Top 10 Artworks Made with Vinyl To Celebrate Record Store Day

Artists are famously enamored of this analog medium.

Haroon Mirza, Sitting in a Room (2013)Photo via: Lisson Gallery
Haroon Mirza, Sitting in a Room (2013)
Photo via: Lisson Gallery

Did you know that April 18 is Record Store Day? Are you a die-hard fan of mp3, Spotify, and other digital music media? If you are, believe it or not, you’re so 2013.

According to Digital Music News, in 2014, sales of vinyl records increased 38 percent in the US, with a total of 4 million LPs sold. Meanwhile, in the UK, sales of vinyl during 2014 generated an estimated £20 million, according to the BBC.

But the growing appeal of records has not only captured the imagination of nostalgic souls, retro geeks, and music specialists.

Artists are famously enamored of the technology, and have a long history of collaborating with musicians on the design of record covers (see The Top 12 Album Covers Designed by Famous Artists).

To celebrate this year’s Record Store Day tomorrow, however, we are presenting you with the most exciting examples of artists working with vinyl records as material. Era-defining works of art made with classic round, flat artifacts with high-fidelity grooves.

Nam June Paik performing Listening to Music through the Mouth, in 1963<br>Photo via: The Independent

Nam June Paik performing Listening to Music through the Mouth, in 1963
Photo via: The Independent

1. Nam June Paik, Listening to Music through the Mouth (1963). Why use speakers when you can use your mouth? That’s what Paik must have thought when preparing this performance, part of his seminal “Exposition of Music Electronic Television”. In it, Paik attached the needle to a mouth-held device, thus sending the sound waves to his brain in a completely different fashion.

2. Laurie Anderson, For Instants (1976). Before she was known for avant-garde pop hits like O Superman (1981), Anderson regularly exhibited in New York galleries with live acts blurring the boundaries between music and performance art. For Instants consisted of the artist playing a violonograph: a turntable mounted on a violin, which she played with a needle embedded in the bow (pictured above).

3. Isa Genzken and Gerhard Richter, Tri Star (1981). When the German legends were young and in love, they released a conceptual LP, whose Side A featured noises made by Tri-Star airplane motor and whose Side B had been covered with grey enamel and signed by Richter. Only 75 copies were issued, with one fetching $5,000 at auction in 2010, according to the arnet Price Database. The edition’s price has reportedly increased since.

4. Joseph Beuys, Sonne statt Reagan (1982). Shaman, educator, and über-artist Beuys also had a go at pop music, which he used as a more accesible vessel for his uncompromising ideas. In the early ’80s, he released a 7’’ with the song Sonne statt Reagan (sun instead of Reagan, which sounds like the German word for rain), in which a lighthearted melody conveyed lyrics protesting then-US-president Reagan’s nuclear brinkmanship.

5. Christian Marclay, Cube (1989). In this piece, the American-born, London-based artist exploited the sculptural potential of vinyl to its maximum limits. Cube consists of a pile of melted LP records squashed into—you guessed it—a cube.

Martin Creed, Mind Trap LP (2014)<br>Photo via: The Vinyl Factory

Martin Creed, Mind Trap LP (2014)
Photo via: The Vinyl Factory

6. The Vinyl Factory. This London-based enterprise, launched in 2001, has a prolific section of artist editions. Artists including Marina Abramović, Martin Creed, Dinos Chapman, Jeremy Deller, Ed Atkins, and Eddie Peake have released works on vinyl with them. The also have an online shop.

7. Katie Paterson, Ice Records (2008). The Scottish artist recorded the sound emitted by three glaciers in Iceland, and then pressed it into three records. The records—which had been cast and frozen with the meltwater from the glaciers—were played on three turntables just once, until they melted and disappeared. The piece now only exists as three digital films, so that’s one vinyl artwork you can’t really take home…

8. Mat Jenner, Foam. In 2014, Jenner exhibited in London his roaming archive of a hundred 12’’ records-as-artworks, commissioned to a spate of young artists active in the British scene, including Aura Satz, Patrick Coyle, Olivier Castel, Anna Barham, and Patrick Goddard. Some of the participating artists produced music, while others preferred noise, spoken word, or focusing on the visual aspects of the object.

David Ferrando Giraut, Encounters with the Inorganic II (2011)<br>Photo: Courtesy of the artist

David Ferrando Giraut, Encounters with the Inorganic II (2011)
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

9. David Ferrando Giraut, Encounters with the Inorganic II (2011). For years, the Spanish artist indulged in an obsession with vinyl records as containers of memories and, as such, of dead voices and ghosts. In 2011, he presented a piece in which he took this metaphor to its ultimate consequence: a full-operating turntable and vintage vinyl records encased in a casket-looking console. Somber and beautiful in equal measure.

Haroon Mirza, Sitting in a Room (2013)<br>Photo via: Lisson Gallery

Haroon Mirza, Sitting in a Room (2013)
Photo via: Lisson Gallery

10. Haroon Mirza. Finally, this top ten wouldn’t be complete without the presence of the young Londoner, who has made the use of vinyl one of the staples of his career. Works like SOS, Regaining a Degree of Control (both 2010), Evolution of a Revolution (2011), and, more recently, his exhibition “/o/o/o/o/” (2013) at Lisson Gallery, all feature record players and vinyl, used both as sculptural devices and sound sources.


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