Thursday, October 01, 2009

the evolving performance of Bullet the Blue Sky: U2 paper to speak

Just finalised my paper for the U2 conference. Huge relief to have it done, leaving the flight to work on the powerpoint. Just for fun, here is one of the sections. It is the 6th section, of 7, titled:

Installation: an art by any other name

“it was the total experience of a U2 set that counted.” (U2: The Early Days).

Having used narrative mapping to analyse key features of the evolving live performance of (Bullet the Blue sky) BBS, one way to consider the data is through the lens of installation art.

A key element in installation art is what De Oliveria calls the “unexpected awakenings of communal memory.” (Installation Art in the New Millennium: The Empire of the Senses) With specific reference to BBS, U2 are employing samples – the blindfold (Vertigo), the fighter planes (Vertigo), the lyrics from When Jonny Comes Marching home (Vertigo) or the chant from Irish singer, Sinead O’Connor (Go Home), the sampling of their own songs (Vertigo) – the collage-like re-appropriating of already existing elements in the pursuit of creativity – to awaken communal memory. They are engaging a shared “desire for immersion in a communal activity with repetitive conditions.” (Installation Art in the New Millennium)

Installation Art in the New Millennium et al describe the “strategies of de-familiarization”, the deliberate attempt in installations to create another world. With specific reference to U2, lighting director Bruce Ramos, describes his work as shifting people from their head to their bodies: “I take them out of their heads and into their bodies and hold them there for their concert.”

This is not escapism. Rather it can be framed as what Installation Art in the New Millennium et al name as a key dynamic in club culture – an experiential space that is introspective, immersive and social; a “viewing of the self contemplating the external world.” This surely is what is happening as communal memory is awakened in the evolving performances of BBS: the self can lament at the external world (Paris), the self can confess (Go home) and the self can both confess and petition (Vertigo).

An outcome is that in a culture which “mourns the loss of public space” a concert is one of few “public space experience” left in our culture. (Installation Art in the New Millennium)

What seems to be happening is a sort of humanisation. Through the evolving live performance of BBS, war is no longer a disembodied experience in El Salvador or Iraq. It is what happens to “those brave men and women of United States,” the “sister or a brother overseas and they’re in danger or whatever.”

Thus my argument is that the lens of installation art enables us to appreciate the evolving live concert performances of BBS. A song grounded in a specific context, through the practice of installation art and the technique of sampling, becomes a facilitator of communal awakening.

Select bibliography:
U2 by U2
U2 Show: The Art of Touring
Joshua Tree (Remastered / Expanded) (Super Deluxe Edition) (2CD/DVD)
U2: An Irish Phenomenon
Bono on Bono

Posted by steve at 08:06 PM

1 Comment

  1. I would really love to see the full script of this paper posted somewhere (and all the contributors’ papers). I’m still carrying the version from ‘R& H’- one of my fave quotes- ‘Am I bugging you; I didn’t mean to bug you’.

    Thanks for the last post b4 this one- vulnerability like that helps this guy….. blessings on your move.

    Comment by Graham — October 1, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

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