Text: Natasha Stagg
Where is sincerity's place in art? It's a complicated question with a time-sensitive answer. As long as art will react against sincerity, art will welcome it back, as if visiting home after a particularly self-serving couple years in its university's study-abroad program. We can find comfort in irony after painful dealings with more genuine-intentioned emotion, and we can look for humor in art when art has proved itself as worthy of ridicule. And after all that, we are ready to be hurt again.
The 1990s were a devastatingly sincere time—for music, for fashion and for art. It looked so easy to be that melodramatic, but now that all of the whimsy and drama of 90s grunge and R&B are making comebacks, we're seeing again that it's easier to play the fool than to be a fool in love.
On Sunday, MoMA's PS1 was met by a wave of romanctic affection when Riot of Perfume presented the video (real video) art of Grant Singer Adam Jones, the first live performance of singer-songwriter Gambles (on acoustic guitar), a set by Starred (now with a real drumset and slide guitar) and spoken word by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.
Guests of the museum could be found splayed about the dome's floor during sets as if in a planetarium, cutting class and getting high on something over the counter—as if that was still something any of us did. But Jones's footage of VHS tracking, boxy "2000" date and all, wasn't the rippled mistake of a high school senior project started twelve years ago. Instead it was the bright-eyed perspective of a high schooler given a handheld, paired with the precision of a professional editor.
The music, too, had a youthful quality, paying homage to idols of earnest Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Stevie Nicks: all artists who would place love above academic art, which may be the direction in which the Long Island City gallery is heading. But there was a level of experience, too, which is threaded through all of director Klaus Biesenbach's more explicitly rock and roll picks as of late. Call it a more optimistic heroin chic. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's delightful reading, for example, placed empahsis on cadence, not vocabulary. Coming from an experimental-rock legend, the nursery-rhyme style, like some of the more indulgent lyrics of Starred's Liza Thorn, is an earned pastiche.