DRINK THE NEW WINE | Exquisite Dialogue

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Malcolm McLaren
& David Byrne

MM: I understand you want to stage a musical about Imelda Marcos’ shoes. Will the shoes sing to each other? Is it a shoe musical?

DB: It’s a really big shoe, as Ed Sullivan used to say. Actually the shoes are never even mentioned: everyone knows about them, and it turns her into a bit of a joke. I perversely want the audience to empathize somewhat with Madame. The songs are written, the tracks have been made, and now I’m recording lots of singers—mainly women—for the CDs. It’s a slow process. I hope to be done recording in a couple of months. Are you in town? Have you put in your bid for Bear Stearns yet?

MM: I’ve just left the Arctic circle in Sweden, which was full of today’s latest artistic groping through processes—mostly, it seems, in the minds of curators. Contemporary art curators seem to be preoccupied today with trying to get away from showing art as a commodity. The art has a kind of “Not For Sale” look. This fascinates me, when one thinks of the social and political climate now. I can’t help thinking that the world is dominated at the present moment by Anglo-Saxon culture and it isn’t cool anymore.

DB: Do you mean that curators are reacting to the boom in the art market and huge sales figures in contemporary art by encouraging and supporting work that can’t be sold or is intangible? I remember when the conceptual artists in the late 60s and 70s did something similar. Land art, and body art as well. It all seemed to saying, as if on a dare, “OK, buy THIS!” I’ve been getting good and shallow with your videos. Can you say what films they’re from or does that invite legal problems? Will there be sound blasting out into Times Square as well? MM: I can only say that my new series of videos called Shallow equally explores processes and feelings. The work is based around an instinctual part of me that I’ve kept close to my heart since puberty—a time when I was smitten by desires I never thought I would have, listening to that rock’n’roll beat and memorizing its narrative...a sense of longing, of unrequited love. Or the flip side: unbridled sex. Outbursts I had when I forced myself or allowed myself to be seduced by those songs. Moments when I felt ready to act: just before I had, or wanted to have, or could only imagine having sex. Those shallow feelings that at the same time felt the most deep. I’ve tried to express them in a form that I can best describe as 21 musical paintings of similar situations and musical parts, reconfigured from a grab bag of the culture, but out of context and outside of time. Against rhythm, and even story. When they’re shown in Times Square there won’t be sound, but the films will be seen at a party by Creative Time this summer, and I’ll show them somewhere in Chelsea besides, both with sound blasting, as you say. If you are around, you must come!

DB: In your project the intimations of sex is adolescent, tender, sweet, slightly creepy, and maybe timid: in Times Square the videos will be surrounded by giant ads for jeans, designer perfumes, and musicals...some of which feature much sexier poses, and are much more in-your-face than your work. As a side subject, having just been in Sweden, do you have a sense that Sweden is now the capital of pop music? It seems they’re churning out an endless stream of singers and songwriters (and producers) who have no shame about writing and singing catchy pop songs, while the Anglo-Saxon world possibly finds pop a little too, I don’t know, accessible, easy, sweet...shameful and embarrassing.

MM: I don’t know about Sweden being the new center of pop: I think the U.K. is throwing up some wonderful singers like Duffy, a 17-year-old-girl who has a voice that takes you right back to the 1960s and (dare I say it) Dusty Springfield. There is also a lot of young talent emerging that has a kind of authenticity about it. Although it sounds retro at first listen, it nevertheless reconfigures its songs into a contemporary context and works against a lot of overly processed music. It might be due to the boom in live performance that causes this to happen. The Swedes have always sat on the fence. It’s part of their political history and unquestionably spills over into the culture as well as lifestyle of its people. It’s hardly an aggressive place. But nevertheless, they take a great interest in contemporary culture. Be it pop music or contemporary art. I am struggling with the marriage of both, whether it be for stage or as a platform for art. It’s an interesting time to consider ideals. Something that’s been lost in the culture for a while.

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