CBGB’s, New York; Grande Ballroom, Detroit; Blind Pig, Ann Arbor; 9:30 Club, Washington D.C.; Saint Andrew’s Hall, Detroit Since 2006 Rhona Bitner, American and dividing her time between Paris and New York, has been working on her new opus, Listen, by photographing mythical concert halls and recording studios, memory places once home to the apotheoses of American popular music. She captures them deserted, abandoned, void of all human presence, as if it were better to set these emptinesses resounding in a time warp and so open up intermediate spaces situated, as Régis Durand has put it, ‘in the interspace of a waking dream, in the suspension of anticipation or kickback. A moment when everything seems intact, as in the after-image of retinal persistence.’
The quasi-conceptual rigour of this project, which already comprises 175 venues and is currently being pursued by its creator, reminds us of the industrial monument archival venture undertaken over thirty years ago by Bernd and Hilla Becher. It also bears the implicit stamp of the photographs taken by William Eggleston, commissioned by Graceland Enterprises in 1993 to document Elvis’s residence/mausoleum. As Greil Marcus puts it in his book Dead Elvis, these twenty-five photographs of the Graceland labyrinth render palpable Elvis’s absence, his irrevocable vanishing: ‘The walls and furnishings are mute The silence is crushing In vain would you seek a revelation here.’ It’s through this tension between apparition and burial, after-image and oblivion, visual recognition and auditory memory, that Rhona Bitner asks us to tune in to the image, to gauge the psychological and ontological depth of temporalities in spaces reduced to their emptiness and even, in this age of dematerialised music, their disappearance.