“HIT PARADE: THE ANATOMY OF A COVER SONG” SHOWS WIT, WHIMSY
– Kathy Valin
Third Party Gallery’s one-night-only “HIT PARADE: The Anatomy of a Cover Song” March 13, 2013, was designed as a gallery installation and a take-away compilation CD of The Beach Boys’ 1966 smash hit “Good Vibrations.” Liner notes were very nicely done, with both a general introduction and a description of each artist’s contribution, the details of which made for fascinating reading on their own.
This well-designed one-room installation featured nine different projects: there were several short loops of audio recording, some with composer’s notation; artist software, eight bit video and vibrators; gouache and collage on paper; clock, hacked-ipod and audio collage; a 90 minute cassette tape with recording and a video on i-phone.
The projects were by Jane Carver (who turned the Theremin solo into a vocal harmony); Ry Wharton (who turned Carver’s harmony into a guitar riff); Bartholomaus Traubek; Halvsies, King Blood, Leif Fairfield, Jennifer Jolley (who re-contextualized the good vibrations from young love to something much more adult!); Academy Records, and JD Walsh, who integrated inadvertently taped interactions between The Beach Boys, who were in the studio recording “Help Me, Rhonda,” and a drunken Murry Wilson, father of Brian, Dennis and Carl. The chunks of recording were in sync with a clock on the wall, modified to tick backwards, so that “Bad Vibes” . . . “turned out being a reflection of a set of circumstances surrounding an event, rather than the event itself.”
Jolley (whose credit also lists Kendall A) designed a tabletop [see her photo below] upon which rested a MacBook displaying versions of Romance novel-type covers, a selection of colored plastic vibrators – yes, female sexual aids – and a makeymakey (a neat interface device that allows the user to connect items – like vibrators, bananas or beach balls, for instance, to a computer keyboard so that they function as keystrokes). Each vibrator in this case acted as a controller for computer playback of different audio versions (each with its own accompanying artwork) of “Good Vibrations.”
Jolley, who spoke with me briefly, noted tongue-in-cheek that “We tried to get past the obvious metaphor but clearly failed in our quest.”
The gallery, at 2159 Central Avenue, is a bit nondescript in a few blocks of mostly dilapidated brick buildings. I’m not entirely sure, because I’m not perfect, but I could not find notes on this installation or the street address on the thirdgallery.com web site. However, a quick email exchange with Aaron Walker gave me all the information I needed (Aaron runs the space along with Jacob Riddle and Chris Reeves).
Should you ever decide to go, look for the white storefront building with two small octagonal windows. That is the place! (There is currently no signage – I was told a previous sign had been vandalized.)
I would like to see this show mounted again for a longer period of time – I listened to a few audio tapes, and checked out most of the other projects. In sum, each cover was purposefully designed to interpret, re-imagine and recreate the same song (“Good Vibrations”) and intended to speak to larger, long-standing American music traditions – “a rumination on a cover song, a celebration of the format, and an inquiry into the space between visual/conceptual art and pop music. It’s an exhibition about finding something intimate, expressive and political in even the most commercial and populist of material.”
Because of a very short turnaround for this write-up, I’m unable to say in too much detail how enjoyable this all turned out to be, and how cool it was to find such a sophisticated installation hidden away in such a remote corner of town. So, yes! This show gets a thumbs up! Aaron promises that all submissions of covers which were accepted through the close of the show will be archived on the gallery website (and perhaps the CD compilation/notes will be available as well?).