Rock Essay Videos by Dan Graham
Presented by White Light Cinema


Sunday, March 16th at 7:00pm., $7-10

White Light Cinema is pleased to present seminal artist and video maker Dan Graham’s acclaimed 1984 rock/theory/religion/anthropology/essay video ROCK MY RELIGION, along with the lesser-known complementary work MINOR THREAT, two pioneering lo-fi examples of the intersection of video art and cultural critique.

“[N]ot just a remarkable video but also a vital work of rock criticism.” (Jim Supanick on ROCK MY RELIGION)

ROCK MY RELIGION (1984, 55 min, Video, Blu-Ray Projection)
“Rock My Religion is a provocative thesis on the relation between religion and rock music in contemporary culture. Graham formulates a history that begins with the Shakers, an early religious community who practiced self-denial and ecstatic trance dances. With the “reeling and rocking” of religious revivals as his point of departure, Graham analyzes the emergence of rock music as religion with the teenage consumer in the isolated suburban milieu of the 1950s, locating rock’s sexual and ideological context in post-World War II America. The music and philosophies of Patti Smith, who made explicit the trope that rock is religion, are his focus. This complex collage of text, film footage and performance forms a compelling theoretical essay on the ideological codes and historical contexts that inform the cultural phenomenon of rock `n’ roll music.” (Electronic Arts Intermix)

Original Music: Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth. Sound: Ian Murray, Wharton Tiers. Narrators: Johanna Cypis, Dan Graham.

“Right from the get-go, Rock My Religion crosscuts like a rusty saw between Graham’s own footage of punk shows and Shaker villages, and an array of archival material. At the points where they merge, the montage gets rather thick; while Graham’s voiceover introduces Mother Lee, we see a Black Flag performance accompanied by the a Sonic Youth soundtrack. No Shaker craftsmanship here, despite four editors listed in the credits. Graham’s own material, shot surreptitiously with a mid-Eighties camcorder and accompanied by the music of Glenn Branca, can be disconcerting both conceptually and cinematically, and yet, somehow, the visceral energy of ideas collide with a force that more than makes up for the absence of anything resembling technical skill. It’s all purely amateur, a badge that Graham wears proudly.” (Jim Supanick)

MINOR THREAT (1983, 38 min, Video, DVD Projection)
“The function of both popular and underground music in contemporary culture has long been a point of inquiry for Graham in his analyses of the social implications of cultural phenomena. Here he documents Minor Threat, a “hardcore” band from Washington D.C., in a performance at CBGB in New York. Distinguished from punk music in that it developed in suburban areas, hardcore, as typified here by Minor Threat, is seen by Graham as a tribal rite, a catalyst for the violence and frustration of its predominantly male, teenage audience. The raw quality of Graham’s documentary style mirrors the crude energy of his young subjects and the hardcore subculture of the 1980s.” (EAI)

“Shot during the development of Rock My Religion, Minor Threat serves as a B-side to Graham’s seminal video essay on the spiritual roots of American popular music. The tape consists of seemingly raw concert footage of the eponymous band at CBGB, altered mainly by the inclusion of a brief audio interview with frontman Ian MacKaye. Unlike Rock My Religion, Minor Threat is less an analysis than a witnessing. Graham depicts the event as guitar-driven paroxysm: a tumult of male bodies leaping onto the stage and obscuring the band, erasing any distinctions between performers and audience.” (Light Industry)

About Dan Graham:
“Since the mid-1960s, Dan Graham has produced an important body of art and theory that engages in a highly analytical discourse on the historical, social and ideological functions of contemporary cultural systems. Architecture, popular music, video and television are among the focuses of his provocative investigations, which are articulated in essays, performances, installations, videotapes and architectural/sculptural designs.

Graham began using film and video in the 1970s, creating installation and performance works that actively engage the viewer in a perceptual and psychological inquiry into public and private, audience and performer, objectivity and subjectivity. Restructuring space, time and spectatorship in a deconstruction of the phenomenology of viewing, his early installations often incorporate closed-circuit video systems within architectural spaces. The viewer’s perception is manipulated and displaced through such devices as time delay, projections, surveillance and mirrors.

In installations focusing on the social implications of television, as articulated in private and public viewing spaces, Graham refers to video’s semiotic function in architecture in relation to both window and mirror. Graham has also published numerous critical and theoretical essays that investigate the cultural ideology of such contemporary social phenomena as punk music, suburbia and public architecture.
Graham was born in 1942. He has published numerous critical essays, and is the author of Video-Architecture-Television (1980). His work is represented in the collections of numerous major institutions in the United States and Europe, including Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Tate Gallery, London. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’ Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Holland; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England; The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago; Kunsthalle, Berne, Switzerland; and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; and has been represented internationally in group exhibitions at Documenta 7, Kassel, Germany; Art Institute of Chicago; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; P.S. 1, New York; Marion Goodman Gallery, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, among other institutions.

In 2009, Graham was honored with the first North American retrospective of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles. Following its presentation at MOCA, Dan Graham: Beyond traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and then to the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Dan Graham lives in New York.” (EAI)

Special Thanks to Electronic Arts Intermix.

Filed under: video