Rock my Religion, 1982-1984

While we might expect a degree of Minimalism and the analysis of perceptive phenomena linked to the viewer’s reception of the work, Rock my Religion (1982–84) distances itself from this way of working that was typical of Dan Graham in the seventies. By the end of that decade, and at the beginning of the eighties, the artist had become interested in phenomena of a more social nature. Graham constructed this nearly hour-long video starting from an article he had written with the same title. In it, the artist analysed the most intellectualised practices of punk-rock that had emerged in New York in the second half of the 1970s, including Patti Smith, who, according to Graham, was ‘the first to expose the truth that rock is a religion’.

Rather than a sociological reading on the industrialisation of music and its massification, Graham presents us with an anthropological analysis linking this contemporary cultural phenomenon with the rituality of primitive culture. In particular, he reads the codes of veneration and the way in which rock stars attract a following as a secularisation of the conduct of some religious communities: namely the more intransigent Protestant sects, such as the Shakers. This daring thesis equates the practice of dancing to enter trance-like states and the unconditional dedication to the leader shown in these communities with the behaviour and attitudes of adolescent suburban consumers in the States of the post-war fifties, and with the counterculture of the sixties, the context at the root of the rock phenomenon. Incorporating texts, performances and recordings of major concerts, Graham’s complex film collage greatly influenced later artists like Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, and musicians like the band Sonic Youth.

Technical details

Original title:
Rock my Religion
Registration number:
Graham, Dan
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Audiovisual recording
Single-channel video, colour and b/w, sound, 55 min 27 s
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Work purchased thanks to Rumeu Family
© Rock my Religion by Dan Graham. All rights reserved.
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