Saturday, March 24, 2012

Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem

On Thursday, March 22, David Byrne of the Talking Heads and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem were brought together for an interesting talk at the Yale University Art Gallery moderated by John Schaefer. They talked about the wildly changing art and music scenes and their experiences in coming to terms with being identified as artists after being best known as former frontmen of wildly successful bands.  I was able to shoot a quick video of Byrne and Murphy talking about their current artistic endeavors:

Byrne discusses his experience with designing and installing bike rack sculptures in New York City.  He shows an array of sculptures in the video that were designed for specific neighborhoods in Manhattan. What surprises me most is that the New York City Department of Transportation approved his project, told him they would install the sculptures, but did not offer to pay for them.  David Byrne had to finance the entire project himself.  NYC is fortunate that he has the financial means to do this, because they are great sculptures.  As an artist you grow accustomed to some people and organizations expressing reluctance to compensate artists, writers, or musicians for work they create that people will enjoy.  Perhaps it was naive of me to think that the NYCDOT would be open to paying for a sculpture by David Byrne.  This made me think about all the other artists out there, unaccomplished, without the resources of independent wealth, creating excellent things for people to enjoy, and putting themselves into debt for passion.  Being a good artist is about bankrupting yourself just enough to get your points across. We need compensation as much as anyone else who works for a living.  But we cannot think as much about compensation.  We think about the next painting, the next song, the next poem.

Which leads me to James Murphy: his idea of the subway turnstiles as a musical instrument powered by people would be excellent and enjoyable.  It would make New York City an even better place to be. (I immediately though of what LCD-esque euphony Grand Central Station would sound like at rush hour.)  It is not in the video, but after he explained this idea, he halfheartedly asked the audience if any of us knew anyone who could help him make this happen.  If someone in the audience knew a higher up at the Metropolitan Transit Authority, I'm sure they would have spoken to Murphy after the show. I would help him if I could, I have racked up so many excellent times dancing to his music that at this point I feel like I owe him.  He wasn't ashamed to ask and that's how it works.  You put it out there and hope that the right person will hear or see what you're doing. It is not any different for the rest of us, it does not matter that we are not yet world renowned, or as famous as we wish we were in our respective fields at the moment.  A great idea is a great idea, a great song is a great song, and great painting is a great painting and you have to find a way to get it out there.  They may not know your name now, but someday they will.  Be good enough at what you do to make them know your name.  Even if it is James Murphy or David Byrne.

Murphy and Byrne both discussed their attempts in vain to keep their artistic ideas compartmentalized.  Fighting who you are will never yield a victor.  I did not realize that the guy that makes me dance to Road to Nowhere could also make a great bike rack to protect my bike.  When I hear Home by LCD Soundsystem, dancing like my life depends on it, I am unaware that the same guy has been thinking about making my subway experience better.  I love looking at art and making paintings. I love listening to music and playing it with people.  I love giving compliments to people who rock fashion and I smile and say 'thank you' when I receive compliments on mine. All the pieces are already there.  We all need to stop fighting ourselves and concentrate our resources on creating the union of what makes us us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really great post. Inspiring ideas about art from you and these two great artists. Thanks!