Christmas on Earth Continued
Mrac Musée régional d'art contemporain Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée
05.11.2017 > 18.03.2018
Curator: Sandra Patron
Through sound and visual collages inspired as much by the history of art as by pop culture, science and magic, for several years, Maxime Rossi has been developing work deeply influenced by music, its dramatic methods, its sample and remix techniques, its collaborative production logic and the direct and emotional relationship that music initiates with spectators. His work has a mischievous way of evoking musical icons who are part and parcel of our collective imagination: from scores by Frédéric Chopin soiled with stains from the tree overhanging the musician’s grave (Père Lachaise, 2010), to the participation of Emma Daumas – a former Star Academy singer, for his project Sister Ship (2015)
– Maxime Rossi acts like a conductor who reshapes the temporality of his exhibitions like a kinetic opera. His exhibition at the Mrac extends and develops these many challenges. Specifically designed for the museum, Christmas on Earth Continued looks like a Sixties psychedelic counterculture thriller. The project’s starting point is the song Louie Louie, a world-wide hit popularised in 1963 by the rock group The Kingsmen and subsequently covered hundreds of times by such varied and famous artists as Chuck Berry or Iggy Pop. This hit had its ups and downs. The totally incomprehensible words uttered by singer Jack Ely aroused the suspicions of Edgar J. Hoover, the fearsome director of the FBI, who feared they were pornographic. At the height of the Cold War, a period of intense paranoia in the United States, FBI agents spent months deconstructing the song searching for encrypted messages and ascertaining whether there was a so-called obscene side to it. The title Louie Louie would have been sung by Pink Floyd in 1967 at the music festival Christmas on Earth Continued. This was a notorious failure, both artistically and financially, and a backdrop to the physical decline of rockers such as Syd Barrett and Jimi Hendrix.
The name of the festival was also a tribute to the 1963 film of the same name by experimental video maker Barbara Rubin, a legendary figure of the American underground scene, close to Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground. The film is an ode to youth and their torment, to sex and rock ’n’ roll with ground-breaking, psychedelic and erotic aesthetics, and would become a milestone. From these interlaced stories, in which real facts, alternative facts and rumours are intertwined, Maxime Rossi formed a rock group in London, Dirty Song, led by David Toop, a leading figure in ambient music, who worked both with singer Brian Eno and visual artist John Latham. With the bewitching and guttural voice of Phil Minton, a brilliant vocalist who notably worked with visual artist Christian Marclay, Dirty Song offers an improvisation on the song Louie Louie, based on annotations from the FBI file, as well as on Pink Floyd’s instrumental version that the group composed for John Latham. Maxime Rossi films Phil Minton’s vocal performance in the studio, which results in a film with an undeniable shamanic power. In a random computer generated rotation system, images of the singer blend and merge with those shot at Solfatara in Italy, a crater of sulfurous mud. The viscous eruptions are a metaphor for the allegedly obscene aspect of the words and the mishmash of lyrics proposed by Phil Minton’s interpretation.
All these elements, from the musical improvisation to the Dirty Song record sleeve, are subsequently mixed and recomposed in the space of the museum. Maxime Rossi presents an immersive installation that composes a musical and visual score, with the different diffracted and distributed sounds and images acting as evidence of this imaginary psychedelic event. Thanks to an algorithm that continually reassembles the film images in real time, the exhibition is orchestrated to play versions and interpretations that are neither re-circulated nor repeated, providing a full sensory experience to spectators as if at a live concert, in the form of a contemporary dedication to the song Louie Louie.
Maxime Rossi is a French artist born in 1980, and lives and works in Paris. The Joseph Allen (Paris) and Tiziana di Caro (Naples) galleries both feature his work. He graduated in 2005 from the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts of Lyon. His work has been exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Museo Madre in Naples, La Halle des bouchers in Vienna, as well as at the Biennale of Sydney in 2014, the Kunstverein