Artist-Musicians, Musician-Artists

5 Between the club and the gallery: The computer as universal machine and the one-person enterprise

The development of the artist-musician/musician-artist gained new impetus from the spread of techno and other new forms of electronic music (house, drum’n’bass, electro, etc.). On the one hand, the computer as a multifunctional tool benefited work in different cultural disciplines; on the other, the club became a place in which visual, filmic, linguistic, and musical forms of expression came together.

In order to be able to independently design the free spaces offered by the club culture, to create platforms and distribution channels for the new underground culture, and to maintain control over their own creative produce, many artists worked as club owners, managers of labels, and producers. These included, among others, Daniel Pflumm with Elektro and Elektro Music Department in Berlin, Emanuel Günther (aka Mooner) with Club le Bomb (together with the Scottish artist Catriona Shaw) and Erkrankung durch Musique in Munich, and Robert Jelinek with Sabotage Communications (with the sub-labels Sabotage Rec., Subetage Rec., and Craft Rec.) in Vienna.[18]

Chicks on Speed also managed a club called Seppi Bar, which intentionally had no fixed location, as their first large, communal manifestation. In order to remain independent in the production and distribution of their musical output, they founded their own label, Chicks On Speed Records, on which they produced several recordings by female musicians and artists (e.g., Angie Reed).

In the politicized concept art of the 1990s there was much talk of cultural producers and cultural workers with reference to these multiple roles. This provided a theoretical position for those who, not least for economic reasons, pursued several cultural activities, e.g. making films, painting pictures, writing texts, and working as DJs.

As a result, there was often not only a division in terms of times of day between their working identities as visual artists and their club activities, but the other identity in fact often went under a different name. Carsten Nicolai, the cofounder of the label noton.archiv für ton und nichtton (1994/1995) and the successive project, raster-noton (1999), appears as a musician under the pseudonyms of noto and alva noto, while as a visual artist he is known by his common name. There are, however, significant associations between his visual and musical works. This is evident, for example, by the fact that he is concerned with macro- and microstructures and minimalist concepts in both forms of expression and often works on making technical or naturally occurring acoustic and optical phenomena visible and audible. Electronic music thus plays a central role in his installations while, on the other hand, he places great importance on the optical presentation of his musical productions, from CD covers to visualizations of his music.

With the digitalization of media and the spread of the computer, visual and musical working methods became technically increasingly aligned with one another.

For example, in the 1990s Mark Leckey used the method of sampling — which had its roots in music — for processing not only sounds but also found footage, creating clips that were similar to music videos. In this way, he incorporated his experience as musician, clubber, and artist in his visual and musical production. He made a name for himself with his film essay Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), in which he highlights the English club scene of the 1980s in a fascinating montage.[19]

The increase in intersections between the fine arts and electronic music was also evidenced by projects that were no longer presented in clubs but also in museums and galleries. Brian Eno, who is considered one of the pioneers of contemporary electronic pop music and who laid the roots for a new form of spatial awareness in this genre by inventing ambient music in 1978, realized an exemplary installation, Music for White Cube, in the London gallery of the same name in 1997.

Pflumm was also cofounder of the club Botschaft e.V., which was not only a bar but also the name of an interdisciplinary artist group.  
Other British art students who followed a musical career included Adam Ant (Adam and the Ants), Viv Albertine (The Slits), Graham Lewis and Rob Gotobed (both of Wire), Lora Logic (X-Ray Spex), Mike Barson (Madness), John Foxx (Ultravox), and Jo Callis (The Human League). Cf. Simon Frith and Howard Horne, Art into Pop (London: Methuen, 1987), 125–126. In the United States, Patti Smith, James Chance, Chris Stein (Blondie), and Alan Vega (Suicide), among others, all studied at art academies. Roger Waltz, “Ein Interview mit Malcolm McLaren,” ZKM Online (1998),$1165 (accessed August 29, 2009). — Trans. G. M. Leckey is a professor at the Frankfurt Städelschule art academy and a member of the bands donAteller and Jack Too Jack.