Will try to make updates on Simon Reynolds' book Retromania as I am reading it.
An earlier post has been mostly rewritten to object on general grounds to the book's thesis--that we are caught in a backward-looking loop and nothing new is happening in culture.
But individual chapters give the reader pause. Just finished one on British conceptual artists re-enacting old Cramps and Einstürzende Neubauten concerts with full institutional support of spaces such as the ICA. That is pretty sad.
Reynolds doesn't mention the economic side of re-creations and re-enactments. Most of the ones he discusses happened during boom or bubble years (dot com, housing bubble). When there's gratuitous cash floating around people can indulge the stupidest whims imaginable, such as spending thousands of hours studying old concert footage to figure out where every band and audience member was standing at a particular moment. Woolgathering is time and time is money.
Also the involvement of the ICA compromises these events as any kind of authentic culture. Everything will have quotes around it and the only threat is that something bad becomes canonical. In the Cramps' heyday, they performed in an institution--a mental institution.
As an aside, was surprised to read Reynolds' description of the Cramps as "a group who believed in rock'n'roll's primal frenzy, but who were too knowledgeable and too knowing, as record-collector scholars of rockabilly. to get 'real gone' for real." Anyone who saw Lux Interior hang himself with a microphone cord while jabbering the chorus of "Surfing Bird" would beg to differ.
Update: Most of the re-enactments Reynolds describes were pop acts recreated in an art setting (Bowie, Smiths, Cobain, etc). The Einstürzende Neubauten gig was at the ICA both times. Concerto for Voice and Machinery II was art in 2007 but merely arty in 1984.