After the Toronto band’s video for “Let It Go” was scrubbed from digital existence by the very forces it criticized, DOOMSQUAD return a new cut, along with their thoughts on the death of public art and shared spaces
Large-scale public art pieces have long been controversial, but over the years, the reasons why have varied greatly.
When Ai Weiwei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” displaced Washington Square Park’s Christmas tree in 2017 and Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc” ran through Manhattan’s Federal Plaza through most of the ‘80s, the pieces were considered provocative because they inconvenienced people by disrupting their regular routes. That said, it’s hard to think that the Lakota people didn’t have it worse when sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved the faces of presidents into a cliff face on stolen native land and dubbed it Mount Rushmore.
These days, controversies around public art seem to be more focused on just what should be considered public and private. Consider Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s West Side’s sterile beacon to neoliberal, mixed-use luxury, and its towering mononymous honeycomb-shaped structure known simply as “Vessel.”
Soon after the structure opened for public visitation, some noted the PR speak hidden in its terms and conditions that gave Hudson Yards rights to distribute or profit off of any “photos, audio recording, or video footage depicting or relating to Vessel” for “any purpose whatsoever in any and all media (in either case, now known or developed later).”
“I understand that [Vessel] is artwork but when I photograph artwork, the take on it is my own,” one person told Curbed. “I think any artwork when I create it, I should own it. Not them.”
After much public outcry, Hudson Yards modified its terms, but the debate as to what constitutes a public versus a private space, and the implications of what it means to place a privately-funded work meant to be enjoyed by all—in any space—really means.
All of this is currently on the minds of Toronto-based band DOOMSQUAD, whose subversive, minimalist dance pop comes to a timely climax on this year’s Let Yourself Be Seen. After releasing a music video for the album’s “Let It Go,” they received a cease and desist order for shooting part of the video in front of a famous private sculpture and the clip vanished completely online. They had to reshoot the video before it could be released again, editing out any scenes featuring the sculpture.
VIDEO: DOOMSQUAD “Let It Go” Official Video
“Ironically, the song was written about artists confronting the loss of access to spaces and learning how to let it all go,” DOOMSQUAD tells Rock and Roll Globe. We’re premiering the re-cut video today with hopes that our readers consider the song’s subtext. It’s easy to be cynical when so many important public DIY spaces are intentionally made private, or closed down altogether, by commercial interests.
This was the thrust of my chronicling the coordinated sabotage of our beloved Market Hotel, and later, my rumination on why all-ages spaces were more about much more than independence—they foster community, an inclusive environment for kids with nowhere else to go, and a level of cultural incubation that healthy cities rely on in order to continue to grow.
“It’s such a fucking entitled, upper-middle-class bourgeois attitude to say there’s always gonna be a new space opening,” Market Hotel owner Todd Patrick once told me. The venue has since reopened, but only after the venue endured extended harassment from the city.
“Post ghostship fire, post 4chan trolling of DIY venues, and currently in the middle of a crisis of rapid gentrification, we find ourselves as artists living in cities that are closing doors to us,” DOOMSQUAD said about the long saga to bring this video to light.
“Cutting off the accessibility to resources and cultural centres, artist DIY networks help keep artistic scenes thriving in impossible situations, and we look to one another for shared skills, resources, support, etc,” they added.
“Constantly learning how to let go of the places that you care about we also learn about entropy, and the weight it holds on material spaces, objects and ideas. Entropy is all around us, which makes the future hopeful.”
DOOMSQUAD wrote “Let It Go” with all of this in mind, and shot the video in studios and outdoor spaces across the U.S. and Canada, before the video was removed seemingly on its own just one week after its release.
“Ironically, the song/video was so entropic that it erased itself off the internet,” said DOOMSQUAD. “The very content we were singing about became the ultimate fate for the video.”
Nonetheless, this new edit remains very much provocative and profoundly affecting, cutting between spilt milk and boiling blood before the mind has time to fully process what it sees. DOOMSQUAD described this sensation as “an excremental purge of material and movement. We see erosion through a surrealist lens, like a dream or a meditation when you can scan rapidly through your thoughts.”
Bringing to mind all of the ways that “walls” have dominated recent social conversation, both literally and metaphorically, DOOMSQUAD think of the walls that keep classism and wealth so prominently tethered to today’s contemporary art culture.
“Bureaucratic walls, commercialized expectations and severe economic divisions assure that institutionalized art will prevail, and members on the outside, that great diaspora of DIY sentimentality with a rebel spirit will forever remain, just that, as outsiders,” they said.
“And maybe that’s where we want to be. That’s the best place to be if we want to engage critically with these systems and structures.”
Hence, we share this new cut of “Let It Go” with you now, underscored by DOOMSQUAD’s recent saga to bring it to your eyes and ultimately illuminate the clip, and song, as “a reflection upon this struggle between art and commerce, genuine self-expression against the forces of homogenization, asserting a sense of place within displacement, dancing through all this change.”
Now that it’s all said and done, the band isn’t sure what to make of the fact that the very forces the video criticized are the ones who took it down. Does that make them successful? Does that mean they are part of the infrastructure to begin with, humbled and reminded in their place in the so-called “creative class?”
“By learning to let go, we have learned how to be fluid,” they reason, “and it’s in this fluid nature that we float.”
Nov 8 – Sarnia, ON – CineGaze
Nov 9 – Ottawa, ON – Club SAW
Nov 13 – Utrecht, NL – Stathe
Nov 14 – Groningen, NL – Smoke
Nov 15 – Strasbourg, FR – Molodoï
Nov 16 – Mannheim, DE – Altes Volksbad
Nov 18 – Angers, FR – Joker’s Pub
Nov 19 – Paris, FR – 1999
Nov 20 – Luzern, CH – Neubad Keller
Nov 21 – Faenza, IT – Clandestino
Nov 23 – Milan, IT – Linecheck Festival
Nov 26 – Manchester, UK – YES
Nov 28 – Bristol, UK – Rough Trade Bristol
Nov 29 – London, UK – Studio 9294 w/ Flamingods
Nov 30 – Brighton, UK – Brighton Electric
VIDEO: DOOMSQUAD “Let It Go” featuring Ejji Smith live