For Immediate Release: August 11, 2004 (return to press releases)

Charles Peterson: Touch me I'm Sick
Rock My Religion, Dan Graham

Beginning September 8th, the Housatonic Museum of Art will host concurrent exhibitions that explore the ongoing dialogue between underground rock music and mainstream society.

Touch Me I’m Sick, a series of photographs by Charles Peterson, document the birth of grunge, a brash new era in music that grabbed the world by its throat and refused to let go. Running concurrently will be Rock My Religion, a film by Dan Graham that poses a provocative thesis on the relation between religion and rock music in contemporary culture.

Peterson's photography documents the raw power of live performances by soon-to-be-famous artists such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sleater-Kinney and Mudhoney. His photographs tell a compelling tale of angst, anxiety, and acoustics, capturing the cathartic ritual between musician and fan played out in seedy clubs reeking of sweat and stale beer. Bored, alienated youth with nothing better to do than bash their instruments and mosh their bodies in a barrage of sound, song, and furious energy are mirrored with Peterson’s signature style of wide-angle intimacy, swirling lights, and a strange sense of grace. Marvels of controlled chaos, his live photographs pluck spontaneous beauty from the tumult of a rock show, revealing the depth and honesty of its most unguarded moments.

In Rock My Religion, Graham posits a compelling theoretical essay on the ideological codes and historical contexts that inform the cultural phenomenon of rock 'n' roll music by formulating a history that begins with the Shakers, an early religious community who practiced self-denial and ecstatic trance dances. With the "reeling and rocking" of religious revivals as his point of departure, Graham embarks on an analysis of the emergence of rock music as religion with the teenage consumer in the isolated suburban milieu of the 1950s, locating rock's sexual and ideological context in post-World War II America. This complex collage of text, film footage and performance focuses on the music and philosophies of Patti Smith, who made explicit the trope that rock is religion.

Charles Peterson was born in 1964 in Longview, Washington and received a B.F.A. in photography from the University of Washington in 1987. His photographs have graced hundreds of record covers and appeared in publications worldwide including the Village Voice, NME, The New York Times and Newsweek. His book Touch Me I'm Sick was published in 2003 by powerHouse Books.

Dan Graham's art and theories analyze the historical, social and ideological functions of contemporary cultural systems, including architecture, rock music, and television. In performances, installations, and architectural/sculptural designs, he investigates public and private, audience and performer, objectivity and subjectivity. His work has been exhibited in many internationally prestigious institutions, including the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and The Whitney Museum of Art in New York City.
Touch Me I'm Sick and Rock My Religion will be on display at Housatonic Museum of Art’s Chernow Gallery from September 8th until October 10th. An opening reception is scheduled for Thursday, September 9 from 1 to 2 pm.