Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Residents: ego without an identity

Since the 70s, a group of west coast (maybe?) sound artists have been releasing albums and multimedia works under the groups name The Residents. Over sixty albums, more than a couple of music videos and short films, three CD-ROM projects, ten DVDs, seven major world tours later, their audience still doesn't know who they are. And so I find myself asking, what would Cage think of this. Their work aside, -which is admirable in its own right- this ego they've created via the mystery of their identities combined with elaborate costuming and self-promotion most surely goes up there with the egos of Beethoven and Bach... but is it really ego if they refuse to tell you who they are?

By keeping their identities out of their work, they inhibit the listener to place upon their art an identity to which it is attached, and any association with figures or persons is imposed by the listener, unvalidated by the creators themselves. They create an odd parody of the cult of personality promoted and utilized by so many musical groups, while at the same time freeing the listener/viewer to observe the piece on its own merit, without having to separate the experience of the art from its creators -an easier thing to do when you don't have a clue who they are.

Fun to think about. Interesting. Anonymity allows for the art to stand on its own merits, without being propped up by its artist. I like that. Reminds me of the "dance without music" idea.

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