CH – Miles Davis’ Face on a Vinyl Record – 09:20; 10 July, 2019

A vinyl record with a face painted on it affixed to a brick wall in Winterthur, Switzerland.

One of the first things that caught my eye as I walked from the Winterthur station to my hosts house was a record suspended on the brick facade of a building. Thinking back on it now. I can’t be certain whether it was at the base of a set of stairs which lead up to a second floor entrance or not. I’m pretty sure it was. What struck me as odd was not merely the fact that someone had nailed, or somehow affixed a vinyl record to the outer brick wall of this very industrial looking building, but that someone had painted a face on it. Nowadays, vinyl records are being produced with all manner of designs on them as a way to make the object of the record more appealing, more visually interesting. As if a large disc of plastic with microscopic bumps and grooves that makes music isn’t fascinating enough.          

The painted face on this record did not seem to be mass produced, the face didn’t seem to sit on the record as though it had been there from the start. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that there is no center hole to help position the record on the turntable. Instead, where there should be a hole, there is a stark field of white for the nose. I have no idea who’s face is staring down, watching as the hundreds of passers by walk  or bike to and from the train station. I remember thinking at the time that it was the face of Miles Davis. It reminded me of Irving Penn’s famous portrait of Miles Davis which became the cover image for Davis’s album Tutu (1986). Miles’ face appears to emerge from the shadows with its stark contrast of black and white. Looking at the face now, another option might be that of Yasiin Bey, formerly know by his stage name Mos Def. His eyes, and the eyes of the painted face, are much kinder than Davis’. Or perhaps it is the face of the American rapper Tupac Shakur. At the top of the record there appears to be the knot of a headband, something often seen in images of Shakur. I can’t be certain. And notice all of my suggestions are of American artists. The face might belong to a Swiss artist, or a European, or who knows?

I’m getting into territory which I know little about. I might never know whose face is-or maybe by now was-painted on that record and hung of for all to see during their daily commute. Maybe it was a bit of wordless advertising, signaling that the room on the second story was a recording studio, or the workplace of an artist with a sample of their work displayed. It was my first day there. I was headed to meet my host so I could see where I would be living for the next week or so. I wanted to drop of my luggage, and, as I discovered as soon as I stepped into her house, I needed a nap.