October 29, 2009 - Chelsea - part of the CCW Graduate School Launch
Laureana Toledo introduces her fan documentary on The Limit – a (fictional) “Sheffield band from Mexico”. Followed by a conversation with curator Gavin Wade.
“As a response to the commission of doing a piece of art in Sheffield addressed to an imaginary spectator that hates art, I decided to put together a cover band that would only play covers from bands from Sheffield – Pulp, Def Leppard, Human League, ABC, Joe Cocker and the Arctic Monkeys. The line up would be a very simple one: drums, guitar, bass, and a singer who played a little electronic piano. The band is named after a cult club in Sheffield, where most of the original bands had played, and that shut its doors in 1992; its members are musicians from four of the most important groups from the Mexican rock scene– Bengala, Zoé, DiscoRuido and Café Tacvba.
Very few people in England know of these bands. People in Mexico know lots of Sheffield bands (and from Birmingham, and from Manchester, and from Bristol…). Disguised as a 30 minute fan documentary, and accompanied by the publication of an artist book disguised as a magazine, The Limit investigates how information and pop culture are digested, how colonialism is still activating our fantasies and expectations, and how the secondary role of women around rock bands is funnily reversed."
A few thoughts:
- The concept underpinning the project is fascinating, a creative and playful (literally) approach to exploring cultural difference through direct encounter.
- Much of the film focused on the band's "practical" engagement: rehearsing, travelling to the UK, playing their two gigs. There was little representation of them interfacing with locals. While vox pops, intercut with scenes of the band, provide a platform for residents of Sheffield (apparently) to comment on their knowledge of Mexico (which was consistently limited, mostly to food) and their thoughts on the band (which was largely positive), there wasn't a single instance of the band actually talking to anyone from Sheffield--not even anyone in England. This absence is made even more conspicuous when, after being invited for "a curry" (an English tradition, according to the interviewee), they declined in favour of partying--which appeared to be done in private in a hotel room, where they reviewed a recording of their gig. Apparently, the band also missed a radio interview and a presentation scheduled for the next day. Toledo defended these choices, their absence as performative: they were enacting typical "rock star" behaviour by opting out. It seemed to me this was a missed opportunity to engaged with the context they were ostensibly exploring through their song. A similar situation occurred during the Q&A following Toledo's talk. It was a closed conversation between the artist and curator Gavin Wade. Sitting in the audience, I experience pangs of voyeurism like those I had watching the film.
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