Hedi Slimane: Sonic

Music is a portrait of our time that keeps playing, its tune is eternally freedom
Art | 24 September 2014
Photography Hedi Slimane

“I met Hedi in a very organic way. He was living in LA and focusing on photography, he was a Girls fan. He got in-touch with my label about taking some artistic portraits for himself… my label didn’t exactly get back to him. Eventually someone at my label mentioned this to me and I said ‘Oh yes I know of him, I’d like to do that’. I knew of him from being a fan of Pete Doherty. Anyway, I went to his house and met him. Aside from the photo session we actually became friends, we discussed French music and Gore Vidal (he showed me the portrait he’d taken of him). There were several times after that that we spent time hanging out, or he took more photos, I had him over to my house. I think it was because of this friendship that the Saint Laurent campaign happened at all, he called me saying he’d taken the position there and asked me if I’d like to be part of the campaign. I said yes because I like him, I think otherwise I might’ve been too nervous. And he was the same to work with in this professional setting as the things we’d done before, very relaxed but very precise. He didn’t do any hair and make-up, he didn’t hand me off to a crew… It was something we did together, and something I remember very fondly.” – Christopher Owens

Hedi Slimane has been documenting the sounds we’ve lived to (and through) for the past fifteen years; the idols, the emerging artists and most of all the fans – he is the biggest fan of them all. Slimane’s archives therefore make arguably the most comprehensive and vital rock catalogue of a generation; strict in its devotion to black-and-white photography and brimming with emotion simultaneously, the grace and poetry of its personalities.

How to begin dissecting and disseminating such an ongoing, living tapestry for exhibition? You’ll find out in Paris, where Sonic, collecting Slimane’s music archives from London (2003–2007) to present day California (2007–2014) is showing at the Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent until January 2015, in tandem with a book of the same name, both featuring Christopher Owens. The California cycle was introduced through the exhibition California Song at MOCA / Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in November 2011 – brilliantly that show ran in tandem with 89 digital billboards refracting Slimane’s photographs back to LA boulevards over a two month period, a real-life incarnate of his philosophy where life and stage collide.

Expect plenty more grassroots energy here with bands such as Bleached, Foxygen, The Garden (who walked for Saint Laurent’s inaugural, FW13 rock ’n’ roll fairground show, as well as starred in the season’s campaign) appearing, plus the prolific tape label running parallel to it all, Burger Records, having put out most of the new California wave’s artists. Legends Lou Reed, Keith Richards, Amy Winehouse and Brian Wilson are the auteurs, enduring cultural touchstones and whether legend or legend-in-waiting, all are photographed with the same reverence – because inside they feel the same: heroic, unique.

A video installation in the show juxtaposes London then with California now. Whilst our capital might be taking a break from spontaneous moshpits in disused Whitechapel factories at the moment, The Libertines-era catalysed a golden sound that reached far beyond our island. That’s exactly what present-day California is doing, with the new Psych spreading globally via Texas, Brooklyn, the UK and Australia. Listen up.

Hedi Slimane: Sonic, Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent, 5 Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris, until 11th January 2015


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