the vinyl project

They cut discs … now he cuts theirs
publication: The Sydney Morning Herald
writer: Louise Schwartzkoff
date: October 22, 2008
artist: Manne schulze
exhibition: squaring the circle

TO MANNE SCHULZE, Kamahl's 1969 vinyl LP Dreams Of Love is a thing of beauty. Not for its music as such but for its aesthetic appeal.

In the name of art, Schulze took to Kamahl's records with a band saw, carved them into pieces, and reassembled them into large abstract works. An Olivia Newton-John boxed set received the same treatment, as did the Seekers' Big Hits. Schulze quickly points out that these are not his own records. His taste runs more to Led Zeppelin, Kraftwerk and the occasional Beethoven symphony. "I didn't touch my own stuff," he says. "Except for some really obscure rubbish that I shouldn't have bought in the first place.

He has long thought LPs would make a spectacular artistic medium but could not bring himself to destroy his own collection. He found the raw material he needed a few years ago when a friend's father died, leaving behind a box of records, mostly classical and crooners.

Apart from an album of Abba songs played by an accordion orchestra, which he saved for its absurdity, he sliced them all into shapes and stuck them onto aluminium backing, forming patterns and geometric shapes.

The largest work in Schulze's Newtown show, Squaring The Circle, is a shiny black square made from hundreds of vinyl fragments. The grooves cast reflections in every direction. Other works use coloured labels and record sleeves. Both Sony BMG and APRA have expressed interest in some of the assemblages on display.

"It's a great way to work once you get the hang of it," Schulze says. "The records are brittle and flexible at the same time. The surfaces change depending on the light."

Once he had exhausted the original box of records, he scoured second-hand stores and begged friends to donate their collections. Though most of his donors had long since abandoned their record players, they still had records hidden away in boxes in attics and garden sheds.

"I know lots of people who don't listen to them any more but they just can't let them go," he says. "And that's what makes them such an interesting curio. There are all these memories attached to them. Even though you can't listen to them any more, the memories and the music are still there."

For Schulze, this project is part of an enduring interest in recycling the work of others. Several years ago he was one of a group who called themselves "daubists", artists who manipulate and add additional images to original works by other artists. Some saw them as vandals but Schulze believes they were salvaging cultural detritus and giving it new life and relevance.

The same goes for these records, he says. "I'm using material which has been discarded to give it an aesthetic overhaul so it can be appreciated again."