Plastikman EX

[Mute; 2014]

Rating: 0.5/5

Styles: techno, nominally
Others: Damien Hirst, Raf Simons, Ibiza 2014: The Official Compilation

Richie Hawtin, a.k.a. Plastikman, on the subject of performing EX at the Guggenheim Museum, in an interview with Dancing Astronaut in 2014:

It allowed me to play in a context that was as far away from the dance floor as possible. I still could have beats but I didn’t need that.

Karlheinz Stockhausen in an interview with The Wire in 1995, upon being made to listen to Plastikman:

I know that he wants to have a special effect in dancing bars, or wherever it is, on the public who like to dream away with such repetitions, but he should be very careful, because the public will sell him out immediately for something else, if a new kind of musical drug is on the market. So he should be very careful and separate as soon as possible from the belief in this kind of public.

Jackson Pollock, on the subject of the Guggenheim Museum, in an interview with Selden Rodman in 1957:

As for Wright, he’s a great architect, I guess, but what a *%@#! That museum! We’ve had all this trouble in doing away with the frame — and now this. Paintings don’t need all this fooling around. The hell with museums! Put the paintings in a room and look at ‘em — isn’t that enough?

1. Hawtin’s attempt to excise his singular brand of austerely minimal techno from the dancefloor and then recontextualize it by performing it in, and therefore associating himself with, the cultural juggernaut of the 20th century that is the Guggenheim Museum — and, by doing so, attempting to make EX not just another Plastikman album, or even a Plastikman album, but instead an Important Piece of Culture devoid of any connection to the communal, nigh-anarchic chaos and physicality of the dancefloor — reflects, in the most unfortunate manner possible, not only the trajectory of Hawtin’s career, but also the bleak endgame that has been met with by dance music in the 21st century and fine art in the century preceding.

2. The career transition from underground techno hero to a titan of the EDM scene (read: marketing industry) is not, in and of itself, something to look down upon — one ought to congratulate musicians who have had their hard work pay off in a rise from obscurity to commercial success, or at the very least give them a fair go at it rather than offhandedly dismissing them as having “sold out,” the eternally favored epithet of the disenchanted fan. That transition does, however, mean that Hawtin no longer belongs to or depends on his former audience, but has instead fully set up camp in the realm of corporate-sponsored EDM events and now in one of the the most prominent institutions of Western high art. The coverage of the performance of EX at the Guggenheim quite effectively makes the point clear, if it weren’t already. He has indeed separated from the belief in “this kind of public.” Stockhausen was perhaps less out of touch than The Wire made him out to be.

3. Western art, and more specifically painting, was in the last century the subject of a rather curious nullification of the utopian/revolutionary/primal impulses that ignited movements like Neoplasticism, Dada, and Abstract Expressionism, respectively. The artists who purported to entirely overturn the establishment in the attempt to create true or truly important works were absorbed fully into the lineage of Western art, ultimately becoming just as much a part of the fossil record as the masters of representation that they sought to upstage and the cultural traditions that they rejected, their work either enshrined in museums or converted handily into commodities to be traded among dealers and collectors.

4. Art imitates life — and vice versa — and the death of rave has, by all accounts, followed the same trajectory, with the chronology of dance music leading from the communal, decentralized celebration of sensory experience that was the acid house phenomenon to a thriving business complex that deifies the DJ and capitalizes relentlessly on music that, while retooled and diluted for maximum pop appeal to the point of unrecognizability, nevertheless descends from the same musical lineage that birthed Plastikman in the early 90s. It is worth noting that Hawtin has not totally capitulated to the inexorable march of culture, in his productions if not in his DJ sets — the tunes here aren’t unlistenable, with expectedly impeccable production value put mostly in the service of retreading old ground — so maybe EX does belong in a museum, as far away from the dancefloor as possible. After all, dance music itself is now just as far gone.

Links: Plastikman - Mute

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