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Robert Ashley

Perfect Lives
Robert Ashley

An opera for television


11 November - 23 December 2011


Perfect Lives was produced over a period of six years from 1977 - 1983, these dates neatly envelop the launch of the US Music channel MTV in 1981. Ashley took the music-plus-video format in a different direction to that of MTV, opting for elongated, and rambling narrative structures, Ashley defines this epic body of work as an 'opera-for-television'. 

Visually, the works share many similarities with the visual experimentations of American New-Wave bands such as Talking Heads - the use of multi-layered visuals, 'green screens' and computer generated graphics and edits. Thematically, Perfect Lives also reflects much of the rye ironic wit of the time, and ponders the seemingly pedestrian end of the American dream, where life of possibility and promise ends up as a multiplicity of loosely connected, but ultimately meaningless list of decisions and ideas.

Although at times a challenge to watch, Perfect Lives, is a rewarding multi-disciplinary experiment that sought to imagine a future of opera that was uniquely American in style, proudly designed for the public arena and relentlessly inventive in form.

Invited by the artist and producer of the project, Candice Jacobs, to work in tandem with the exhibition, 'An action, event or other thing that occurs or happens again', Perfect Lives echoes the main themes of the adjacent exhibition space - repetition, and the relationship between sounds and image in the creation of meaning and experience. 

As an exhibition within an exhibition, Perfect Lives adds an additional perspective to the dialogue between audio and visuals presented within the larger multi-site exhibition, and the selection, made collaboratively, was also intended to mimic the repetitive, sampled theme - the artwork was selected from a pre-existing selection made by the artist. 

An exhibition within the exhibition 'An action, event or other thing that occurs or happens again' Curated by Candice Jacobs

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