Are Transparent CDJs Art? Vigril Abloh’s Transparent CDJ/DJM Setup Head To Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art

What happens when modern pop art meets DJ technology? We first revealed Virgil Abloh’s transparent CDJ-2000NXS2 and DJM-900NXS2 setup on the DJTT blog last month, but now the unique setup is headed to a more controversial performance: the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Virgil Abloh’s Transparent CDJ-2000NXS2s + DJM-900NXS2

Today’s announcement from Pioneer DJ marks the first time that we get to see quality photos of the complete setup that first debuted at Coachella:

Is Debranding Consumer Products Really Art?

What makes this transparent NXS2 setup uniquely art? There’s a pretty solid discussion to be had here. On one hand, pop art has been recontextualizing consumer products for decades (Warhol’s Campbell Soup prints, below, come to mind) with artistic intentions.

Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans
Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” (1962 – image credit MoMa.org)

Additionally, it’s important to consider the context of a specific exhibition when thinking about the actual art pieces contained in it. In this case, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art is displaying a wide cross section of Abloh’s work from a variety of media as a way to reflect on the impact of his entire career. His own history as an Illinois-born creator makes him an especially appropriate local hero for the museum to reflect on.

Virgil Abloh’s own artist statement (below) about the transparent DJ setup is also worth considering – that the actual design of the units aims to inspire a “different sound while DJing.”

“As a means to give a new look and feel to the industry standard of the CDJ and DJM I aimed to design a see thru and non-labeled rendition of the classic models to inspire a different sound while djing. And perhaps a new way for music technology and human interaction to equal a different result.”

Tomorrowland / Jesse Dean CDJs
Jesse Dean collaborated with Pioneer DJ in 2015 to make this custom setup for Tomorrowland.

It’s also worth considering that on their own, these CDJs/DJM are nothing special. Pioneer DJ has been making custom versions of their mixers and media players for years, many of which have been far more transformational than a de-branded setup. Just because a famous designer comes up with an idea for a new product style doesn’t make make it a quality piece of art.

Debranding + Customization are nothing new to DJ culture

Removing brand imagery from clothing has been an ongoing consumer trend that’s grown in the last decade.Within the DJ industry, we’ve seen tons of users who customize their gear as a way of removing branding and making their setups unique. Adding new knobs like Chroma Caps, designing custom skins like from 12inchskinz, and generally making a setup stand out has been a core part of DJ culture for a long time.

Honestly, of the two setups that we analyzed from Virgil’s setup at Coachella, the transparent CDJ/DJM units was the less exciting half. The unique custom XDJ-1000MK2s and sequencers that seemed to be designed by Teenage Engineering had unique, fresh takes on DJ interfaces. They seem like more of an artistic endeavor – but we haven’t seen any additional details on those units.

See more about the collaboration on Pioneer DJ’s official project page, or learn more about the exhibition on MCA Chicago’s site.

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