We Buy White Albums
Rutherford Chang is a New York-based artist who collects the Beatles’ White Album, and only the White Album. At present he has over 900 copies of the first pressing of the record. Mr. Chang’s interest in the album centers on the way that the all white album covers display the individual record’s history, both through wear and tear and user alteration. At the same time, the vinyl of the records themselves offer an account of the history of each as a unique object. The individual scratches and warping produces a unique sound for each record. From these countless imperfections, Mr. Chang has created a new version of the album, layering one hundred different copies onto a single track.
Mr. Chang’s peculiar project differs from standard collections in its purpose and its scope. Most collections focus on completeness in variation; collectors seek out all of the albums in an artist’s discography, or all of the variants of cover or vinyl color. They may strive for completeness in a genre, be it 40’s jazz or 80’s hardcore, or as a way of documenting their own experiences at shows or festivals. The White Album project, on the other hand, is interested in variations among sameness. Each record is supposedly identical. Each begins in a nearly identical condition, and each retains tremendous similarities over time, but each records the individual experience of the particular record or owner. This creates a peculiar paradox. While at first glance Mr. Chang is building a collection of identical objects, he is in reality compiling a collection of unique artifacts, each unlike the other and impossible to replace. No part of the collection is interchangeable, in the way that someone assembling a Michael Jackson collection might be indifferent as to which particular copy of the Bad album they have, so long as its condition and printing are acceptable. Mr. Chang owns no duplicates, and cannot feasibly part with any record in his collection without diminishing it. White Album #0276938 is the only such record in existence, and its particular pattern of wear, defacement, and imperfections in the vinyl are impossible to replicate. Perhaps appearing at first to be more of a compulsive tendency than an art project, We Buy White Albums offers us a window into the nature of collecting by turning our expectations of what a collection is on its head.
You can read more about Mr. Chang’s fascinating project here.