Glenn Branca

Lesson Nº 1 + The Ascension
Glenn Branca has always been a musician positioned halfway between the role of avant-garde composer and that of a rock musician. A pupil and disciple of the masters of American minimalism such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, he has always had to fight against prejudice and fierce criticism. His position was certainly uncomfortable, too academic for rock fans and too “politically incorrect” for academics. In fact, Branca was trying to unhinge all the limits imposed by the rigid schemes of the avant-garde, aware of the fact that those who want to be truly avant-garde should have no limits. John Cage was also able to criticize him, even calling him a fascist ( Luciano Berio also did so for all minimalists) for the excessive rigidity of his compositions, even though he recognized his innovative power. After having created his best known album, The Ascension (1981), a true monument of maximalism played with a classical rock formation (guitars, bass and drums), he tries to approach a different format, the Symphony, as always halfway between rock and academia. Branca will like the experiment and will re-propose it several times in the following decades, to date there are sixteen symphonies (not all recordings are available). Here is how young Branca’s ensemble appeared to the American composer John Adams in one of his first live performances of the First Symphony: “Branca’s event that I listened to at the Japan Center Theater in San Francisco in 1981 was one of his symphonies for guitar . The group didn’t look very different from thousands of other independent or alternative rock bands of the time: guys in jeans and worn t-shirts busy with cables while maintaining that typical distracted expression of rock musicians.

 

Thomas Hirschhorn

توماس هيرشهورن
托马斯·赫塞豪恩
תומס הירשהורן
トーマス·ヒルシュホルン
abschlag

Thomas Hirschhorn’s “Abschlag” installation, which occupies the first room on the main floor, offers a lesson in how not to engage with the Russian milieu: the Swiss artist constructed part of a typical Petersburg apartment block out of cardboard inside the full-height space, ripped off its façade, and deposited the refuse at its base, revealing shabby interiors lined with original avant-garde masterpieces (on loan from the nearby Russian Museum) by the likes of Malevich and El Lissitky. The references allude to a politically radical Russian past; the construction debris acts as a metaphor for history. Though Hirschhorn suggests a recovery of the revolutionary communist spirit of the 1920s, he falls prey to a historically revisionist fetish: citing the Russian avant-garde as a generative point for vanguard culture in the West, and offering it as a source for renewed progressivism in Russia. Hirschhorn seems woefully unaware of the Putin government’s branding campaign, one that aims to sell the Russian avant-guard as a nationalist movement in line with the regime’s own values (perhaps he didn’t watch the Sochi opening ceremony). Hirschhorn ultimately proves Zhilayev right — with its political pretenses, “Abschlag” aspires to make a grand gesture against conservatism, but fails because its critique has already been co-opted..
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LUIS CAMNITZER

The Instrument and Its Work
Luis Camnitzer (b.1937) is a German-born Uruguayan artist and writer who moved to New York in 1964. He was at the van guard of 1960s Conceptualism, working primarily in printmaking, sculpture, and installations. Camnitzer’s artwork explores subjects such as social injustice, repression, and institutional critique. His humorous, biting, and often politically charged use of language as art medium has distinguished his practice for over four decades.