Robin Deacon: Vinyl Equations

First posted on November 25
Deacon holding up The Smith and Public Enemy vinyls

Note, photography was permitted in this performance

What is it?

Oh Live Art. The performer has literally written an essay about it and I still don’t understand what Live Art is.

Who is Robin Deacon?

Artist, writer, film Maker, and Associate Professor of Performance at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He’s not got much information online and his website a bit it of date.

The show?

He calls it “the pathetic nostalgia of a 45 year old man.” So I guess he’s done my criticism for me. This was a personal performance about the artist’s connection to vinyl. Childhood memories and trying to find a Caribbean record his mother sang on.

Here he is. The Artist. Dancing in his bedroom to Joy Division when his parents are out.


Not ‘cute’ in a condescending way. It’s cute for sweetness and honesty. He jumps around with the certainty of a teen when nobody is watching.

I must be too young to feel the connection to vinyl. I had cassettes and CDs. So I wasn’t one of the ones gasping at the sandpapering of a new record. He took care to really damage it.

He does find that Caribbean folk song record his mother features on. But he doesn’t play it. Instead, he puts on a karaoke Beach Boys track and screams along the words to Wouldn’t it be Nice.

Was it good?

Yeah, it was alright. Was it self indulgent? Maybe. This was a show about his own connection with physical pieces of music, complete with dream sequence. Might not be anything wrong with self indulgence.

For me the highlight was him snapping one disk in half, cutting another, and playing them together. It sounded awful.

Did it have to be live?

I kept thinking during the show that this would have made an amazing video.

Or would it? Deacon is a film maker and chose to make this a live performance. According to Artsadmin, his work features “explorations of performer presence and absence” so he should know his work needs to be live.

There was something unrecordable about being in the room and seeing him destroy something. You can’t rewind the video to fix it and each time he performs this show more things will be broken. There would be less magic in him lining up recordings to make audio loops if you knew he had done multiple takes.

A.M. Rosales, writing for Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, calls the work “unique and hard to replicate” and says it is good to remember “art used to be something so frail that you could break it.”

Deacon breaks it.

I know that, at least.

I do remember a student asking me what my performances were like. I replied by saying that essentially, it involves me sort of rambling on with some video projections going on in the background. She replied, ‘so, a bit like your lectures, then?’ – Robin Deacon, Notes about ‘The Performance Pack’