Los Angeles

A.L. Steiner: Beyond Electroclash

A. L. Steiner and Narcissister, Winter/Spring Collection, 2012, C-print photograph. 18 x 24 in. 45.72 x 60.96 cm)
In partnership with Made in L.A. 2014
The Hammer's biennial exhibition Made in L.A. 2014 features works by 35 Los Angeles artists with an emphasis on emerging and under recognized artists.

By Drew Tewksbury

The electroclash music scene of the late 90s and early 2000s featured beat-heavy minimalist electronic music inter-meshed with mostly satirical lyrics and an anti-fashion aesthetic. While the tenets of electroclash are often pillared around anti-pop manifestos, pop titans later gleaned heavily from the visual and musical cues of this largely underground movement. The outlandish couture of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, as well as even Kanye West's recent forays into aggressive synth-driven beats, can trace their ancestry to electroclash. It was art school punk rock with a queer-theory twist. Artist A.L Steiner is part of the electroclash collective Chicks on Speed who were some of the scions of the scene that embraced gender-nonconformity and subversive undertones. Steiner's visual art extends the conceptual basis of Chicks On Speed, utilizing pastiche, humor, and appropriation to challenge political and sexual norms.

Artbound recently caught up with Steiner to discuss the relationship between Chicks on Speed and her art featured in the Hammer Museum's Made in L.A. 2014.

"Angry, Articulate, Inevitable," Greater New York, P.S.1./MoMA, Queens, NY, 2010

What artists/musicians/creatives influenced you to begin creating art?

A.L. Steiner: I had a real mix of what at the time was a real divide between pre-internet commercial magazine photography, male artists featured in museums that my mother took me to and a heavy dose of MTV which launched in 1980 when I was 14 yrs. old. A volatile confusing pubescent mix for a post-urban teen immersed in the intensely segregated Miami and Ft. Lauderdale new wave and gay bar scenes, coke dealers, austere modernism and expressionism, sex, new wave and my older sisters' 70's-rock record collections. I blame the art stuff on my mom, Martha Quinn, Sylvester, The Smiths, Franz Kline, Lisa Lisa, Ann Carlisle, Horst P. Horst and Peter Max.

"The Patriarchy is a Pyramid Scheme," Centro Cultural Montehermoso, 2008

What aspects of your time with Chicks on Speed informed your art practice now?

ALS: Pretty much everything. I learned how to make work super intensely and pressured, how to be open, to allow things to happen, to let things evolve. I saw Melissa [Logan] and Alex [Murray-Leslie] organize, collaborate, produce and make work all while being thrown in a million different directions with a million different thoughts and interests around a million different people with a million different goals and practices. I learned how to trust myself and those around me, lifelong friends like Anat Ben-David, Kathi Glas, Douglas Gordon, Krõõt Juurak, Nadine Jessen and Deborah Schamoni. There's still nothing like CoS. It's an incredible entity and we still work together. Since 2003.

Describe the social and cultural environment that led to the rise of electroclash in the early 2000s. How has that scene changed or evolved?

ALS: I'm not an expert on any categorical definitions of the sales and marketing of art or music. There are scenes, spaces, groups of people who gather to share in different forms of audio, visual, movement and text-based practices. Other activities and practices arise and surround such gatherings. These forms repeat, expand, disappear, change.

Honenin/Chicks on Speed ARC, 2008 from Steiner on Vimeo.

How does the cultural climate and creative landscape of Southern California influence your work?

ALS: I've been thinking more about drought, water, heat, food, energy, power, prisons and otherness. These things feel criminal to ignore, and the rate and intensity at which one experiences them is impossible to suspend.

What role does community play in your works?

ALS: There's no work without community.

How do you imagine what the queer community will become 20 years from now?

ALS: More people with more definitions that fit inside of the term and its transformational possibilities for planet Earth. 2034 OR BUST.

"WWRDP (What Would Richard Prince Do? if he were a lesbian)(for Lynda Benglis)," G.L.O.W. Match Four: A..L. Steiner & Suzanne Wright, Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, CA, 2012

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Top Image: "A. L. Steiner and Narcissister," Winter/Spring Collection, 2012, C-print photograph. 18 x 24 in. 45.72 x 60.96 cm).

About the Author

Drew Tewksbury is a Los Angeles-based cultural journalist, editor, photographer, and multimedia producer. Tewksbury is the managing editor / co-producer for KCET-TV's Artbound, a transmedia project providing in-depth arts/cultur...
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