I have no desire for the only kinds of success that are available. The other day I heard the cruelest question I ever expect to hear. Two composers met at a music festival in the Berkshires last summer and one of them said to the other: ‘Calvin, why are we both failures?’ That’s more cruel than any other question I ever heard. The other one answered him in a hurry: ‘I’m not a failure’, he said, ‘I am not a failure because I never wanted to be a success’. That’s the way I feel too. Nevertheless the fact remains that practically everyone is unhappy. Now if the idea of love supplanted the ideas of success and failure, how joyous everyone might be! and how different the quality of life! (Delmore Schwartz, The world is a wedding)


Our Platform Could Be Your Home

In the last decades of the past century, the indie scene was a sort of second home for all those kids who didn’t feel comfortable with everyday life, family, school, job, neighbourhood; because that world was boring, dumb, meaningless, because “it says nothing to me about my life”.

But it was in the 90s that this search for an alternative reached full maturity: it was not the desire of liberation from a too conservative society, like in the 60’s, or the Barkhtinian carnivalesque reaction to the pretentious cultural and artistic scene of the 70’s, and not even the urge to fight against an unfair political system like in the 80’s, but simply the need to escape from a superficial dull reality derived from years of cocky yuppieness and entertainment-driven society. This time the new ‘transgression’ was a shameless slacker attitude, a sense of ennui, anomie, naivety, carelessness, disillusion. The new ‘movement’ was the lack of movement, as perfectly described by Douglas Coupland. The new laws of this generation X were: low profile, low fidelity; no hype, no fame.

As explained by Michael Azerrad in Our Band Could Be Your Life, the emergent indie scene of the 80’s, made by kids without access to the wellness of modern society, determined how to build a new parallel system from scratch: diy, networking and jam econo, but also stealing the tools and the know-how of the capitalist system and using them to your own advantage. Furthermore, constant relationships, exchanges, cooperation, support among the single local scenes contributed to develop a sense of community and self-confidence. Then, once political, social and economic motivations were exhausted, the idea of “alternative” had risen to a purely existential level.

1992, the year the ‘new punk’ broke the mainstream scene, revealed this alternative world to a larger number of kids looking for something more real. The alternative scene had won, as indie rock critic Gina Arnold enthusiastically announced, it had conquered the market and the popular culture, or at least that was the general feeling. But that victory was a double-edge sword. The dramatic fall of Cobain’s parable was a big lesson for everyone: do not get in bed with the mainstream. The reaction was, from one side, the return to the lowest forms of music, a new primitivism, and on the other the contamination of pop music with anti-pop genres, the so-called post-rock. Each local scene was stylistically peculiar and unique, but the attitude was the same: the search for new unsullied virgin lands, too weird to be attractive for the capitalistic market.

In this way, ‘Indie Scene’ became a totally alternative parallel dimension, a magical place where you could find all those unusual ideas, exciting sounds, weird stories, unlikely heroes you were looking for; but also a world that seemed much more real than the everyday reality, an entire planet where you could finally feel at home. In that proto-internet era, each object (a cassette tape, a cdr with photocopied cover, a fanzine, a pin, a sticker, a poster, a t-shirt) coming from that dreamy reality, especially for all those kids who lived in isolated country towns, was a sort of treasure, a talisman, a physical proof that out there, somewhere, that world existed for real. It was just a teenage dream, but that special power we used to find in those objects was something that defined that generation, the last one before the digital revolution.

Today, the Indie Scene seems in true peril, there is no more an alternative to a demeaning capitalism: it is a totalitarian all-embracing reality in which talking about alternatives seems so naïf and outdated. Today indie labels are simply acting as small majors; underground is not an attitude anymore, but just a financial status; ‘against’ is a meaningless word; ‘outsider’ means nothing but loser; ‘indie’ is just a trendy category for chain store shelves representing dummy fashion rock kids looking for fun and fame. The Scene has been fragmented in thousands of micro-scenes with no connection, lacking that common sense of living according to a shared attitude, so to cause the loss of that comfortable sense of identification in a larger community sharing the same problems, ambitions, feelings, in opposition to the fake reality of society of spectacle. Spotify gave us access to any kind of music, but it is hard to draw a distinction. Social media allows everyone to express his opinion, but his voice sounds so desperate. In this digitalized era, everything is flattened in one single big social system: appear or die.

YHIWYH wants to bring back that special feeling of physical connection with the Scene, a solid concrete stand against the maelstrom of flimsy appearances. The return to vinyl was of course part of that need, but the vinyl market has been already absorbed by the system: indie labels are nowadays struggling to have a minuscule space on the record store windows among the tons of vinyl reissues of mainstream pop and rock classics, and the record store day is by now …you know. In a sense, even the hipster phenomenon was an attempt to re-establish the importance of the relationship with real objects, to turn back on that enchanting power that the objects we love possess. That respect for well-done things was a form of respect for man’s ability to shape the world for the better. But once again the market, as a vampire, has devitalized that spirit, transforming the hipster into an embarrassing figurine for the sign of posh bars and hairdressers.

Original artworks made by true indie heroes are more than simple art objects: these are powerful magical madstones that can free you from an oppressive poisoned reality, protect you from the constant attacks of the media system, and let the Scene regain strength supporting those who keep it alive. It is a small tiny act, of course, but we think we have to begin from somewhere if we do not want to drown in the crippling shitstorm we are constantly exposed today.

Original drawing by Daniel Johnston - signed artwork

low profile,
low fidelity,
no hype,
no fame.

Original papercut by Jad Fair of Half Japanese: Signed Artwork on sale

a solid concrete stand against the maelstrom of flimsy appearances

they share a similar nature, that explains why music lovers are often also visual art passionates and collectors

Limited edition photograph by Rob Mazurek - signed artwork

in this material world, we need a physical connection that keeps us linked to that other world

Limited edition photograph by Stephan Stephensen aka President Bongo of Gus Gus - signed artworkLimited edition photograph by Stephan Stephensen aka President Bongo of Gus Gus - signed artwork
Limited edition photograph by Stephan Stephensen aka President Bongo of Gus Gus - signed artwork
Original drawing by Tim Kerr Of The big Boys

Seismographic Writing

What are these drawings?
Why did I do them?
Will they be of interest to anyone else?
Of any use?
Do they need to be useful?

With these questions David Byrne introduced his collection of enigmatic drawings of plant-like diagrams in the book Arboretum. We could ask ourselves the same questions as music lovers when we are attracted by visual art.

Byrne’s answer is that visual art acts as a kind of self-therapy that allows us to express with the hand what we cannot express verbally. This could explain for sure our desire to strengthen our connection with the world the music represents through non musical objects. This can justify the return of vinyl in the era of digital music: its large cover enriches, explains, completes or even completely distorts, giving it a whole new meaning to the music it holds inside. Visual elements are, in this sense, complementary to sound elements. But, as Adorno explained, this is true because they share a similar nature, that explains why music lovers are often also visual art enthusiasts and collectors: they are both non-denominative languages. Of course a song could tell a story, but its lyrics have different meaning or less power without the music; in the same way, a painting could of course represent a figure, a scene, a real event, but what makes it an ‘artwork’ is the constructive/expressive tension among the graphic elements, something not explicitly represented graphically. Both music and visual art are non-linguistic, non-subjective, extra-rational écriture that crackles like electricity. Adorno called them ‘seismographic writings’, because both contain, behind their communicative facade, a trembling mysterious energy that reveals something not explicable for the logical synthesizing ‘I’. What we are looking for, in music as well as in visual art, is indeed this exciting gooseflesh that breaks off the insignificant daily reality. Both music and art still today can open up that magical world in which we used to live in the Indie Scene. Any form of music or art without that seismographic effect, any writing that just expresses the reality, is simply, as Adorno put it, kitsch: “kitsch is nothing but mimesis rendered false by reification”, that is exactly what we feel when we experience most of the commercial products. Of course it doesn’t mean that all mainstream songs or works of art are garbage or that independent stuff is always great. There are so many great albums produced by majors and tons of ridiculous productions from thousands of indie bands. What we want to celebrate here is not the superficial idea of ‘music from independent labels’, but the attitude to be truly independent from the mechanism of the commercial music and art scene, a mechanism that we can reassume in the obsessive search of approval of the ego of the artist offering something easily recognizable for the public (another definition of kitsch). This subjugation to a common idea of beauty is what independent artists disavow. In this sense, independent music and art can be understood as part of the so-called art brut: ‘Art Brut stands in stark contrast to artistic processes oriented solely towards aesthetics, trapped in their cultural lineage’, we can read in the introduction of the marvelous ‘abcd, une collection d’art brut’ catalogue, ‘from the spectator’s perspective it points to the invasive, brutal and fascinating effect of disclosure produced by the works so named. From the creator’s perspective it speaks of authenticity and of the intimacy of the invented forms with a subterranean world that is usually obscured by the banal masks of everyday consciousness”. What we are looking for in the artworks we propose is that same thing we find in the music we love: a hint of the extra-ordinary.

But if it is true that music seems to have an alien essence, more purely spiritual, if only for its constitutive immateriality, it is undeniable how, in this material world, we need a physical connection that keeps us linked to that other world. In this sense, the art object has a higher power than music, because it allows us to keep that bond stable. And more immediate too: as Kandinsky said, “music has, at its disposal, the duration of time, while painting does not possess this advantage but presents to the spectator its entire message in one single instance, something music is incapable of doing” (“On The Spiritual In Art”). Not for nothing if we love an album, we feel the urge to possess a physical copy of it, so we can reignite the connection with it even when we do not have the time to listen to it, just with a quick glance at the album cover. Furthermore, in the age of digitalization, any piece of art is transformed in information and ‘information carries no special authority within itself’, said the art critic John Berger; artworks ‘have become ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free’, while original physical art pieces are ‘silent and still in a sense that information never is’ (John Berger, The ways of seeing). For these reasons many older music lovers consider listening to vinyl as a sacred ritual, today more than ever. But the new generations, who have not experienced that way of listening to music, have understood that it doesn’t matter if you actually listen to the albums through the physical media. We may not even have the player for that particular medium: simply entering into contact with the physical object is sufficient to activate that magical process. When we find ourselves before a physical artwork the continuous noise of the infosphere is suspended and we enter in the contemporaneity, through ‘the immediacy of their testimony’, Berger says. The current scene that most keeps alive the spirit of the indie scene, the vaporwave, is known for producing its albums mainly on cassette, a medium for which almost no one has the player anymore; and going even further, some vaporwave artists have started producing albums on minidiscs, a medium for which almost nobody has ever had the player. This is because they understood before and more than others how much today, thanks to digitalization, the physical media has lost its facade as a mere means, a data container, and has revealed itself in its purest essence: a talisman, a magic key, a ring of power with which to reactivate the memory of a richer and deeper world, which everyday life tends to make us forget.

While music can give you the intense but temporary, elusive experience of the other world, the art object is a fixed alien presence within this world, a permanent obstacle, an element of continuous disturbance, an interference persistent in our everyday reality. The work of art is an irreverent servant; it is a vulgar guest who spoils your elegant dinner, an irritating killjoy. The work of art is punk in essence. We buy it, we take it home to decorate our wall, but there’s nothing to do, it is uncontrollable, unmanageable, indomitable. It disturbs, distracts, makes noise, derides us, embarrasses us, constantly attracts attention. It is a great pain in the ass, it is a stray cat that you have naively thought you could adopt, tame. If that picture that you hung in the living room does not cause all of this, then it is not a work of art, it is a product, a kitsch artifact, a piece of this world, banal but recognizable, peaceful, polite, that does its duty, which guarantees satisfaction to its owner. On the contrary, what we guarantee you with the works of the artists we want to present is, to quote Coum Transmissions, pure and total disappointment.