks will provide the soundtrack for the opening night. Plus, the sisters from Il Sapore della Dolce Vita will serve their delicious piadina.
Allen Ruppersberg belongs to a generation of American conceptual artists that changed the way art was made and thought about at the end of the 1960s.
…A more direct relationship between art and popular music powers Allen Ruppersberg’s show at Wiels, where the droll California conceptualist goes systematic on ‘American vernacular recorded music, from folk to rock, passing through gospel and blues’. The result, No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R’n’R (2010), is an epic archive-dive, filleting Ruppersberg’s collection of 4,000 78rpm records into an extensive soundtrack…
b. 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio; lives and works in Santa Monica, California, and Brooklyn, New York.
…and arranging amateur snapshots, obituaries and images of old records on 20 big colourful pegboards. The result ought to be, as per for Ruppersberg, coolheaded, visually warm and marbled with melancholy — and a quicker tour of the rock-and roll past than sitting through Tony Palmer’s 1,000-minute-long documentary All You Need Is Love: The Story of Popular Music (1976–80), though you might want to do that after.
I read at the entrance who he was.
I’m curious about the Allen Ruppersberg exhibition.
I think that he’s very old now.
I guess he’s contemporary, no?
He became successful in the 1960’s in LA working in the shadow of more famous artists such as John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha. He is also apparently inspired by Marcel Broodthaers. At Wiels the Ruppersberg picks include a new work on the history of the recording industry. It shows images in combination with a soundtrack. Sounds promising.
Yes, that’s right, because… He is surely quite old because given the dates on the photos, we imagine that he’s quite old. And is he still interested in jazz?
His multiform artistic work, which includes paintings, sculptures, photographs,
installations, performances and books, amongst other media, is inspired by the Beat Generation and anchored in a critical approach to media and consumer society.
Over the years, Ruppersberg, an avid collector, has accumulated an impressive quantity of books, posters, postcards, educational films, magazines, records and other documents or objects that bear witness to American popular culture.
This archive serves as a regular resource for the artist, who tirelessly draws, copies, classifies and recycles elements in the making of his works.
I’ve read it here but… maybe I’m too tired today to, to get it but um, (I would probably say it’s em…) I think it’s just not my cup of tea.
…um, but I think it’s a little bit, um, fashion now to work with archive and do stuff with this and I think we see too much this in museums actually.
So, I find it interesting but I don’t know anything about this artist so it’s kind of… ok, so that’s his archive and what do we do with this after. I don’t know his work so…
so I took some time on Sunday. I’m somebody that follows certain… certain attitudes in art…
…eclectic, um a lot of different artists. I’d say it’s probably based on the oldies more than the newer music ….
In fact, yes, it’s has a kind of vintage feel, thinking of the past, blugrass, folk, etc. with the atmosphere of that period – lots of polaroids, plastified photos. It’s an installation that is quite unique. And we don’t have the impression that we’re seeing an artist’s work, but on the boards, we see what the artist is trying to say.
Yeah and also formally, well because there is this quote about formal reinvention right in one of the posters over there, this eternal quest for formal innovation but, formally this does not appeal to me either.
Eight huge panels of the DIY store type (with small holes) display hundreds of documents that revolve around the theme of popular culture in America and his music. It has the mood of the “beat generation”, popular expression, 78s, vinyl…
In the past fifteen years, he has been more and more prone to using a photocopy machine.
Having studied commercial illustration at Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts today) in the early 1960s, the artist became an excellent draughtsman; he has often copied out fragments of his archives by hand, but he also regularly employs a variety of mechanical reproduction procedures to the same purpose.
At WIELS, Ruppersberg presents one of his more recent works…
Initially we are a little lost.
On entering the exhibition by Allen Ruppersberg I was immediately taken by a very rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere.
…Meaning very intellectual..
We are really immersed into the atmosphere of the exhibition. We have the feeling of being in the ’60s, the ’70s, in those years, and to completely be part of it.
I would present it as a work on archives, with an installation that is quite interesting and original.
At the same time, there is this offbeat side, you know, a strange feeling, we don’t really know…. you have the feeling of being part of that period…
He was a regular at Kinko’s for a while, but it didn’t take long for him to decide to buy his own machine, which he uses to enlarge or reframe his archive.
It’s a show about Allen Ruppersberg in his late career and he shows really a summary of found iconography in music and not only music but also social history in the ’60s, starting in the ’60s.
Finally, a soundtrack composed of a hundred popular songs accompanies the installation.
The songs are taken from the artist’s collection of over 4,000 78rpm records, and are contained on 8 vinyl records especially produced for the exhibition.
Um, I would say… that I saw an artist, uh whose work is telling something about the ’50s and ’60s. Erm, and that the musicians from that period are a central theme in the room. (A lot of images.) Um, and that yeah it’s something like an installation I should say.
Ok. So, first I will describe the building because I don’t know this place, it’s my first time here…
And there are like on every wall there is like a board with flags in colours with words on. And everywhere like copies hang…
…it’s a kind of old building with big volume all in white, em you go in and there is just stuff on the wall.
…but you don’t really get…there is not really a system.
Um, a kind of big piece of wood and… paint on. There are targets and little triangles in colour with heaps of holes.
These documents were photocopied and then laminated before being hung on pegboards like the ones you see in hardware stores.
…and in some holes there is… there fit some plastic images and they’re from just archive, all pictures and pieces of journal.
So it’s quite colorful and a lot of pictures and photos …
There are kind of classifications and each wall has a name.
There is a geographical relation or notion, um…
One is fun one is introduction, one is church, I don’t remember the others…eh poetry and home.
OK, it’s obviously musically oriented.
…and I don’t really understand all the classification.
And there is em cardboard box you realise it’s some kind of graphics like you see on the wall um there’s a target and pictures and colours and inside it looks like that you can take a picture and put it on the wall, or something like this.
Acts as a visual history…
But I don’t think it’s participative art… so I don’t touch anything.
… whose order and narrative are interchangeable.
It is a sweeping survey of recorded American vernacular music, from folk to rock, passing through gospel and blues.
So I find it very funny to see this point of view between the… a bit historical, because actually we see… and sociological, to see this, to see all these photos. This mess, this bundle of information… so it’s a beautiful moment. And as well, I find that the progression is interesting, we pass easily from one board to the next, from one room to the next – a dynamic reading , but also a simple one…
…Um and there is um… and there’s music too, you can choose music.
A collection of themes that were important certainly after the second world war I guess. Things that were going on in United States of America. Urm, a lot of pictures and things from the newspapers, yeah.
The presence of boxes filled with similar documents in close proximity to the pegboards reminds us that other narratives are there, waiting to be told.
More broadly, though, it alludes to the notion of the archive.
…um but I think it’s a little bit, um, fashion now to work with archive and do stuff with this and I think we see too much this in museums actually.
For me it’s like an abstract and strange, um, yeah… group of images together. Uh, very colorful and very American but it doesn’t hit the spot for me.
It’s an effort to kind of evoke the aesthetics of music from a very particular period from the 1950s to the 1970s….primarily looking backwards from a current time, a current perspective, using in part obituaries from a lot of performers from that time period…. primarily by photocopying images in newspapers and also of the media of the time…
I find this… I find this surprising.
In parallel with the installation, Ruppersberg presents a selection of earlier works that echo certain notions important to The B and D of R ‘n’ R, such as memory, the transmission of knowledge and the relationship between art and popular culture.
Ok, so um…
In the central hallway is a selection of silkscreened projection screens made in the 1990s.
On the wall is a series of works whose titles begin with the formula, “Honey, I rearranged the collection”, and end with a joke.
These vintage screens are silkscreened with images taken from the educational films in the artist’s collection — he owns over 2,000.
In each instance, the visual alteration is linked to the punch line of a joke.
The image of the library, which returns time and again in this series, can be interpreted as the equivalent of the collection alluded to in the text.
That’s it, I mean. Yeah, it feels really private but, as a library is, I guess. This sort of private room and stuff.
These witticisms were initially jotted down on Post-its that Ruppersberg used to adorn his own work, as if he were himself the collector who had left his wife a note.
The jokes vary: some often offer a glimpse into the obsessions of the art world, some are about relationships, and some turn on more existential concerns.
Over the years, he has retouched the drawing using a variety of techniques: silk-screening the image in multiple colours and positions, enhancing it with watercolours, stickers, found photos, texts, etc.
…so it’s really visual as an exhibition.
It’s a very nice exhibition.
I would probably say it’s em… eclectic, um a lot of different artists. I’d say it’s probably based on the oldies more than the newer music and….
…the photocopying creates kind of a, a distancing of facts.
Afterwards, what you need to understand is that it is a very spontaneous, jazz. But now jazz has become a bit uptight, meaning very intellectual – it stays, in this period here, it stays something that is very spontaneous, an expression of something inside. It’s a very nice exhibition. I just have a big question: I don’t really understand these boxes.
There are like boxes.
All these boxes, I don’t know what they do.
I haven’t actually read the critiques, so I don’t know. Ok. I thought it was pretty colorful and pretty interesting. I don’t think I got all of it because there was a lot of images and very little text, um, but I thought it was still very nice and um, well yeah it gave me… yeah, it intrigued me to go and see the rest of the exhibition and um… what can I add?
Yes, that’s it. What is on the walls came out of the boxes, that’s what I thought…
So, I find it interesting but I don’t know anything about this artist so it’s kind of..
You’re clearly looking back from, you know, the current time to this previous period and yet it’s not entirely nostalgic but it’s trying to evoke the aesthetic of the era through todays eyes.
Very short. And my impression, I really like it because kind of the way it’s, eh, And, uh, I found it quite, like, interesting the installation the build up of it with the colours and… I mean really like the colours and stuff…
Would I recommend it? Yeah absolutely, absolutely.
…but it was the same it was a bit like, um, it was a little dark for me I mean I just don’t..
I found it quite interesting uh, to have an insight into this period through this filter, uh…
Yeah, indeed, yeah. It was quite interesting. It’s like a visual and musical trip in the ’60s and the ’70s.
So I see somebody who did collect lots of stuff about these musicians, like paper articles and photos, things like that and then it becomes art because he’s hanging them on the wall with like a target board. And I am curious about the meaning of these circles uh and these words I cannot place them so well..um…
Too cheap and a bit in a way of like these copies and then with the laminated… and um…
…and I find the title interesting because you can read it as a musical session.
I don’t know it doesn’t really touch me and its also a bit like…
I suppose it’s something a song text or something but I’m not sure about that. So I have questions…um…yeah and it’s really…it’s America?
Yeah it doesn’t really touch me.
But you can read it also for his, uh, time in life, now in his late career, maybe. Yeah, you can…
Um, yeah. It’s a concept and I have nothing against concepts but I want to understand them and now I’m asking myself or it’s just too simple or it’s something I don’t get?
It’s open to interpretation. Maybe I have a little bit of a problem with the overflow of… I think it’s quite difficult for people not to get tired from the start on coming in the exhibition. I would have maybe rather concentrated it…
And sometimes I think pop art is maybe a little bit too simple for me it’s just what it is. But that’s why my curiosity is in the circles because it looks like a symbol for something and I… yeah… and I’m thinking about the relevance in this period of time. Why should we show it right now. Yeah. Yeah, so…
Yeah but that’s the thing. In my opinion contemporary art is built on references to references to references…
Archive of rock and roll history, blues, soul all the ’60s, ’70s history.
What is funny to see is that — well, in a long-term perspective — to see this environment, this way of life in which it developed. It’s interesting because we see the echoes between the two — the lifestyle that is, shall we say, quite strict, these lifestyle codes that are coded, very closed — and then this music that explodes completely when you hear it.
And we’re here because friends visiting from New York wanted to see the show because he knows this artist. But that’s precisely the kind of boring art that he likes and actually collects himself.
Yeah but American and smaller even, like… a certain part.
Well, unfortunately, here we can’t hear it very well — but it takes hold of you… I find that fascinating. The jazz has a force inside of it that breaks with these codes, that explodes them.
Yeah — I don’t know, this doesn’t… doesn’t appeal to me.
Ruppersberg puts the vestiges of history to infinite variations, and in so doing he breathes life into a culture threatened with oblivion, even though it is an integral part of our history and subjectivity.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah and maybe as a woman, seeing all those women from the ’50s, for me the women from the ’50s are the home stay, stay at home wives, you know looking good… It’s not what we are anymore. And that’s why maybe it’s not so appealing. On another level, like… yeah ’50s, emancipation was too far, you know. Yeah. Voila.
But one thing you said is true and I hadn’t picked on that is the Americana theme… it’s very American-centric.
Alright, so it didn’t really catch my eye. To be honest, not my sort of thing. I didn’t have many feelings. I didn’t prepare for the exhibition and… eh… yeah, can’t really say anything, I just wanted to get out of there to be honest.
All the pictures for me don’t have the sense that is right at the beginning of the wall.
It’s an exhibition that is quite difficult, that, at the end of the day, doesn’t speak a lot.
The questions revolve around what documents must be kept for memory, for history? Where art begins and ends everyday, folklore, popular?
…in fact, I don’t know — not the point, but the working method in fact.
Yeah, we would not recommend coming to see this show.
I mean I thought it was fantastic I actually really enjoyed it because as an American who grew up in part in the 1970s at the end of that period I have a certain connection to it….
This exhibition requires a serious openness to conceptual art.
…um but whose you know spirit in some ways you know people are trying to recapture today.
I would have maybe rather concentrated it, so…
But for me it actually was kind of personal because I was around kind of the end of that period.
Whereas you know more about contemporary art than I do, so I thought that it would appeal more to you as you’re more into it but apparently not cause I always think it’s me, cause I’m…
Coolheaded, visually warm and marbled with melancholy.
No… but it’s yeah, OK.
You know Ruppersberg is an interesting artist in a lot of ways, where he is looking at all kinds of different aspects of US culture I hadn’t seen this particular project before and I enjoyed it more probably than anything else I’ve seen by him in the past.
Yeah that’s the word: “to connect”. That you cannot connect to it because it’s so… it’s too odd. Too dispersed.
I spoke with the artist and he stated to me that it is a “historical narrative of Black music in White America”. Initially we are a little lost but little by little we took these photos, clippings, documents of the time until they cannot detach his eyes.
Yeah, yes. And that’s difficult, voilà, to relate to.
Pour les vrais amateurs d’art : Robert Heinecken & Allen Ruppersberg ,#Wiels, #Brussels.
What is admirable with Wiels, is that it shows that quality works and milestones in the history of contemporary art.
The exhibition is organized in collaboration with The Art Institute of Chicago.
Allen Ruppersberg, No Time Left To Start Again / The B and D of R’n’R , 2010; Silkscreen print on pegboards and cardboard boxes, laminated colour photocopies.
Curator: Devrim Bayar.
The director? He’s called Dirk.
Um… that’s it more or less.