Owerko’s Boombox Project: A little bit quiet and obscure
Lyle Owerko, famed for his 9/11 pictures, held a private viewing of his Boombox Project at XOYO on Thursday. As aesthetically pleasing and nostalgic as the images of the Boomboxes are, especially to those who remember them from their youth, one wonders if an explanation is required, if the images would be served better with words.
By listening to Owerko, his understanding of the need for context in art and the emphasis behind the exhibition is clear. However, the project’s accompanying book lacks his colloquial expressions. His images are at risk of confining themselves within hip-hop culture. The cultural significance might be lost in the ether of technological advancements, yet the Boombox is not such a relic as is required to warrant a myth.
Contrasting today with the 80s, Owerko told The Upcoming, “It’s strange, the blasting of music out of a mobile phone phenomenon—the bass is missing and, as Don Letts says: ‘Bass is Fundamental’. I’m sure when kids started carrying around and blasting music out of their Boomboxes it was strange, too. However, those Boomboxes had a mission and a presence. Also a footprint of authority saying: ‘see me, hear me, notice me.’ I’m sure the same premise goes for the blasting music out of a cellphone phenomenon (just on a much smaller scale). People blasting music out loud either from a car stereo or a cellphone want to be paid attention to, on one scale or another…”
The strength of the work is that it holds up and documents something of which others might question the relevance. It holds up the image of a tool of a bygone era, from when Hip-Hop was an anti-commercial sound that infringed on the public. In the sense that it does not explain itself and its obvious niche elements, this exhibition remains true to the ethos of the object it reveres. The Boombox Project is a bit like a boombox without the music blaring out of it—a little bit quiet and obscure.
Photos: Denis Bourg
Lyle Owerko’s Boombox Project is at XOYO 32-37 Cowper Street, London EC2A 4AP from Friday 2nd December – Wednesday 7th December and at Whisper Gallery, 27/28 Eastcastle Street, London W1W 8DH from Friday 9th December – Saturday 14th January (private view 8th December) at Whisper Gallery. Entry for both exhibitions is free.