The most immediately apparent thing is the templatization, the limited space available to individuate the artists within the image— this is a little before my time but it’s interesting how iconic the styling is in each of the shots, and how those styles have persisted, perhaps because of their simplicity. There’s the permanence and performance of having one opportunity to make your statement, and as a result there is a simultaneously naive and powerful quality to these images.
As a reader of the press you had this one little opportunity to contextualize these artists from afar so the stylization points to a simple form of identification— if you were into Metallica it’s pretty clear you had best run out and buy a leather jacket!
I get the impression remote viewers would probably have studied every word in the interviews of their favorite artists, looking for cues; I think these pictures offer a window into that process. I was brought up in Kuwait, so I was receiving Western musical culture rather remotely. I remember watching Channel V, an MTV-style channel that broadcasted in Asia, and being really into Refused and At The Drive In, the skinny jeaned post-hardcore style bands, and being really confused as to how to buy jeans like that for men. I was really compelled by the idea of these ‘smart kids’ playing and dancing all aggressive, it seemed really liberating but was incredibly abstract.
In my Dispatch lecture I talked about how the music industry compels artists to produce content, any content, faster, the ‘think once, well’ approach, and the manipulation of image is in many ways a pragmatic way of dealing with that professional reality. Image and look are everything, a necessity. The co-dependent relationship between labels and publications rabidly needs new content to get your attention, and so being smart with your Twitter and Instagram account, remixes, collaborations, stunts, leaks and LP’s is a way to meet that demand and ensure that you are in the press consistently enough to stand out. The turnover of content is so fast, and not many publications can afford to pay anyone to properly dissect and absorb a reader’s attention for very long, so it becomes a race to be the most present over time— and social media gives you plenty of tools to help with that. What I’m proposing is, due to this
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