History 104: Western Civilization since 1648
Lecture: 1985 to Now

The Arts

Installation art

Although it has its origins in the spatial conceptions of cubism and modernism, installation art became a post-industrial form of its own. Installation art is designed to place the viewer within the space of the artwork. In the early part of this century, much of the emphasis has been on interactivity, where the viewer is part of the art. Some examples:

Belgian artist Carsten Höller began as a scientist of insect behavior, and his work combines art and science. "Light Corner" (2003) contains 1800 light bulbs flashing at a frequency that makes colors on the retina when the viewer's eyes are closed, creating a warm glow inside the viewer's body. Light Corner: two walls coming together, both covered with light bulbs
Torres billboard: empty bed with indentations on both pillows Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957 -1996) combined his personal experiences with public conceptual art installations. In one exhibit, he piled wrapped candy in a corner and invited viewers to take one, replenished from an endless supply. His billboard installations of the early 90s included this one ("Untitled", 1991), seen as both a tribute to his lover (lost to AIDS) and a transfer of private emotion into the public arena.
Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco's work Long Yellow Hose (1996) is an outdoor installation (it was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla for awhile). The hose leads the viewer through the sculpture garden for 1200 feet. It marks the beginning and end of your journey, and all points in between, providing a weird kind of unity to the garden and reminders about water and technology. Orozco's hose winding its way through sculptures in a garden

Commercial music

MTV (Music Television) first went on the air in 1981, showing videos of popular music. The first video they showed was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the British group The Buggies. Madonna showing off her behindAs it evolved, MTV became the goal of music groups, who cast their hit singles into visual song-and-dance productions instead of just filming their performances. The queen of the video was Madonna. Madonna was skilled at using visuals to market her particular brand of sexually-charged music; I couldn't even begin to list her imitators. Michael Jackson was also one of the early pioneers, creating first-class production numbers. At first, MTV was edgy and trendy. It has since become establishment, banning anti-war videos during the recent war against Iraq in order to save viewers' "sensibilities".

Sting playing guitar and singingThe 1980s and 1990s saw many groups reflecting the commercial trends of the times, although some made their careers bucking the trend. Sting (now Sir Gordon Matthew Sumner), British member of the band The Police, is well-known for his activism. That is also true of bands like U2. But in general, this era has seen an increasing desire to market music to the masses, using the video to pull audiences in to buy music. The popularity of the Internet for music distribution became apparent in the late 1990s, as people downloaded music using file-sharing programs like Napster. The recording industry is still getting used to that concept.

Tatu in underwear kissing

In the early 2000s, there was an example of highly commercial music -- t.A.T.u., the hottest sensation from Russia, combined techno music with teenage lesbian chic (a twisted version of the personal and the public).

Check out the video from their 2002 album 200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane.

Ya Soshla S Uma
English version: All The Things She Said

Tatu sharing a drink, also in underwear
"Ya Soshla S Uma" ("I've Lost My Mind")
Latinized Russian lyrics -or- Cyrillic Russian lyrics
Lyrics translated into English
"All the Things She Said"
English lyrics

The girls (Lena Katina, born 1984, and Yulia Volkova, born 1985) were "cast" by Ivan Shapovalov, a "script-writer/director/producer" (elsewhere also claiming to be a filmaker and former child psychologist), who formed the group in 2000. The original story was that he discovered the two girls, childhood sweethearts, and made them famous. Actually, he held auditions at a studio, and chose the two independently out of 500 candidates. In an interview, Shapolvalov apparently admitted to getting the idea from kiddie porn websites. One journalist called t.A.T.u. the "Great Lesbian Pop Tart Swindle".

Tatu was thus a completely marketed, pre-fabricated, made-to-order music group catering to the Lolita crowd. Both the Russian and English versions of the hit single appear on the album, and use the same music though the lyrics are different. The original Russian lyrics are more internal, personal, painful, introspective. The English lyrics are typical pop with direct obsessiveness and no Tolstoyesque "Russianisms". The song, like the group, was created to cater to a particular youth market, so it's no surprise that they were so popular in Europe. Their young age and lesbian motif were shocking enough to cause controversy, and thus gain the support of youth against the older generation. They were Europe's more youthful answer to Britney Spears, times two.

At the end of the 2000s, European music (when it wasn't following Americans' fascination with retro music) began to demonstrate more regional sounds, almost as a counter movement to the political and economic trends toward unification. A good example of this is Maya (Eduard Marian Ilie), a young Romanian pop star whose dance music has captured Europe's music scene. The sophistication of eastern Europe, shown especially in his videos, points toward a future where the eastern countries have more say culturally at least.

AIDS and Art

The arts also got into the 2006 campaign for the prevention of AIDS, the sexually transmitted disease. Switzerland's campaign features particularly striking images and warnings that protection is always needed ("ici la protection est aussi requise").

Naked women fencing Naked men playing hockey

I am often asked to present examples of ways in which the European mentality about sex and the body is more progressive than the American mindset. I'm thinking this is a good example -- an ad graphically demonstrating that one doesn't engage in dangerous activities without protection using nudity.

Street art

To keep us up to date, a short video on Stik, with article: