Friday, June 23, 2006

Watch & Listen: Surreal Music Videos @ Monkey Town

In the first year that I moved to New York, while I was the unwitting captive of my roommates’ egregious attacks against my better nature, I had a small staple of obsessions that could lift the dark cloud for an hour or two. Sparked by Palm Pictures’ Director's Label (particularly Michel Gondry), I watched and re-watched music videos on DVD, TV and online. I spent a great deal of ultimately futile creative energy listening to obscure bands and devising concepts for music videos, planning out storylines and storyboarding animated characters. It was a welcome distraction, one I return to from time to time.

Last night, I went to a screening of a dozen+ music videos produced in the last year that shared a thematic thread: they incorporated, with varying degrees, surrealist subjects and imagery. From the curator’s statement:
In the past decade, the structure of the short snappy music video has not only become fodder for the likes of the commercial MTV set, but a gold mine for major artists and film directors to work with - and within - the limitations of the specific structure of the music video clip. Consequently, many music videos have begun to look more like an art form reminiscent of the short film genre than a commercial product.
So huddled into the back of the restaurant, sprawled out on futons sipping brew, surrounded on four sides by huge screens, the clips played one after another. It was like a pleasant coming out party for what had previously been a dirty, solitary obsession. There were appearances from a few expected auteurs and artists (Spike Jonze, Floria Sigismondi, Beck and Bjork) as well as a small handful of videos that had me completely mesmerized (Martin De Thurah’s embattled Aryan children in Carpark North’s “Human”). In some cases a video did just what a good video should do and that is to make a mediocre song memorable. When I got home and listened to “Fortress” by Pinback I was unimpressed with the song. But when you watch the spot with the line drawing of royal soldiers busting out choreographed dance moves over syncopated breakbeats, you fall in love with the whole package.

The night was capped off with a surrealist short by Rene Clair that was supposed to bring some cohesion to all of the videos, a sort of historical context if you will. But the video failed to captivate the audience’s interest with most of them trickling out before it was over. I think the lack of interest just lent support to the effectiveness of contemporary filmic techniques and the caliber of art that directors are producing today in the form of 3-minute video clips. Video is now an ideal medium for conveying abstract, absurd and disturbing imagery with a force that was once only possible with some paint and a brush.
Carpark North - "Human" (mp3) (link to YouTube video)
Ladytron - "Destroy Everything You Touch" (mp3) (link to YouTube video)
Pinback - "Fortress" (mp3) (link to YouTube video)
Beck - "E-pro" (mp3) (link to YouTube video)


Sharis said...

I like Fortress the best

nerdelite said...

Ha! Yeah, I can see that. Different strokes, I guess. I prefer the song "Destroy Everything You Touch" and the video "Human".

Anonymous said...

greetings from san antonio! lovin your brooklyn adventures...will be back in nyc july 4 at my new Fort Greene home. crazy shit. see you at bubby's soon!