Dan Graham: Rock My Religion (AFTERALL)
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Dan Graham's Rock My Religion (1982--1984) is a video essay populated by punk and rock performers (Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Eddie Cochran) and historical figures (including Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers). It represented a coming together of narrative voice-overs, singing and shouting voices, and jarring sounds and overlaid texts that proposed a historical genealogy of rock music and an ambitious thesis about the origins of North America's popular culture. Because of its passionate embrace of underground music, its low-fi aesthetics, interest in politics, and liberal approach to historiography, the video has become a landmark work in the history of contemporary moving image and art; but it has remained, possibly for the same reasons, one of Graham's least written about works--underappreciated and possibly misunderstood by the critics who otherwise celebrate him. This illustrated study of Graham's groundbreaking work fills that critical gap. Kodwo Eshun examines Rock My Religion not only in terms of contemporary art and Graham's wider body of work but also as part of the broader culture of the time. He explores the relationship between Graham and New York's underground music scene of the 1980s, connecting the artistic methods of the No Wave bands--especially their group dynamics and relationship to the audience--and Rock My Religion's treatment of working class identity and culture.
slowly scroll over an image of the Shakers performing the Ring Dance (fig.51). Graham begins to quietly narrate the accident and the agony of recovery. His voice-over Rock My Religion | 25 continues into the closing credits, indicating that Rock My Religion has not concluded its speculations. However, at 54:32, a recording of Smith gravely reciting the lyrics of ‘Easter’ (1975) can be heard: ‘I am the salt, the bitter laugh, I am the gas in a womb of light…’ Placed after the account of her
recordings were tuned according to baritone, alto, tenor and soprano, like a traditional chorus. When they combined with bass and drums, the ensemble produced dissonances, consonances and overtones that generated auditory hallucinations of acoustic phenomena. Branca had learnt about alternate tunings from performing in the band of composer Rhys Chatham, and Sonic Youth’s guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore developed tunings learnt from performing in Branca’s ensembles.50 This lineage fed
be seen then in red capitalised font, for one second at 2:11, looking as if it were due to a minor malfunction or seizure of the equipment.1 Rock My Religion | 1 The Patti Smith Group is then introduced. Their outdoor performance becomes the background for the transcribed text and a live version of Patti Smith’s song ‘Piss Factory’ (1974; fig.10). The movement in the footage is jerky, as if frames had been dropped from the original video recording to give the impression of stop-motion
Intersect by Bruce Jenkins Richard Prince: Untitled (couple) by Michael Newman Jeff Wall: Picture for Women by David Campany Joan Jonas: I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances) by Susan Morgan Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank by Michael Archer Mary Heilmann: Save the Last Dance for Me by Terry R. Myers Richard Hamilton: Swingeing London 67 (f) by Andrew Wilson Marc Camille Chaimowicz: Celebration? Realife by Tom Holert Martha Rosler: The Bowery in two inadequate
that for Jennings was ‘mankind’s greatest problem’. Pandaemonium operates like an ‘unrolling film’: each of its 22 | Dan Graham quotations functions as an image in which the ‘situation of humanity’ becomes ‘clear’ for the ‘flash time of the photographer or the lightning’, each possessing an ‘illuminatory’ quality that condenses a ‘whole world’.41 Rock My Religion might be understood as one version of this ‘unrolling film’, a grand narrative of industrialisation retold through the dancing