The legendary group founded by Lou Reed and John Cale in 1965 and launched by Andy Warhol, well worth to be celebrated fifty years later. At the Philharmonie de Paris, “New York Extravaganza” is betting combine initiatory and insider travel. With some success.
Under-exposed at the time, even when it was run trendy New York, now subject of a major exhibition ( “New York Extravaganza” , running until August 21, 2016) at the Philharmonie de Paris, the Velvet Underground has always been an insider deal. They are certainly more numerous in 2016 than in 1966, but the name that is so brilliantly resonate all the shimmering softness of velvet and dark underground bitterness, remains a password whispered in a low voice to knowledgeable ears.
only the subsequent notoriety of Lou Reed, his most constant member, the holder, threw some light on five years of intense musical creation that its commercial success was low. haggard acute and chronic Manhattan of transvestites, junkies, etc. (Wildlife then ignored by pop) songs like Heroin , Waiting for the man or Sweet Jane were doomed to become timeless classics: their time had rejected them.
the Velvet was a time bomb, bomb fomented by disdainful fashions and propriety, discovering their music as they played it, making their sound and hyperurbain abrasive style, to change the next day, despite impressing them a legend made of friction, fasteners, jealousies exclusions. All this eventually freeze into a block whose perpetual black brilliance would radiate rock groups of generations but also filmmakers, painters, photographers, writers, designers, artists of all kinds.
Apart from Lou Reed the name most often associated with Velvet Underground is that of Andy Warhol, who was their producer, protector and Pygmalion. Who had the idea, but baroque pay, to associate the four black insects that were Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker, the mantis Nico, blond mannequin undermined all white. . The time of an album, the first stamped the famous banana, fetish among all fetishes
Warhol is a pitfall when it comes to organize an exhibition on the Velvet at station not get caught up in the media spiral – already celebrated in museums all over the world. A major réusssites of this “New York Extravaganza” designed by Christian Fevret and Carole Mirabello, is leaving Andy Pope in his place: critical, yes, but that of a godfather, not a first invasive role. As a challenge, the reception room at the Philharmonie is shared between a “father” of Velvet, Allen Ginsberg, whose sound poem America while on a nine-divided screen scrolls video editing Jonathan Caouette, “son” of Velvet.
the focus deliberately on the roots of the group sign both the ambition to dazzle in sight to specialists by the wealth of unpublished archives ( it succeeded), and the all over again for those who have only a very vague idea of the case. A mounting film alternating individual course Lou Reed (petty bourgeois son leaving Brooklyn for the dreary suburb of Freeport) and John Cale (native Wales, fleeing his prole environment for academic splendor of orchestral music ) until their decisive meeting in New York, is typical of this approach
the choice of set design, entrusted to Matali Crasset, are variously inspired. silhouette cut from each of the musicians’ gondola “(blah), broadsheet to leaf for each of them, vast” tipi “wooden structure, where you can lie on mattresses for viewing movies as in an attic … we yet appreciate the overall aesthetics and the desire to create a fluid circulation (check the days of big crowds), and independent soundscapes (test day …).
in short the supplied headphones to the input is indispensable to access specific terminals: interviews, excerpts, songs, etc. One can taste it without the pictures of Nat Finkelstein, Billy Name and Stephen Shore, a film by Danny Williams and Ronald Nameth … or venture (watch innocent eyes) in the B (l) ack Room where is projected the Christmas on earth Barbara Rubin, the young filmmaker friend of Bob Dylan, who plugged Warhol on Velvet: naked and painted body (black / white), wholesale sexes Plan (male / female), and background music for the pantomime … sweet old songs played on the radio, that day of 1963. contrast Effect anticipating about the paradoxes of the Velvet Underground.
once established connections with the Fluxus group current (Terry Riley, La Monte Young …) and the new York underground film (Jonas Mekas …), the exhibition chooses to leave on the dazzling magnetism, both individually and collectively, the musicians. This is blatant with Lou Reed, throb and cynical eel; John Cale, mad experimenter to the tunes of country squire thug; Nico, the moult Pinup with Slavic cheekbones pop Valkyrie hieratic of the Factory, is truly astounding.
Sterling Morrison, the lanky guitarist, and Maureen Tucker, the little tomboy who played harvester (sometimes) standing round the most photogenic rock band in history, and perhaps the most heterogeneous as: what were they doing together, these five? Unprecedented music. Each of their gesture is now charged with the aura of myth. Including when a pickup concert shows us that dancing improvised whip by Gerard Malanga and Edie Sedgwick (other Goddess of Factory) while the V.U. play Venus in furs , was more like a schoolboy joke than anything else.
In fact, this assemblage of circumstances, at the margin of a culture-cons hippie where Reed, Cale & amp; co. felt elsewhere in exile did not last. The exhibition itself, in turn, tends to fade after 1968. Less valuable documents, less sulphurous images, less crazy, less excitement. Note that even when any object (first pressing, poster) related to the Velvet is a rarity, fetish electricity continues to run until the last period of the group, when Lou Reed, who dismissed the “threat” John Cale, found himself a kind of doppelgänger in the person of placid Doug Yule.
however, the last room, dedicated to the heirs, obviously suffers in comparison. Some photos of Nan Goldin or Antoine D’Agata seem to be there for the form, not to mention musical terminals from which flow covers of Velvet by all species Strokes, Morrissey, Sonic Youth, Björk, etc. – None reaching the sublime to the original impurity. The posterity of the group, so alive as it is, can probably be sufficient to account for its influence, born of enforced darkness. Hence the interest of this exhibition at the risk of too harsh lights of cultural propriety.