Back to THE HISTORY OF THE FUTUREFall 1999/ Winter 2000
THE HISTORY OF THE FUTURE

Friday, November 5, 1999 Music as Art:
Ken Butler, "Voice of Anxious Objects"; Alva Rogers, "The bride who became frightened when she saw life open"; Grisha Coleman and Hotmouth; Doug Skinner at the Party Club.


In the late 70s and early 80s, lots of visual artists were in bands, sometimes two. Some really played music: There were the Contortions, the Theoretical Girls (consisting entirely of boys), A-Band, Bush Tetras, James White and the Blacks, Tone Death, the Gynecologists, Love of Life Orchestra, Static, Daily Life, the Diplomat Samurai Band (real Japanese diplomats), the Idiot Orchestra (some of whom knew how to play instruments, some not. They took up the tune to "Goldfinger," for example, as best they could). Some bands got famous, like Lambs Eat Ivy, Sonic Youth and Talking Heads. Artists often migrated from one transmuted formulation to the next.

Then there were all girl conceptual bands, like Cavegirls, Y-Pants, and DISBAND, of which I, Martha Wilson, was a part. Y-Pants consisted of Barbara Ess, who is now well-known as a photographer (and still plays in a band, Ultra Vulva); visual artist Virginia Piersol; and filmmaker Gail Vachon. They played music on toy instruments and had big underground hits like "That's the Way Boys Are," and "I Washed My Favorite Sweater Tonight." DISBAND consisted of women artists, none of whom knew how to play any instruments so we used Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets, hammer, radio, flag, bedsheet, party hats, flour and fake braids to perform songs like "Every Day Same Old Way," "Sad," and "Iran-y." DISBAND included Daile Kaplan, Barbara Kruger, and April Gornik in the early days. Later, Martha Wilson, Donna Henes, Diane Torr and Ingrid Sischy were joined by Ilona Granet. Then Diane dropped out when we were in Italy, and we disbanded in 1982. Cavegirls, comprised of Kiki Smith, Ellen Cooper, Virginia Piersol, Becky Howland, and Bibi Smith, did perhaps the first music video which Cara Brownell and Julie Harrison produced on super-8 footage in their loft and Potato Wolf aired on cable TV. Surprisingly little documentation exists of these all-girl conceptual bands, probably because we were having fun and didn't think that this would someday be history.

 

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