November 25, 2007

Inside Dave Muller's head

"Dave Muller: As Below, So Above," Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA. Through October 12, 2008.

The exhibition incorporates a wall-sized, diagrammatic timeline of chart-topping rock hits—found in Reebee Garofalo and Steve Chapple’s 1977 book Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Here to Pay—with an iPod shuffle-like radio station created by Muller that broadcasts a non-repeating soundtrack drawn from his personal collection of over 15,000 digital albums. In the Boston Globe, Geoff Edgers points out some of the legal questions involved with the installation. "Muller's use of the chart has created a complication. The artist considers his use of it appropriation; he likens it to the way a rapper might sample an older song. Though it is standard in the music world to pay royalties for such samples, in the art world, images and texts are regularly appropriated without compensation. Muller doesn't hide where the chart came from, even painting a roughly 2 1/2-by-3-foot panel featuring detailed information on Garofalo and Chapple's book as part of the mural. Garofalo, though, says he has mixed emotions about Muller's use of his chart. 'On the positive side, I get a thrill when I see a piece of work I did blown up to a 20-foot or 30-foot art mural in art institutions around the world,' Garofalo says in a phone interview. But Garofalo says he was upset that Muller didn't call him before he came to town to let him know about the commission. He learned of it from a friend who happened to visit the ICA and see Muller and his crew installing the chart. Garofalo says it frustrates him that the ICA's press release for the show doesn't mention him. 'It's complicated,' says Garofalo. 'In this instance, I feel like the term appropriation is a difficult term. In fact he's using 100 percent of the design, and it is the central design element of the installation.'

Also problematic is the sale of the radio station. Edgers wonders what the Recording Industry Association of America, known for suing college students who take part in illegal file-sharing, would think about Muller's willingness to sell a hard drive stocked with 399 days of music. 'It looks bad on paper because I'm basically selling a huge iPod,' Muller says. 'But in the world of fair use, in a way this is a self-portrait based on everything I've accumulated. If you're living with this piece and it's in your house, you're living inside Dave Muller's head. That's my take.'" Read more. For more info or to see images of Muller's work, check out his galleries, Barbara Gladstone and Blum & Poe.

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