Rock My Religion
Not on view
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Film and Video Committee
Rights and reproductions
Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.
Dan Graham’s video Rock My Religion advances a provocative thesis that intertwines the histories of American rock music and religion. Using montage and text, Graham compares the emergence of the rebellious teenager in suburban postwar America to the utopian vision of the Shakers, a religious sect that originated in Manchester, England, in the eighteenth century whose leaders and adherents mostly immigrated to the United States. In Rock My Religion, the Shakers' rejection of the conventional family structure is linked to the emergence of "the teenager" as a social type in the 1950s and to this figure's widespread cultural impact during the next three decades. Images of the Shakers' ecstatic dances are collaged with 1969 footage of gyrating Woodstock festival-goers on LSD, Elvis Presley, and a nuclear bomb exploding. From Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Presley, and James Dean in the 1950s to 1970s punk, the power of youth music usurps a role previously occupied by religion. The juxtaposition with America’s Shaker past puts rock music in a larger context, suggesting that it taps a vein of extremism that runs throughout American history.