Unpopular shows there’s no escaping 90s rock


“I didn’t want this to just be some retrospective memorabilia show,” says Stephen Pavlovic about Unpopular, an exhibition that delves into the veteran music entrepreneur and promoter’s vast archives.

Unpopular is certainly not that. Granted, this assemblage of over 200 objects, from photographs to posters to fanzines to personal letters—and pretty much everything in between—is a homage to the global 1990s bands that might loosely be defined as ‘alt-rock’. Think major names like Nirvana, Pavement, Fugazi and Sonic Youth, but also the likes of Rancid, Jawbreaker and The Amps. Yet Pavlovic , in partnership with Powerhouse chief executive Lisa Havilah, has ensured there is a contemporary edge to the show beyond displaying artefacts.

In addition to Pavlovic’s 90s ephemera are separate collaborations with two contemporary artists: US-based video artist Julian Klincewicz, and Melbourne collage artist Lillian O’Neil. “I took footage we filmed at a festival in 1995 called Somersault,” says Pavlovic. “We gave that to Julian, a video and film designer, and he created this 20-foot installation, a wall of crowd footage that is all blended, tripped-out and slow-mo.” Similarly, Pavlovic gave O’Neil a trove of photographs and negatives, from which she produced three large-scale collages.

Unpopular is also a display of photography, largely from Australian concerts of various sizes, with many captured by renowned rock photographer Sophie Howarth. “The more fucked they are, the better,” says Pavlovic when asked what he looked for in selecting the photographs. “There’s a particular energy bands have when they’re in a small space, and the energy comes through in black-and-white photography. The lighting is very simple, and it gives it a tone and a quality. It feels really alive, I find it really beautiful.

Powerhouse Museum
Until 3 June

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Barnaby Smith