MEMORABILIA. COLLECTING SOUNDS WITH... William Bennett. Part I
Produced by Roc Jiménez de Cisneros
From the outset, William Bennett's career has steered clear of the simplicity of transparency in favour of double or triple readings that invite listeners to delve further.
The name of the group he founded in 1980, Whitehouse, was chosen as a sarcastic tribute twice over: on one hand, it refers to ultraconservative activist Mary Whitehouse, and on the other, to a homonymous pornographic magazine published in the United Kingdom in the seventies. Although this is just one example, this kind of subtext is a constant element that has been present throughout a career that could be compared to an audible Rorschach test.
Bennett’s artistic oeuvre is a network of myths, taboos and bête noires designed to pull listeners (sometimes by force) out of their natural comfort zone. Not only through noise, but also metaphors, symbols and twisted uses of sound and words. And this particular approach to understanding the creative act or collective catharsis is reflected, almost down to the last point, in Bennett’s obsessions as a music collector.
In spite of the huge variations in cultural contexts, timeframes and even functions, his four main areas of interest (twentieth century avant-garde, Italo disco, soundtracks and percussion music from Western Africa) conceal numerous keys that shed light on Bennett's hermetic musical universe from many angles, and also on his conception of the act of collecting itself.
Far from merely accumulating objects, Bennett's approach to collecting entails a meticulous process of constant purge and renewal, in a quest for what he calls 'purity', or what we could – in a direct reference to Whitehouse – describe as 'asceticism'. Because the radical reductionism that hovers over much of William Bennett's work also prevails in his incredibly varied but enormously consistent music collection, in which nostalgia takes on overtones of archaeological research.
Like the ten inkblot images of the Rorschach test, the British artist's collection brings to the surface his interests and obsessions, and an entire way of understanding music as a cultural and human process.