Kim Gordon hadn’t been following the Argentine presidential race closely, but she knew enough to conclude that Javier Milei had no business leading the country or any other.
“I saw him on the cover of the New York Times with his five cloned mastiffs,” she told the Herald. “He just looked completely insane.”
On Tuesday, the visual artist and former bassist for Sonic Youth posted a black-and-white portrait of Economy Minister Sergio Massa and running mate Agustín Rossi on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter). Each is wearing a pair of sunglasses, while Massa holds a cigarette between his middle and index fingers.
Alt-rock fans may have recognized the image; it’s a twist on Raymond Pettibon’s iconic cover art for the band’s sixth studio album, Goo. Based on a newspaper photo, the original drawing depicts Maureen Hindley and David Smith — key witnesses in the trial that would lead to the conviction of Hindley’s sister, Myra, and Ian Brady for a series of grisly murders in Manchester, England, during the 1960s.
Gordon’s post, which she credits to Andrés Asia, Juan Cruz Molas y Molas, and Lautaro Alincastro, includes a block of text that reads, in Spanish, “There’s a storm of denialist wigs. On November 19, let’s vote against the neoliberal far right.” (Both Milei and his vice presidential candidate, Victoria Villarruel, have refused to acknowledge that Argentina’s last military dictatorship killed or disappeared an estimated 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983.)
Shortly before Friday’s veda electoral (electoral ban) prohibiting Argentine media from discussing the election within 48 hours of polls opening, the Herald spoke to Gordon over the phone about politics, art, and the intersection of the two. What follows is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
So how did you come across the illustration, and what compelled you to share it?
It was actually sent to me through an old friend, [producer] Stuart Swezey, who’s in touch with activists in Argentina. I guess they thought that it might help spread the word about what’s happening in the country in a way that wasn’t too Instagram-y, although I recognize that I shared it on Instagram.
Have you been following the Argentine presidential race?
Only in passing. I was in Paris for an art fair with an Argentine artist who got me up to speed. It sounds like Milei has some pretty radical ideas about the economy and privatizing the government. It reminds me a lot of [former U.S. president Donald] Trump, who wants to get rid of the Department of Education, the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and other things.
Neither believes in a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices either.
And there’s that.
There’s an anti-capitalist current in many of your songs. What would you say was your political awakening?
Well, I’m a child of the counterculture, and I attended a lot of demonstrations in the late ‘60s as a teenager. There was music, and it was a lot of fun. I guess I’ve always been anti-corporate because of that.
Sonic Youth was definitely a revolt against the homogenized world of corporations. When we signed to Geffen in 1990, I realized we had a bigger platform. Everyone told us we were part of the mainstream, even though we weren’t. As a woman, I realized that I had a lot to write about. And now that I’m making my own music, I don’t have to worry too much about what the other band members might think, you know what I mean?
Do you think your politics have evolved at all?
Not that much, although I can say that I regret not supporting Bernie Sanders in 2016. I just wasn’t paying that much attention. Mostly, I wanted Trump to lose. I pounded the pavement for Bernie in 2020, and I thought it was so sad what happened to him. The mainstream media shut him out, and [former U.S. president Barack] Obama shut him out. Or he told the other candidates to drop out and endorse Joe Biden, which was just as bad.
Maybe Sanders lacked a killer instinct, I don’t know. He always felt the need to say that Joe was his friend. Corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans are pretty similar, as we’re being reminded now.
Do artists have a certain responsibility to their audiences to offer some kind of social or political critique?
There are all kinds of artists and all kinds of art, corporate and otherwise. What matters, ultimately, is how interesting the piece is. I tend to gravitate towards works that reflect on the world in which we live, but that doesn’t mean they have to be heavy-handed.
I think the best art removes us from the commercial world and gives us the space to really think about things, both how they are and how they might be.