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Dr Chris McAuliffe
Door sales available from 5pm tonight
Over a sixty-year period, rock’n’roll has grown from a teenage fad into a generation-defining, multi-billion dollar global industry. Along the way, rock music has been the focus for revolutions in entertainment, lifestyle, consciousness, politics and technology.
Artists were immediately attracted to rock’n’roll. In the hands of Peter Blake, Elvis Presley became a pop art icon shortly after the release of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in 1956. Initially fascinated by the disruptive vitality of teenage culture, artists quickly recognised the wider implications of popular music; here was a global phenomenon redefining pleasure, community and cultural identity. In the 1960s, complex aesthetic interactions developed, such as Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which explored new forms of perception and consciousness in psychedelic, multimedia rock environments. A two-way dialogue between art and rock ensued. Musicians and their fans borrowed freely from art’s stylistic and conceptual repertoire. The Who borrowed from cybernetic and auto-destructive art, while Glam rock bands such as Roxy emerged from English art schools. Artists rediscovered in rock lifestyle the bohemian mythologies of the nineteenth century. By the 1970s, art’s modernist gestures—avant-garde shock tactics, downtown bohemianism enclaves—were being renewed by punk and new wave musicians. Since the 1990s, a generation of artists who grew up on rock have made music, fandom, audio technology and subcultural rituals the focus of their art.
While the history of rock music is fascinating in itself—a ‘long strange trip’ as the Grateful Dead put it—it also reveals artists’ remarkable capacity to engage with new social formations. Artists’ exploration of rock music is an investigation of new technologies, social spaces, modes of consumption and formations of identity.
Dr Chris McAuliffe is Professor of Art (Practice-lead research) at the School of Art & Design, the Australian National University. From 2000–13 he was Director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne. From 2011–12 he was Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University, where he taught a seminar on art and rock, and convened Tinnitis, a symposium on art and rock.
Feature image: Detail from Patrick Caulfield, Stereophonic Record Player, 1968, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 274.3 cm, private collection UK
Members and non-members $12 (includes lecture, a glass of wine and free parking)