25 Jul - 17 Aug 2008
MARK SIEBERT | APPLES
Exhibition Text "Songs of no significance" by Aaron Seeto, 2008
A couple of weeks ago I threw away a box of mix tapes. They had been forgotten in a corner of my studio. I told this to someone and they were appalled, I think they care for music much more than I do. I don’t really care that I threw them away, I didn’t really have a need for them, and it wasn’t even because the technology is old and obsolete. I think I no longer wanted the tapes. I was annoyed because there wasn’t anything to be nostalgic about, no songs that defined pubescent relationships, no lyrics that shaped rebelliousness, just reels of magnetic tape lying unwanted of forgotten moments from my youth in the suburbs. I vaguely remember copying them on my brother’s dual deck cassette player, or recording them from the radio, but that’s about as far as it goes. I can’t remember what the songs were I think I’ve always had really bad taste in music. I remember listening to an artist once say that they thought that every artist really wanted to be a rock star, or play in a band. I never really understood what he meant. I certainly have never felt the same way.
I know that Mark Siebert likes music. I’ve seen the watercolours of play lists and album covers and the fan letters he has sent to bands around the world, bands he likes, bands which frustrate him, bands which for one reason or another remind him of an event, or a person or a relationship. Maybe for him music is a marker.
There is a compulsive intersection of music and art in Mark’s life, but I don’t think it is there to just make apparent the interior world resonating with the musical. I think it too simplistic to suggest that the act of Siebert painting an album cover is merely an act of translation –to stroke into existence the emotional stirred by the sonic turned into a visual artefact. I think what is in operation in Siebert’s work, whether through the rendering of music, its creators, its method of distribution and transmission is a territory which is ultimately about loneliness, our social world marked by interiority. We can also see this in much earlier works of his, the watercolour stacks of paintings derived from scenes of cult television shows such as Iron Chef and Futurama. In both cases Mark makes us think about being separated in the world by walls of sound. At least that’s how I read it in the context of my own lack of musical connection.
Close your eyes. Open them and imagine. A stack of paintings on paper. Watercolour defining images of play lists, album covers, music which might have marked the beginning/the end/the middle of a time when you felt like... when you felt different... sadder, happier, indifferent. Sculptures. A human figure, in a Velvet Underground T-shirt, yeah, that’s right, the famous one that you can pretty much buy anywhere with the Warhol banana.
A sculpted figure peacefully clasping an ipod, lying in state on a huge ipod box under an acrylic canopy. It’s an open casket, someone has passed, I think it might be Mark? Open your eyes. Look. An advertisement of dancing youth, each connected to an ipod, listening individually, and paradoxically dancing together. Close your eyes. Remember. You are walking through a public space, a shopping centre, a carpark. What is that sound? Music on the offensive, guarding, controlling, protecting. It’s music moderating the social, they’d like us to believe the anti-social. Close your eyes again, open them quickly. Listen. You’re on the bus, there’s a girl ahead of you, her face blank from the early morning start. You wonder whether her facial expression should be more upbeat, happier, perhaps a smirk set off by the sounds of the dance music escaping her earphones. At least a rhythmic head jerk.
Ultimately you wished she would just turn it off. Doesn’t she know that she’s entering your personal space. It’s too early in the morning. As a friend of mine put it in a different context “In the spaceship of myself...” 1.
Siebert’s work has been analysed in the past through the tenuous relationship of music, and television with a coming of age, and worse through a representation of youth. His interest in music might mark a particular generation and his choice of television show might represent a particular moment, but his investigation goes much further, is much more poetic. I’d say he was talking about the end of an age.
The use of a technology, such as the ipod, is the present that has already becoming part of the past and this is not just in a technological sense. The song that once made you happy now only makes you aware of gaps in time, of how old you are, how young you were, how music was going to change the world and how you were somehow going to be there when it happened. There is a sense of the human and the social transforming; of obsolescence and revolution. Think about the image of individuals dancing as a group. Think about Siebert’s preference for watercolour and painting.
Again, “the spaceship of myself”.
We are floating in and out of the spaceships of other people. We’re all plugged in to our own worlds, our own nostalgia. Lives touching, at certain points, embracing, rejecting, bouncing off into the world - alone.
Maybe we all listen together but maybe we all listen alone.
 John von Sturmer, ‘The Death of Geography’ in News From Islands (Cat) (Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2007) p110
Artist Statement, 2008
Apples is a series of work that takes as its focal point the Apple iPod. Appropriating the formal qualities of advertisements of the product, the content is updated with subjective imagery. This suggests an autobiographical account through engagement with consumption (the life of objects and the life of the personal). This is evidenced further through the artist’s hand and relationships with traditional modes of recording life and culture, such as the still life or landscape and media such as water colour painting. More than self evident autobiography, this is a position of rejection; a rejection of the macrocosm of consumerism and mass culture, defiant in its individualist position. But that’s without taking into account the position of the viewer. Looking at the work, judgments are filtered through taste and association with the cultural groupings evident within the work. Further, allusions to music, branding and autobiography combine to form my own brand, switching back to the macrocosm of not mass culture, but fame.