Lets Play Records!

‘What’s the definition of an ipod? A mini fridge with no beers in it.’ Paul Weller.

‘What’s the definition of an ipod? A mini fridge with no beers in it.’ Paul Weller.

The cultural importance of records and its associated artwork has had a huge impact on our social activities for a large part of the 20th century. But with the onset of the CD in the mid 1980’s, and now with the onset of file sharing via the internet, vinyl as a mass produced cultural product has been further sidelined. The rise in cultural status given to DJs from the early 1990s with the advent of Dance music and a hardcore of bands still appreciative of vinyl’s contribution and most importantly the core of enthusiasts still buying them, has kept the format alive and viable.

So what is ‘Let’s Play Records!’?

For a number of years audience participation has become a fundamental base for presenting my work. I have used this as a central point with which to explore issues of accessibility in a tangible way. These projects examined our relationships with natural, historical and cultural environments and contexts that explored the audience’s experiences and position in relation to the outcome of work itself. How the success of these projects are determined by this collaborative relationship and how this might effect the development of my future practice has emerged as important point of enquiry. Out of this, in an attempt to further level the field between artist and audience and extend its collaborative thread, a desire to explore more peripheral elements and influences of my art practice has emerged in the form of
‘Let’s Play Records!’

‘Let’s Play Records!’ (‘LPR!’) formed part of ‘Transition: curators edition’ held at Newlyn Art Gallery in February 2008. ‘LPR!’ was a prototype exhibition that:

Set out to address issues of accessibility in the presentation of contemporary art.
Sought to develop more meaningful exchanges with the audience to facilitate a more tangible understanding of conceptual art through the exploration of more diverse platforms of presentation, performance and participation.
Used the playing of records as a central platform for achieving this and engaging and developing a wider contemporary art audience
Looked for ways of removing potential barriers that can exist between conceptual art and audience by implementing workshops and interactive events to expand wider connections with audiences unused to participating in art events in a gallery context.
Sought to create a brand with associated products, logos and house style that focused on vinyl, a once universally popular format with proven accessibility to act as a creative and social hub.

From the music to the cover art, to the events, social scenes and movements they inspired, vinyl records have over the last 100 years made a significant impression on our cultural and social activities. By creating a rolling programme of live events that encouraged hands on participation and active co-curatorial collaboration
‘LPR!’ served as an open ended enquiry that raised issues with the way contemporary art is delivered to and interpreted by audiences. The format created by ‘LPR!’(which loosely resembled an old style record shop) became a study of the practicalities of achieving an all encompassing formula of accessibility – a potential ‘holy grail’ – whether this is in fact possible or indeed desirable and looked at the lengths that artists have to, or could go to, to try and achieve those aims.

‘LPR!’ uses a framework of creative audience participation for the broadening of the understanding of the concept of ‘art-as-event’. ‘LPR!’ uses popular and accessible mediums such as music, dance and vinyl records as tools to expand the scope of artist led projects that operate from outside the context of the gallery to a level that is as significant as the outcome of more traditional presentations of contemporary art work.

The exploration of diverse methods and contexts to present art and involve audiences through participation and performative experience, enable ‘LPR!’ to deliver a direct and tangible experience of co-ownership. This allows those who take part to influence the course of the art being created. ‘LPR!’ represents an opportunity for the audience to take a curatorial position alongside the artist that helps to break down barriers between artist, audience and the work itself. ‘LPR!’ uses a format that seeks to resist situations where the audience may feel alienated or distanced from the work and instead invites the audience to be part of it by placing them in a central position through their contribution as co curators and via pro-active organising, dancing and socialising.

IN the beginning there was...vinyl

IN the beginning there was...vinyl

As a lapsed collector the importance my collection I had built up [from the age of about 10 ten] has not lessened in its cultural value – hey! and it might have even gone up in monetary terms.
Thank you UK Subs for all the coloured vinyl you gave us - even the brown one! The first record that I could actually call mine was the ‘Wombles Greatest Hits’ [fun] and Jean Michel Jarres’ ‘Oxygene’ [interesting] and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture’ [liked the canons] given to me on my 10th birthday. After a brief foray into prog-rock influenced by big brother it was later rejected for Punk and New Wave.

I remember vividly the arguments about whose turn it was to choose the radio station we would listen too when me and my brothers were in our bedroom at night. It was a toss up between the ‘Rock Show’ on Manchester Piccadilly Radio and John Peel on Radio One. The first time I heard the Sex pistols ‘Holidays in the Sun’ [shortly before we discovering John Peel] was on the Rock Show. The DJ mockingly introduced it as crap by a band that couldn’t play. It was like nothing I had heard before - both disturbing and alluring. After that there was no turning back. Music and the record collecting habit became the pivotal activity that all the major events of my teenage life and early adult hood revolved around until I suffered a major hearing loss at a chumbawamba gig in Manchester 1987. from then on i slowly turned away from music and submerged myself in visual art.

When I look back now at my collecting it's obvious that records, music and the artwork helped me make sense of a world I couldn't identify with. My Brave New World had suddenly become circular, made of plastic and came in a variety of sizes. A place where the easy listening had been replaced by protest songs that, importantly, went at a variety of [fast, faster or furious] speeds and had a hole in the middle.

‘let’s play records!’- stepping out at newlyn

‘let’s play records!’- stepping out at newlyn
As an artist I have long recognised Vinyl’s influence on my early creative development - from the music, to the art work, to the social situations that develop around its use. In a kind of celebration of all things vinyl, focussing on its ability to act as a hub for creativity and the related social scenes that inspired me, I set out to create new work about and informed by these early inspirations and interactions in collaboration with other enthusiasts. Acting as artist-curator during 'Transition' gave me the perfect opportunity to take a trip on a bus mans holiday and explore this more fully and collaboratively with an audience. This offered me space and time to reconsider play as tool for my practice, develop prototype ideas and work with the unresolved in-situ without the constraints of presenting a finalised exhibition.

As a curator I wanted to create a multiple platform for an art event that strove to be universally accessible to all, test out ideas of engagement and explore how, as an artist, ‘dumbing down’ can be avoided in the development and presentation of your work. The presentation of ‘LPR!’ was modelled on the places I have used or lived in - independant record shops, my teenage bedroom and previous squats for example. The adaptation of these environments grew organically and creatively from playing records. These references came initially from my own experiences but were further influenced by conversations with other collectors and enthusiasts directly associated with the
‘LPR!’ experience. events included, films, projections, presentations, photomontage, drawing, collage and performance, informal interviews and discussions all of which related to playing records.

I regarded the whole curatorial process as a durational performative event. The planning, meeting and interviewing of collectors and enthusiasts, curating discontinued collections etc, and putting it all together at Newlyn were all part of that. The main focus of the show was a rolling programme of displays of records curated from a variety of personal collections. These were brought into and played during 'Collecta-Selecta!’ These records were placed in a rack and were on view as long as the collector was in session. During the session they would retrieve records from the rack and play them whilst we talked or I worked on large scale drawings of stars from music history using an updated camera obscurer -an overhead projector. I wanted the collector to be in control of and be responsible for what went on display, to share the role of curator. The collectors included a teddy bear repairer, hairdresser, artists, mental health worker, young adults, students, young children, music promoter, DJ’s, teachers, archaeologist, mechanic, musicians, librarian and drop in enthusiasts.

‘The Book of Lists'
became the archive of submitted catalogues detailing the contents of collections from all types of genres and all types of collector both national and international. As well as the records people have and do collect, I was also interested in what people have given up collecting as well. During the 2 months of planning I built up a selection of discontinued collections from the dispossessed called 'The Book of Lists 2: eBay killed the second hand record shop'.

A film covering the technical background on the manufacturing process of vinyl records filmed at the famous EMI record factory, Hayes Middlesex - now Portal Space Records - was shown daily. A number of artists work was shown throughout the exhibition also – these included photographs of Duchamp’s roto-reliefs, a film and photographs of a series of painted vinyl works entitled
‘Experiences’ by Kim Walker from Scotland and photographs of vinyl collage form Esther Bourdages from Canada. Other sessions such as 'The ABC of Play' and 'Debate on the plate' happened naturally in an ordered kind of organic chaos. The 'Prop - Pose' workshop provided the cut out instruments for the power house event ‘Death Disco’ at which guest DJ’s the ‘Cobra CLUB’ PLAYED the 'Furtive 50' fifty songs chosen by the audience throughout the show and ‘death disco’.

‘LPR!’events at newlyn

‘LPR!’events at newlyn
I did this exhibition as an artist curator at Newlyn art Gallery, Cornwall in Jan/February 2008 as part of the ‘Transition:curators edition' series. This exhibition was a visual and performative look at record collections and the social happenings that formed around the activity. Its focus was on a visual display of records selected by collectors and enthusiasts. The exhibition also featured a changing variety of interactive sessions that investigated various elements of audience participation and all that it entails.
Below is a list of the events as originally listed.
Cheers, Bruce Davies ‘Let’s Play Records!’
Let’s Play Records! - A language we can all understand (even if we don't know what they're saying). Wednesday- PLAY SESSION 1: ‘Collecta-Selecta!’ on ‘Lets Play Radio’ Interviews on ‘Lets Play Radio’ - an internet radio station created especially for the exhibition. These sessions are for the creators of the collections on display with pod casts recorded from the gallery. (I taped them on cassettes like how we used to but too busy during the show to upload them – still editing them – as we used to!)
Thursday - PLAY SESSION 2: ‘Collecta-Selecta!’ on Lets Play Radio’ More interview (tapes) pod casts on ‘LPR’ with the creators of the record collections plus 'Debate on the plate' a special drop in for visitors discussing the merits of vinyl.

(Ended up doing lots of drawings of LP covers during and in between sessions using an OHP) Friday - PLAY SESSION 3: 'THE ABC OF PLAY '- children welcome. Morning session: ‘Learn to Care’ - includes practical sessions and tips on cleaning and caring for your records, what to buy and what to avoid 'Learn to Play’ - this is the session for those who never did. Choose a record from the 'LPR' new acquisitions collection and get to grips with vinyl. Afternoon session: 'PLAY AWAY' ‘Free Play’ a drop in session for visitors to bring in a selection of records from their own collection and play them on 'Let's Play Radio'. Saturday – all day event: 'Prop - Pose' - make your own improvised guitar in the gallery or bring in one you made earlier and do what you do best on the 'N.A.G' stage to the records of your choice. Saturday – evening event: ‘Death Disco’ 7-11 pm: Dance to the "Furtive 50" chosen by the audience from the collections on display and from the compiled book of collections. Sunday – afternoon: Try out your latest air guitar skills, air pogo stick and air space hopper at the CUBE! GYM! JAM! - The final farewell: A legs, bums, and tums work out to high/low octane recordings on Newlyn Green. (Rain stopped play, so we bust gut in the gallery instead)

What's next for‘Lpr!’?

What's next for‘Lpr!’?

Since stepping out at Newlyn,
'LPR!' has been testing the water with benefit events for the Lafrowda festival in St Just. Moving on from Death Disco I'm now using a new format - 'B.Y.O Disco' - where the audiences are invited to bring along the music they want to dance to with 'LPR!' supplying the traditional card board cut out instruments.


LPR proudly presents 'The Cardboard Kids' recorded live for YouTube