Libération April 2010 • English translation


record lover

by Marie Lechner

Special Envoy to Poitiers



April 2010

A self-portrait of the English artist Georgina Starr through the recordings and record covers that have marked her life.

Forty record players aligned on a table at Le Confort Moderne in Poitiers, forty records playing simultaneously in a cacophony from hell. Each one turns the 45 revolutions of the collection of Georgina Starr, who, as a girl, went religiously every Saturday to buy a record from Top 40 to the shopping centre in Leeds: Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Blondie, The Human League, The Specials ... Top 40 on Fire, performed live performance at the opening in the presence of the artist, it looks like a ritual, a few minutes of formless noise that eventually finishes until we hear only The Number One Song in Heaven by Sparks. A way of exorcising the trauma that has scarred her for life: that fateful day when she came to collect her cherished records and learned that her parents had burned them with the rest of her teenage belongings. "I imagined the music and the voices of my pop heroes singing and playing together as the flames rose around them. "

The record is the fetish object that this Young British Artist has chosen as her natural medium. In their grooves they hold sounds collected over twenty years. I am a Record, the first monograph of the artist in France is multi-form; an emotional discoteque; humorous, supernatural, literary, an intimate diary, a serial novel and a pop-up comic. Each vinyl is composed of a single original recording, each cover is painted or drawn by the artist, cut or photographed, letters, and one that unfolds into sensual mouth: 70 vinyls with as many clues about her life, revealing the curious imagination of the bright-eyed redhead who was born in 1968.

You can hear the mother of Georgina Starr, Christine, a desperate housewife on the edge, under whose eyes radiate the beautiful image size 33 by 33; her father sings a sad song on the answering machine; her delinquent sister, an adopted child, abandoned, drug-addicted, reading the letters sent from prison. Her first recordings; the young Starr performs at the age of five years old, after a strange episode. "In December 1973, I started hearing voices. It's as if people wanted to contact me, but without my being able to understand their meaning, as if I had plugged into some strange radio frequency, " says the cover of her record sleeve for The Voices. An experience that lasted a few months and probably explains her fascination with recorded voices, "voices speaking, singing, whistling, whispering, shouting and even from the spirit world." She tracks down their messages in the crackle of a radiator, broken conversations secretly recorded by strangers, and even whistling which she suspects to be coded. "A whistle is difficult to capture. It is always linked to a song, the lyrics are like ghosts, subliminal. "

In I am the Whistler, she decided to compose an original whistle, "that nobody could recognize." Throwing arrows of paper into the vortex of a subway breeze, she photographed and transferred them onto an empty musical score. Where the arrows point, it made a note and generated random melodies that she hoped to be interpreted by a famous music hall whistler of the 50's (Ronnie Ronalde) who she tracks down in New Zealand. He agress to whistle, but later sends a letter explaining his inability to read the score. Starr then decided whistle herself. At Le Confort Moderne a more familiar tune haunts the gallery, no one knows where it comes from. Yesterday was recorded while she was in college, repeatedly played in its corridors on hidden speakers which she connected to a cassette player placed in her locker.

With this obsession to decipher sounds as signs Georgina Starr throws herself in the arms of clairvoyants, palmists and psychics. A paranormal world which she learned about from Ronaldo Wright, an eccentric octogenarian and portraitist enamored by movie stars in the 50's, a nude model, illustrator for gay magazines, and a spiritualist writer whose fantastic stories enthrall Starr. The artist consults with psychics for a year, each month a different medium, scrupulously recording the sessions that result in a special record made for the exhibition. Unfolded, it looks like a table around which are spread paper hands with the vinyl in the centre: 250 locked groove extracts of these psychic sessions, short loops where strange voices crackle, click, and pop forming unidentified narratives for I am the Medium.

In the second part of the exhibition, Georgina Starr is possessed by the spirit of Theda Bara, forgotten star of the silent screen. She revives her in a video installation that reproduces the fantasy world of the Hollywood diva. The "Woman of a Thousand Faces" had made more than 40 films (only two survived), playing eccentric roles, Salome, Cleopatra, Madame du Barry ... smoky eyes, exaggerated expressions, Georgina Starr replays scenes of the lost films, recreating the sets and costumes from scripts, notes, reviews, photos. A ghost hunt that fuels all her work, but also reflects a playful relationship to life, where everything is an excuse to switch into the fourth dimension.