Visions from a Possible Cornucopic Future

In this blog post we will amongst other topics try to introduce some of the more visual aspects of Motorpsycho’s artistic expression, and consider how this will be reflected in the forthcoming exhibition.

The visual appearance of posters, record covers, and merchandise has always been important to Motorpsycho. The bands visual expression and cover concepts seem thoroughly thought-out even in the band’s early days. Their debut album Lobotomizer (1991) was released in a stunning gatefold cover, where the lyrics where artfully hand drawn on the records inner sleeve. A couple of hundred copies also contained an elaborate poster

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Inner sleeve of Lobotomizer. Caligraphy: Wizz-Art (Tove Nilsen)

The visual expressions of the bands first posters, the cassette Maiden Voyage and the following debut album were highly inspired by psychedelic poster- and cover art. However, on their second album release (Soothe from 1992), the band had a different aesthetic expression. We will return to this cover in a later blog post, but it is worth mentioning that Soothe introduced a band logo and a new font for the band name.1)The font is directly based on an existing Letraset font, which had already appeared on concert posters before the release of Soothe. Both the font and logo followed the band later on, and appeared for instance again on Behind the sun (2014), the last “normal” album from the band up to this date.

According to Johan Harstads book Blissard, the young art academy student Kim Hiorthøy got in touch with Sæther at a pub in December of 1992, offering the band his assistance. Thereafter, he submitted some of his drawings, and one of these was used on the cover of Demon Box, which was released in 1993. Since then, Hiorthøy has put his stamp on most of the bands visual output and design. The bands logo and symbol is often incorporated, but apart from that, Hiorthøy has had almost free hands to do the visual design.

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One of the drawings Hiorthøy gave the band in December 1992. The same drawing ended up on a t-shirt later on.

Just like Motorpsychos music, Hiorthøys design is characterized by a recognizable, but constantly changing expression. Gjermund Ulvang Hagen writes in his art history master thesis that the design stands as “an equitable visual counterpart” to the bands “alternative and experimental musical expression”. The visual expression is an indisputable part of the bands overall expression, and Hiorthøys significance in that regard has in the same master thesis been characterized as “essential and indispensable” by Sæther.2)Gjermund Ulvang Hagen: Motorpsykosens Konstruksjon, Oslo 2007: 48-51

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The bands visual expression will also be important in Supersonic Scientists, and this will manifest itself in several ways. Just like the exhibition will focus on studio work and the road towards a final product, we hope to be able to show some of the process and work being done with these visual aspects. “Our own” Daniel Richards is in charge of the main exhibition design, but Hiorthøy has also contributed, and his influence looms constantly in the shadows.

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Despite Hiorthøys strong influence on the visual aspects of Motorpsychos output, he has not been the only contributor. It was the band members and their friends that made the earliest covers and posters. Throughout the bands history there has been several external contributions to the visual expression, for example in designing concert posters. I would also like to mention the album The Death Defying Unicorn (2012) with cover design by Hiorthøy, where an illustration by the versatile multi-artist Thore Hansen also is used. Hansen, who has been called  “Norway’s psychedelic artist” is experiencing a kind of renaissance these days. He has previously illustrated several fantasy, science fiction and children’s books, but is most known in Norway for his illustrations and drawings of the sea serpent Ruffen, in the books with the same name.

The bands 25-year “celebration gift”, a series of vinyl singles delivered by the postal service to the record buying fanbase, were created without involving Hiorthøy. The Motorpnaktotic Fragments is yet another example of the importance of the visual and physical objects in Motorpsychos overall expression. Håvard Gjelseth was chief of the design, Thomas Raimondi was responsible for the artwork, while print and cover templates were created by Kjetil D. Brandsdal and Drid Machine. Gjelseth had also previously made posters for the band, and his work has been well represented and documented in Rockheim’s gallery exhibition Fysisk Format. 3)The exhibition Fysisk Format (Physical Format) was about record covers and used the small indie-company Crispin Glover Records as case, a company that in a wide extent focuses on the physical format, cover art, design and exclusivity. The company also made the single “Toys”, notoriously known by psychonauts everywhere. They have also released several Motorpsycho related bands, such as Spidergawd, Monolithic, Sugarfoot, Ryanbanden and Dog & Sky. The exhibition focused on the survival strategies of the physical formats in a digital age, and the name was meant to be an acknowledging nod to another great independent record company, actually named ”Fysisk Format”. The working title for the exhibition was for a long time ”Record Collectors are Pretentious Assholes”. The band was in charge of packing, and the “fragments” which were sent out over a longer period of time were supposed to end up as a “book”. 4)However, the fans themselves were meant to complete the “puzzle”, and despite fancy instructional videos, it was no easy task for the more unpractical of us.

The Motorpnakotic Fragments – How it all fits together from Motorpsycho on Vimeo.

Lots of work being done with the exhibition is about collections management. A temporary exhibition can be based on the museums existing collections, but at the same time be a starting point for collecting new materials and artefacts. Expansion of the collections are one way of documenting a phenomenon for generations to come. Rockheim is still a relatively new museum, and the only one of its kind in Norway. The work being done is therefore almost pioneering work, and making temporary exhibitions entails a lot of collecting and expansions of the current collection. However, prior to the process of Supersonic Scientists, the museum had a big collection of Motorpsycho posters, a lot of which can be viewed on DigitaltMuseum.

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Screenshot: Working with metadata in Rockheims contact management system (CMS).

It’s clear by now that the title of this blog post is far-fetched, at best. One interpretation could perhaps be Motorpsycho as a cornucopia (..or, uh…Something) overflowing with music and releases. The bands visual expression, being covers, posters, clothes, design or whatever, it is all characterized by abundance.

The work with the poster collection is based on a cooperation with Motorpsycho HQ. And perhaps we have a vision of a more or less “complete” collection in the future? Maybe you have something to contribute with, either physical or digital posters, and perhaps also stories connected to the posters and the concerts they represent? Contact us: supersonicscientists@rockipedia.no

testcollage2

A big thanks to:

Kim Hiorthøy for permission and use of the illustration.

Eno, Brian & Schmidt, Peter: Oblique Strategies, online-version, http://stoney.sb.org/eno/oblique.html

”Et rom, en vegg, et sted i Mellom-Europa på 1990-tallet”, photo: Kjell Arne Sandvik.

”Konservatorens fridag”, photo: Nora Nystuen

“Collage”: Librarian Anonymous

Literature:

Hagen, Gjermund Ulvang: Motorpsykosens konstruksjon – en tverrestetisk stilundersøkelse av Motorpsychos og Kim Hiorthøys audiovisuelle uttrykk på albumene ”Timothy’s Monster” og ”Blissard”. (Master thesis, Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, The University in Oslo, 2007)
Harstad, Johan: Blissard (Falck Forlag, 2012)

References   [ + ]

1. The font is directly based on an existing Letraset font, which had already appeared on concert posters before the release of Soothe.
2. Gjermund Ulvang Hagen: Motorpsykosens Konstruksjon, Oslo 2007: 48-51
3. The exhibition Fysisk Format (Physical Format) was about record covers and used the small indie-company Crispin Glover Records as case, a company that in a wide extent focuses on the physical format, cover art, design and exclusivity. The company also made the single “Toys”, notoriously known by psychonauts everywhere. They have also released several Motorpsycho related bands, such as Spidergawd, Monolithic, Sugarfoot, Ryanbanden and Dog & Sky. The exhibition focused on the survival strategies of the physical formats in a digital age, and the name was meant to be an acknowledging nod to another great independent record company, actually named ”Fysisk Format”. The working title for the exhibition was for a long time ”Record Collectors are Pretentious Assholes”.
4. However, the fans themselves were meant to complete the “puzzle”, and despite fancy instructional videos, it was no easy task for the more unpractical of us.

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