Report from Art Basel MB

December 6, 2007 at 10:43 am (art, art basel miami beach, culture)

I want to preface this all by saying: I’m having fun. Really. I’m seeing a lot of great art, too. Aqua is a really strong fair; we went to the Vernissage at ABMB yesterday and – while it was packed and difficult to move around – it looked like there was some great stuff there. We’re going back today. I’m looking forward to it.

So why am I waking up this morning with this undeniably icky feeling? It’s the free drinks here, no doubt, but I think it’s also this:

There was something suspiciously perfect about Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ performance on the beach last night. I wondered aloud at one point if he was lip-syncing (I came to the conclusion that he wasn’t, definitely) but that wasn’t quite it.

Instead, this is what I’m convinced it was: Every movement, every twitch, every swing of his hair, every step, every humping of the speakers, every rolling around on stage was choreographed. It was like watching a robot, an Iggy 3000, wound up and performing for us. He didn’t really want to be my dog; he just wanted to sing about it and dance and get paid at the end.

It was a no-win situation for someone like Iggy Pop – if his performance was flawless (and it was, as long as we stayed), people like me bitch. It wasn’t raw, it wasn’t real – so I’m complaining. But if he was fucked up and his performance was as well, I’m sure the organizers would have bitched. The media would make fun of him. And so on.

But what I think I’m getting at is this: Iggy’s performance was some sort of perfect metaphor for what I see as a too-often strategy with a lot of the work here, in particular the more expensive, more established stuff. It’s rebellion pre-packaged and sanitized and sold to you for loads of money. None of this is new – Green Day comes to mind – but it hurts more when it’s someone who ought to know better, like Iggy. Did he feel some sort of psychic pain up there, going through the motions, singing songs that were shocking 30 years ago to a well-groomed, moneyed crowd in town to buy lots of art? Probably not. But I did watching him. (And I did too as I saw the work of Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy and others throughout the day, who suffer from the same sort of problem.)

For the record, I would recommend to the organizers of ABMB that they consider reuniting the Velvet Underground for next year’s party. Or maybe the Sex Pistols. It would be ridiculous and sort of sick and hurtful to watch, but I think that’s what they’re going for. My dream (going with the “reunion” theme that seems to be prevelant here, given that previous guests were the NY Dolls) would be to reunite the Murder Junkies and just cast some new person in the role of GG Allin, but even with actors straight from central casting, it might be a little too unweildy and unpredictable for this crowd.

Standing there in the crowd of well-dressed folks waving their middle fingers in the air and acting like they’ve seen punk rockers act in the movies, I felt like the oddest girl in the world. Seeing CocoRosie perform at the Deitch party helped, but just temporarily. I couldn’t help but notice how much of the VIP section looked confused or bored or otherwise preoccupied with talking on their phones. Over where the regular folk stood (as much as there is “regular folk” at an event like this) we did better, with the crowd being pretty wrapped up in the performance, which was also pretty darn near perfect, but in a very different sort of way than Iggy.

1 Comment

  1. Timothy Buckwalter said,

    Why not have the Pixies next year?

    GG Allin grossed people out with all his craziness. But the Pixies still have a rawness mixed with a once cool underground status (fair attendees can compare note on which previous tour they saw) that can add a certain hip cache to an otherwise completely commercial event.

    Of course the Pixies have not aged as well as Iggy, so attendees may briefly be forced a to consider their mortality, which might not be so cool.

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