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Who You Staring At? Visual culture of the no wave scene in the 1970s and 1980s

February 1 – May 1, 2023, Centre Pompidou, Museum, level 4

The presentation “Who You Staring At? Visual Culture of the No Wave Scene in the 1970s and 1980s” explores the visual and sound contributions of an alternative art scene that appeared in the low-rent areas of Lower Manhattan, in New York in 1978. The failure of the hippy cultural and economic model at the very end of the 1960s, then the commercial transformations of new wave and disco, pushed the leading players in the movement to break with the established music industry and contemporary art circles.


Coming from a variety of artistic fields, no wave bands appropriated the instruments of the rock scene, to better turn them against it in order to subvert its icons. Out-of-tune guitars, deconstructed rhythms and raucous vocals enriched a range of radical visual productions, revealing an alternative cultural project blending many media: posters, cassettes and audio records, film and video. Saturated and dissonant sounds were translated into abrasive images that were altered by subverting reprographic techniques (Xerox art), as used in punk and industrial music networks as early as the mid-1970s.


This presentation borrows its title from Who You Staring At?, an album by John Giorno and Glenn Branca. A question that transcribes no wave artists’ confrontational attitude and determination to deconstruct the conventional gaze, presented here in an ensemble of multidisciplinary practices where dance, opera, music and the visual arts intersect.


Artworks in the exhibition from the Centre Pompidou collection:

- Dan Graham, Glenn Branca, Performance and Stage-Set Utilizing Two-Way Mirror and Video Time Delay, 1983, video.

- Raymond Pettibon, The Whole World is Watching: Weatherman ‘69, 1989, video.

- Ida Applebroog, Beth B, Belladona, 1989, video.

- Barbara Ess, Untitled, 1989, monochrome chromogenic print, pinhole camera.

- Raymond Pettibon, Untitled (Grounded?! Never Been), 1998, ink on paper.

- Raymond Pettibon, Untitled (Reagan lays a golden egg!), 1991, Indian ink, wash and red ink on paper.

- Raymond Pettibon, Untitled (Heavily into Masturbation), 1986, ink on paper.


Other artwoks shown:

- Vivienne Dick, Guérillère Talks, 1978, digitized Super 8 film. Collection Vivienne Dick et LUX, Londres.

- Karole Armitage, Rhys Chatham, Drastic-Classicism, 1981, video. Collection Karole Armitage et Rhys Chatham.

- Beth B, Scott B, Letters to Dad, 1979, digitized Super 8 film. Collection Beth B et Scott B / Kino Lorber.

- Rhys Chatham, Joseph Nechvatal, XS exemplification of XS: The Opera Opus (1984-1986), 2022, sound slideshow. Collection Joseph Nechvatal.

- Joseph Nechvatal, Black Spring, 1983-1984, graphite on paper drawing. Collection Joseph Nechvatal.

- Joseph Nechvatal, Supreme Court, 1984, graphite on paper drawing. Collection Joseph Nechvatal.

- Joseph Nechvatal, It’s Not Funny, 1983, graphite on paper drawing. Collection Joseph Nechvatal.

- Joseph Nechvatal, Fuck Death, 1984, graphite on paper drawing. Collection Joseph Nechvatal.

- Joseph Nechvatal, Peace The New Sleep, 1985-1986, graphite, photomechanical paper, Masonite. Collection Joseph Nechvatal.


Each work is accompanied by a selection of archives: books, fanzines, flyers, magazines, photographs, tapes and vinyl records. A playlist also allows us to explore some of the sound works from the Centre Pompidou's New Media Arts collection: with Kathy Acker, Glenn Branca, Karen Finley, John Giorno, Michael Gira, Richard Hell, Arto Lindsay and Sonic Youth, among others.


Curator: Nicolas Ballet, associate curator, New Media Arts Collection.

Related programmes:

Vernissage, February 1, 2023:

Performance by Rhys Chatham, 8:00 pm

Rhys Chatham will present an excerpt from a new solo performance for electronically modified electric guitar and transversal flutes for the opening of the exhibition “Who You Staring At? Visual Culture of the 1970s and 1980s No Wave Scene”.

As part of the series “Vidéo et après”:

February 8, 2023, 7:00 pm, Cinema 2

Sex, Power, and Control: The Art of Beth B. Beth B in conversation with Nicolas Ballet

March 8, 2023, 7:00 pm, Cinema 2

XS: The Opera Opus An Operatic Transvaluation of No Wave Aesthetics by Joseph Nechvatal and Rhys Chatham

Associated programming, in partnership with the Cinéma L'Archipel and The Film Gallery:

February 9, 2023, 7:30 pm, Cinema L'Archipel

Screening of the documentary Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (2019) by Beth B, in the presence of the director.

From February 10 to March 04, 2023, The Film Gallery

Exhibition ""Who You Staring At?" B-SIDE!", as part of the exhibition on the no wave scene of the 1970s and 1980s at the Centre Pompidou.

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