A ghostly sight. A bleached interior with washed-out walls and furniture, filled with pale or transparent items. At first glance, Ghost of Record Store (If You Are a False Do Not Entry) could appear as a conceptual record store, but it is in fact its carbon copy, its faded facsimile, a bootleg record store.
This sound art installation created by Western Australian composer, artist and improviser Chris Cobilis, commissioned by the Perth Public Art Foundation, is an homage to the record store and a tribute to the so-called dead formats.
Nothing is for sale, and despite being equipped with turntables, cassette decks and CD players, the space contains no original media, only bootlegged copies. The public is encouraged to play the tapes, CDs and records recorded in real time from Chris’ personal music collection. The visitors of the installation can therefore listen to Chris listening to music, hearing him fiddling about his house, talking to his cat, making phone calls… His ‘spectral’ presence turns into a performance, and whilst listening to these unauthorized music within the ‘phantasmic’ shadow of a record store, the audience can reflect on how piracy brought the industry down.
“It wasn’t the copying of the physical media that changed everything; it was the evaporating of it. Hard drives were filled and eventually superseded by an ephemeral, untouchable stream: the cloud.”
Chris also wanted to explore the idea that record stores were essential to his cultural learning, not necessarily through the purchase of cultural artefacts but by the conversations he has had there:
“I feel like my education was in stores. I am a better person for having worked in family-run record stores with long-term loyal staff who were as intelligent as they come”.
Living and working in Perth, Chris nurtured his passion for music whilst visiting the city’s record stores, starting in 1989 as he entered local DADA Records for the first time and purchased a Metallica cap, which he wore for not very long. Fast forward to 1997, Chris started playing in local bands, making cassettes and zines, hanging out at and performing in record stores, ultimately leading him to work at Perth’s 78 Records and later, Wesley Classics.
Chris registered quite early on that his attraction to record stores and the sense of belonging they instilled in him was not unique. For many, record stores were very special places, “half-way houses for their soul” as Chris describes it, “once they were inside, listening, touching, and talking; customers were transformed”.
Unsurprisingly, Ghost of Record store has had a wide variety of responses. The main reaction is the surprise upon entering the space: ‘is this a record store or an art installation?’ The feeling that the space is a store but nothing is for sale is especially destabilising to them, some visitors insisted on asking whether things are ‘really not for sale’. Some reacted as if they were in a real store, sharing with him their favourite music or record store experience, something which delights Chris: “I love this as I worked in record stores for a decade and that familiarity is warming, bringing me back to a place that I always wanted, but can no longer do as the majority of stores have now reduced their staff to bare-bones or simply closed. I did not set out to make a nostalgic work, but it has unexpectedly turned out to be one”.
Chris Cobilis also works with numerous bands including The Tigers, Sabre Tooth Tigers and SMRTS, as well as composing original music for films, dance and theatre pieces.
As an improviser he has performed internationally including two tours of Taiwan and multiple tours throughout Japan. Chris currently works at SymbioticA at The University of Western Australia.
Chris’ next album will come out on the Australian label Room 40 in October 2016 which subject matter America’s/Australia’s Funniest Home Videos. The album was recorded in Chicago and features the Spektral Quartet and American Poet Kenneth Goldsmith.
See more of Chris’ work here
Photography: Chris Cobilis