Remix Culture at MoMA

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February 20, 2011 by Sarojini Seupersad

When I first walked into The Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibition Looking at Music 3.0,  the third installment of its kind exploring the relationship between art and music, I wasn’t sure if I was in a museum – or a club. It’s kind of dark, there’s loud music playing, there’s too many stylish people standing around talking about Jay-Z and lots more lounging on a large, velvety couch the size of a bed, waiting to be seen (or scene?). If it weren’t for the obviously misplaced older Upper East Side couple wearing sensible shoes and professor-approved tweed (this is the HIP HOP room. Are you lost?), I would have expected a VIP section with table service. But I’m in a museum and this is not a party, no matter how hard it’s trying to be.

Playing on a huge screen that’s standing floor-to-ceiling in the middle of the cramped room is A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” music video from 1991. Oh hey, I forgot Busta Rhymes used to be out-of-this-world fun, before he started hitting people for disrespecting his car. That’s a nice piece of nostalgia. Other walks down memory lane to high school (read: junior high) include original record jackets from the era, from the likes of Afrika Bambaataa and Run DMC, photos of the Beastie Boys and Salt n Pepa and vinyl-inspired artwork. It’s all pretty fun, but there’s nothing there that I can’t find in my dj friend’s apartment, minus the crowd. I should call him.

But honestly, seeing this on a super-big screen was mesmerizing:

I take terrible photos?

 Although the intent of the curator, Barbara London, was to physically link the 80’s and 90’s remixed style of music along with the original samples and artwork representing the remix movement, the overall feeling is disingenuous and tries too hard to look good instead of be good. Let’s not ignore that hip hop, in most earliest forms, was more of a political movement than an artistic one. Yes, music is inherently artistic and this show demonstrates that fully, however, the heart of the music is missing, and to me, that’s the whole point. This show feels more like a selective time capsule of meaningless artifacts to show our eager youngsters, not a real representation of the culture of music I grew up with.
The show runs through June 6, 2011. Find out more at

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