White Noise, When Graphics Make the Noise

The ties between graphic design and music are legion, transcending eras and media. Whether in rock, electronic or jazz, there is always an exemplary collaboration that jumps immediately to the mind of both designers and the collective consciousness. A fan’s interest in music videos, records and gigs, right through to T-shirts and posters, will certainly lead him to understand that every medium related to the musical sphere is the work of an author. Graphic design and music feed into one another enriching the common ground of popular culture, a symbiosis out of which many a happy vocation has come to be.

While not seeking to be exhaustive, the curators – freelance graphic designer and curator Sophie Demay and Étienne Hervy – have assembled a range of forms and worlds. Among the characters staged in the exhibition at Les Subsistances, we should first mention Barney Bubbles, a mythical British designer of the 1970s and 80s, who accompanied the British alternative musical scene, particularly the emergence of punk and new-wave. Radical and brilliant in equal measure, he worked notably with Hawkwind, Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, The Damned and Big Star. The show comprises around a hundred pieces selected by British journalist and author Paul Gorman.

Also taking part in White Noise are the French artist Mehdi Hercberg, aka Shoboshobo, and Amsterdam based studio Moniker (Luna Maurer, Jonathan Puckey and Roel Wouters). Hercberg will present his colourful bestiary within a installation — composed of illustrations, interactive figure and other wall drawings — that doubles as a venue for musical performances. Moniker, meanwhile, have been invited to devise an interface which will be accessible both in the exhibition space and online. The three designers will offer a perspective on the current upheaval in the music industry, while also espousing a philosophy fairly close to the DIY advocated by punks in the late 1970s – an attitude that wouldn’t be disowned by Sonic Youth, the mythical American noise-rock band, for whom Experimentel Jetset have designed an original T-shirt, a special commission for the 23rd Festival. Lastly, Laurent Fétis was invited to create a mural: a pantheon of graphic design’s contributions to the musical heritage of the world.

Another constituent of White Noise is entitled Confusion: a label devised and conceptualised by Sophie Demay and Étienne Hervy, alongside James Goggin, design director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Confusion – which to date consists of 10 partner venues/events including La Gaîté Lyrique, Les Nuits Sonores, the Cneai and the Palazzo Grassi – is, rather than yet another conventional label, intended to be a collaborative, flexible tool enabling the greatest possible freedom and independence – and, of course, granting graphic design a leading role. Drawing inspiration from the modus operandi of emblematic labels such as Factory, Warp and Sub Pop, Confusion is a collective work everyone contributes to; it will come to life at the White Noise’s exhibition, in Chaumont.

White Noise is a co-production with the Pompidou Centre, which has assigned Cloé Pitiot (design and new media curator) and Romain Lacroix (of the speech department in the cultural development division) to work with the curators.

At Les Subsistances (first floor)

Barney Bubbles
Laurent Fétis