Monday 19 August 2019

Kim Gordon brings her art to the gallery

Kim Gordon
Kim Gordon
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Polemic poet Lydia Lunch knows a bit about the power of the metaphor.

She once described Kim Gordon's singing style as "strangled", adding that the one-time high priestess of Sonic Youth is "channelling women strangled by their emotions and by not being able to express them".

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For her part, Kim said female singers who push too much, too hard, "don't tend to last very long. They're jags, bolts, comets: Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday. But being that woman who pushes the boundaries means you also bring in less desirable aspects of yourself. At the end of the day, women are expected to hold up the world, not annihilate it".

To many, Kim was the annihilatingly inspirational alt.feminist of US art rock, even "the ultimate hipster Renaissance woman I aspired to be", wrote Lizzy Goodman in Elle magazine in 2013.

"For years, women of my generation-the post-punk proto-hipsters who grew up in the cultural gap between second-wave feminism and the advent of the internet-looked to Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon as proof that at least someone was getting it right. Really right," Ann Friedman, co-host of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, wrote in The New Republic in 2015.

Kim and her husband, and cohort in Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore, weren't just any rock star couple.

"In Gordon and Moore, you could imagine empirical proof that a lot of things you feared were true about life-things your parents always warned you about-did not necessarily have to be that way," Nitsuh Abebe wrote in New York magazine.

"What better fairy tale to reassure young people that they don't ever have to settle?"

Imagine, then, when Kim and Moore's marriage ended badly in 2011 after she discovered he was playing (guitar) away from home, how violently the hipster tectonic plates shifted.

In an episode of iconic American comedy show Portlandia, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, upon discovering that MTV is being overseen by a teenage girl, are told that "Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore are divorced, and you're just the orphans left behind".

Elissa Schappell wrote, tellingly, on Salon website: "What's scarier than a couple deciding - after 30 years of being in a band they created, 27 years of marriage, 17 years spent raising a child - that now they're done with it?" while the aforesaid Nitsuh Abebe in New York set the scene perfectly: "Picture hundreds of thousands of indie-rock fans learning that their parents were getting divorced."

"The rock star thing has always felt dishonest to me - stylised and gestural, even goofy," wrote Gordon in her 2015 memoir Girl In A Band.

"I've always felt uncomfortable giving people what they want or expect."

Gordon certainly got the unexpected when upon looking at her husband's phone, she found the initial and devastating evidence of an affair.

Having played the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin last weekend with experimental duo Body/Head with Bill Nace, Kim Gordon's new exhibition 'She bites her tender mind' runs at IMMA until November 10.

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