Richard Kern
Alan Vega

Richard Kern’s interview


- In 2008, Alan Vega and you have been showed together at the Kunsthalle-Vienna, for Punk. No One is Innocent, curated by Thomas Mießgang. In which way are you linked with Punk movement and also with Alan Vega’s work ?

I wouldn't say i was directly linked with the Punk Movement unless it was through Fanzines I did as a result of being exposed to Punk.  Punk was happening in 76, 77, and 78 while i was in college in North Carolina.  Me and my friends who were studying art were thrilled to read about bands like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones because it gave us some kind of music to listen to that separated us from the rest of the students.

The one thing we picked up was a Do it Yourself  attitude (DIY) that meant we could make our own magazines, make our own bands etc.  This seems like a quaint notion now but at that time the idea that if you couldn't find what you liked where you lived, you made your own version of what you were looking for was new to us.  I started a small magazine featuring me and my friends as a result of this idea. When i moved to New York in 1978 i continued producing these magazines.

My fanzines started as music review magazines but quickly changed to art zines that featured drawings, photos and writing.  I, of course, did the photography and a lot of the writing.  A lot of my inspiration came from a magazine i found in the school library called "ARTRITE".  this was a New York based mag started by and run by artists.  One of the issues (i still have a copy) was edited by and featured Alan Vega's work. 

The museum at my school also had one of his pieces in a show of contemporary neon art that was organized by one of the teachers.  His piece and one by Bruce Nauman were my favorites in this show.  Around this time i also was very much into his band Suicide.  The title alone was enough to make me buy the record.

 -  We found a video-clip of one of your video with an additional music of Alan Vega’s band, Suicide. Did you heard about it ? What do you think about this assemblage ?

I just saw the this clip yesterday and was unaware of it.  It's cut-up someone made with my video and Vega's music. The original footage came from my movie "Submit to me now".  It's the opening shot of that movie.  The music i used was a loop i made using Zepplin's "Immigrant Song".

 -  What do you think about being an artist and also a musician as Alan Vega does ?  You‘ve been close to underground musical scene (like Lydia Lunch, Sonic Youth and others) and have made many contributions  to it. Would you tell us more about this relation ?

I think the music and art world scene has been closely related for some time.  For example, David Bowie was a painter.  Kim Gordon studied art before she was in Sonic Youth.  She is now again very much involved in the art world and is showing her paintings again.  Mike Kelley was in the band Destroy All Monsters.  Raymond Pettibon started out designing covers for Black Flag.  I worked with people like Lydia and Sonic Youth because the New York scene at that time was a very small community.  Back then, there wasn't loads of liberal arts schools turning out armies of artist and journalist and photographers and filmmakers each year. 

 -  In a popular way you are often assimilated to the born of Porno-Chic. Does that sounds weird to you ? What’s your opinion ?

I can easily understand how that label would be applied to my photos.  I've definitely lifted ideas right out of porno mags.  I have a new book called SHOT BY KERN (Taschen) that contains many of the new series i'm working on.  Several of these series were directly influenced by things i've seen in porn.  My book "LOOKER" was based on celebrity voyeur photography - the kind of photos that show sneak shots of celebrities nude when they aren't aware that they are being photographed.


Galerie Sébastien Bertrand, April 2013.