Artists like, Jon Rafman or Paolo Cirio, who work primarily with Google Street View, have created images that are evocative and disturbing, often blurring the line of legal privacy issues. While capturing the individuals who fill the streets, alleys, and lawns of the world is captivating, these artists have drawn on the public and an additional tool to conceptualize the public sphere. Since 2007, the launch of the panoramic technology featured on Google Maps and Google Earth, has become an eccentric and often easy way to view places one may never go or places one desires to see.
Unlike Rafman or Cirio, Marc Fischer loves hardcore music.
The artist and administrator of the project Public Collectors and member of Temporary Services became interested in understanding a location through visual exploration in 2011. He and his wife were looking to buy their first house and he states that he was, “spending a lot of time on Google Street View, looking up houses on real estate listings before trying to see anything in person, much less look at the interior. I came to enjoy that as a way of trying to understand a place.”
In June 2014, Fischer began to riffle through music reviews of underground musicians and discovered band addresses from demo tapes in the fanzine Maximum Rocknroll, a publication which was a punk hub for music reviews. The conception of his project, Hardcore Architecture, begins here. Essentially, young underground musicians would mail in demo tapes to MRR through the U.S. postal service and the tape would be reviewed and published. Fischer collected the addresses of the musicians and began to plug them into Google Maps Street View for a closer look of where the underground music scene was rooted. “I liked seeing where the bands I listened to came from.”
Hardcore Architecture became concrete when a Tumblr was created and screenshots of houses and buildings correlating to the addresses found on the demo tapes and in the archives were uploaded to the account. Directly below each image is the bands name, the demo tape information, and an excerpt of the published review (addresses are not included for privacy). Maximum Rocknroll published 79 issues in the 1980s and Fischer states that he is “about 65% finished exploring back issues of the magazine.” Many of the fanzines can be found at Harold Washington Library Center which “incredibly, has a complete run of the magazine that you can request from the 8th floor reference desk.”
The project recently opened at The Franklin, based out of Edra Soto’s and Dan Sullivan’s home in East Garfield Park. The space features a selection of images and text from the overall collection of screenshots that the artist has accumulated since 2014. Rather than printing all of the pieces in color, the artist chose black and white for the majority of the exhibition, although a few images remain in color. The grittiness and angst ridden agitation that is incredibly singular to hardcore culture is characterized by the visual abrasiveness of the black and white and poor resolution quality. Additionally, Fischer’s choice to tape the images to the wall of the gallery space symbolizes the raw and radical DIY culture of zines, hardcore and the underground. Many of the collected images are full of irony as they juxtapose one another with location and place vs. title and review dialogue—the works inform us that creativity can spawn anywhere, in a manicured lawn or in a city dwelling.
“I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia and started an underground music ‘zine when I was 17 years old. Part of the impetus to do that was because I was pretty unexcited by my surroundings too,” says Fischer. The buildings in the exhibition sit polite and pretty, often times contradicting the band name to the point of laugh-out-loud absrudity. Although it may seem like a paradox, it’s the core of the entirety of the exhibition. The band title, “Suburban Mutilation”, rests below an image of a crisp green lawn that is the foundation for a one garage, one story, 70s style home in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “In many cases you can really feel the urge to break out of a quiet, sometimes rural, existence by making loud, ugly music. It becomes easy to imagine young people needing to invent their own fun when I navigate certain areas and see how little there appears to be” says Fischer. The review, usually 50 words or less, adds even more interest to the project and allows the viewer to engage with the voice of MRR.
During the duration of the opening reception, viewers knowledgable of the hardcore music scene were quick to point at images, saying things like, “That band was fucking hard”, or, “These guys were sick” and off you were, down a rabbit hole of nostalgia and a remembrance for what was. The conversation about the work is unique and exclusive to a certain individual; however, it leaves outside viewers interested in the music behind the white-washed kids who lived on the crisp green lawns. Fischer agrees saying, “The houses are so ordinary most of the time, and I think the project calls up a lot of narratives that are under-represented in discussions of underground music culture. For example, behind many of these provocative band names, there are clearly a lot of really supportive parents who let their kids have a demo tape shipping operation out of their home, or a practice space in the basement or garage.” Certainly, not all of the homes included in Hardcore Architecture are a conventional home—the classes range from palm tree lined driveways like Mass Confusion and Broken Talent, to city slickers like Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore.
The exhibition, open until August 29th, features memorabilia that is encased in a display box, similar to a merch table, and includes band t-shirts, cassette tapes and photography from the bands Cryptic Slaughter and the The Dead Kennedys. Fischer says, “I’ve collected and saved things since childhood, and I definitely have a pretty hefty collection of records and ‘zines,” which have contributed to the physical exhibition in the gallery space. Hanging in the back left of the space, adjacent to the display box, is a correspondence between bassist Rob Nicholson and Marc Fischer. “Marc, what’s up?” begins the scratched note beneath a flyer that reads “Cryptic Slaughter Wants You”—an accompanying cartoon of Uncle Sam centers the piece for anti-establishment humor. To the right of the flyer is an address located in Santa Monica California—the urge to type the name into Google Maps suddenly becomes suspiciously evident.
Additionally, the visual display at The Franklin includes three physical publications from Public Collectors: an interview with photographer and filmmaker Bill Daniel, an interview with Les Evans from Cryptic Slaughter and a booklet of Hardcore Architecture with accompanying band names and color images. The latter briefly describes the history of hardcore underground culture and the formulation of the creative project by Marc Fischer and Public Collectors. In the Les Evans interview publication, the introduction includes a short message from Evans that states, “Just wanted to let you know that your photo of my old apartment in Santa Monica is 100% accurate,” and ends the message with, “I don’t think I understood how much of an influence my surroundings had on me until I got older.” The inclusion of the text creates a deeper understanding of a few individuals who were core to the music scene.
Throughout the entirety of the project, Fischer creates a dialogue between the music, the architecture and the artist, weaving together the banality of a home and the perpetual state of growing pains. While the project is still a work in progress, Fischer has plans for a future essay booklet that will focus on the “work of being a Google Street View driver”. The artist plans to have a upcoming exhibition at Outhaus in Urbana, Illinois. “Like the Franklin, it’s a small backyard space behind the house of two artists. I’m trying to keep things domestic!” says Fischer. The do-it-yourself attitude is such a large part of the arts community, specifically in Chicago, and has become an important approach to exhibiting work in the surrounding neighborhoods. The opening of apartment, home and backyard galleries is analogous to the DIY ‘zine culture which is celebrated in the work of Fischer and Public Collectors.
“I’m not sure what I was expecting to find, but I immediately realized that this would be a very different way of visualizing that history.”