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Infinite Mercy

Alan Suicide Vega – Infinite Mercy? Let U$ Pray!
Mathieu Copeland
(p. 30-31)

A seminal figure of the New York alternative art scene since the late 1960's and pioneer of minimalist electronic music as cofounder of the mythical band Suicide, Alan Vega has been a singularly influential artist and musician, turning Punk into the manifesto of a reason to live.

In 1969, Alan Suicide (born Alan Bermowitz in 1938 in New York City, where he still lives and works) was a founding member of ‘MUSEUM, A Project of Living Artists', one of the first alternative artist-run spaces in New York. Open 24/7 and dedicated to all forms of art – music, visual arts, cinema – it instantly became a showcase for a great number of artists and musicians. In this saturated environment, he who from 1977 onward was to be called Alan Vega found an ideal athmosphere for implementing his musical and artistic goals.

In the late ‘50s, Alan Bermowitz studied with Ad Reinhardt and Kurt Seligmann at Brooklyn College, focusing initially on painting and drawing. In the late 1960's, his interests shifted toward light: he created his first ‘light sculptures': assemblages of diverse objects including bulbs, cables, televisions and neon of every shape and colour. Antiaesthetic, anti-formalist, the equivalent of an ‘un-made in the USA' Arte Povera, Vega's work embraced the contemporary reality in which he was immersed. Rejecting the idea of treating art as a precious object, he recycled his own works and the scraps of reality that surrounded him. From 1969 to 1973, he relentlessly re-arranged his light sculptures, remodelling them according to his successive solo exhibitions; this again in 2002 for his solo show at Deitch Projects in New York or in 2009 for his retrospective at the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, where he ‘reworked' his past earlier creations into new pieces. As a logical parallel, for his last exhibition in 1975 at OK Harris (the gallery that first brought him to light in 1970), Alan Vega went to the streets to gather the raw materials for his works and presented them in the gallery. After the exhibition, he returned them to their primary reality by throwing them back to their origins.

This book consists of a long interview with Alan Vega, as well as discussions with and shared memories from a wide range of his most notable collaborators and colleagues: writer and curator Edit DeAk, with whom Alan was to write in the early 1970's a long part of his artistic adventure, particularly through Art-Rite (a facsimile of Art-Rite 13 issue also opens this book, 24 pages entirely realised by Alan Suicide in 1977); his avant-garde co-pioneer Marty Rev, who, through Suicide created an important page of the rock and punk history; artist and filmmaker Paul ‘Cool P' Liebegott, who accompanied Alan from the onset of MUSEUM until the release of the first Suicide album in 1977; Ric Ocasek, an influential musician, champion and collector of Alan's art, and since 1979 frequent producer of Suicide's and Alan Vega's records; musician and artist Marc Hurtado who, either in solo or with his band Etant Donnés, contributes to the brightness of the Vega star; filmmaker Philippe Grandrieux, who as an echo to their joint endeavour ‘Sombre' (Vega having realised the soundtrack to the movie) offers a dive into the dark area of filmmaking; and finally, musician, writer and spoken-word artist Henry Rollins, who through his words worked every page of ‘Let U$ Pray', the 16-page booklet specially assembled by Alan Vega to conclude this publication, thus revealing an up-front and uncompromising reading of our contemporary reality.

This fundamental work reminds us of the need to accept an art that is not the production of objects to be fetishised, but rather to embrace the transient reality of all things, and to deny all adoration and idolatry. We are torn between the resignation of wishing for An Infinite Mercy and the possible comfort that emerges from these fatal and ironical words found by Alan Vega in some newspapers: Let U$ Pray. Let us pray for the advent of Big Business, let us pray for the advent of the United States of Big Business, let us pray for a part of that Big Business, let us pray for the downfall of Big Business, or again, simply let us pray... Since the late 1960's, Alan Suicide Vega has been developing a radical and uncompromising commitment, turning his art into the tool for society's suicide to better enable its redemption – to which we're tempted to add: $o be it!
Alan Vega : autre titre

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