The Saturday morning Rage ritual is no longer the pass time of music fanatics and visual arts students looking for ideas. The Queensland Art Gallery has taken the video clip from the weekend viewing time slots and hung it on the wall with Video Hits, an exhibition of film clips and art exploring the rich and complex relationship between music, film and art.
“There has been a recognition of video clips as an art form for sometime.” Nicholas Chambers, co-curator of Video Hits told me during a curratorial walk through of the exhibition. “The exhibition includes artists who are accustomed to working in a gallery context and music video directors whose work is rarely seen outside of the distribution network of mainstream television. Video Hits will present both commercial and ‘art’ content alongside each other – addressing the various points of intersection and influence.”
The exhibition is a double whammy. The first part of the exhibition orientates around film clips by renowned directors Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry, featuring clips made for performers such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fatboy Slim, Björk, The White Stripes, The Chemical Brothers and Kylie Minogue. Its choice of clips are designed to examine the intersection points where music meets film meets art, looking at overlaps in content, form, technical sophistication and even film makers.
These three video artists’ film clips have become icons of the MTV generation. The exhibit includes clips of performers who have worked with a number of the three. Gondry produced Björk’s “Human Behaviour”, “Army of Me”, “Hyperballad” and “Bachelorette” while Cunningham did her “All is Full of Love” clip and “It’s Oh So Quiet” was done by Jonze. Daft Punk worked with Gondry on the “Around the World” clip and with Jonze on the “Da Funk” clip. Gondry did both the “Let Forever Be” and “Star Guitar” clips for The Chemical Brothers and Jonze did the “Elektrobank” clip. Director-specific clips included in the exhibition are ”Only You” clip for Portishead, “Come to Daddy” and “Windowlicker” for Aphex Twin and “Come on My Selector” for Squarepusher all done by Cunningham. Gondry’s solo-work includes “Protection” for Massive Attack, “Like a Rolling Stone” for The Rolling Stones, and “Fell in Love With a Girl” and “Hardest Button to Button” for The White Stripes. And Jonze’s “Cannonball” for The Breeders, “Sabotage” for The Beastie Boys, and “Praise You” and “Weapon of Choice” for Fatboy Slim are in there too.
The space, in keeping with its minimalist interior design, features three separate areas. The central chamber surrounds the viewer with larger-than-life projections of clips by the three filmmakers on continuous loop. In the two flanking areas, beanbags are dotted under dangling head phones on which you can listen to Cunningham’s clips on one end, and Jonze’s clips on the other. The entire space is saturated with a playlist of songs that Gondry has directed film clips for. These tracks resonates quietly from the walls, pulling the visuals away from the audio to illustrate the aesthetics of the visual clips which are so crucial to the exhibit.
“Visitors will be accustomed to viewing the material on television screens. Hopefully, by presenting curated programs of clips as large scale projections, we enable people to look at the videos in a different way and to get a sense of the makers’ unique visual styles,” Chambers said. To aid this process, monitors have been set up with head phones playing documentary content amongst the clips which are autobiographical in content about the creators, or focused on specific clips.
Part two of Video Hits broadens the scope of the exhibition, pulling in other video clip makers such as Australian director Russell Mulcahy (most notably know for “Video Killed the Radio Star” clip for The Buggles which was the first clip shown on MTV), Artist Damien Hirst (“Country House” for Blur), film director Derek Jarman (“The Queen is Dead” and “Panic” for The Smiths,”Broken English”, “Witches’ Song” and “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” for Marianne Faithful, “It’s a Sin”, “Rent” and “Projections” for Pet Shop Boys), artist Wolfgang Tillmans (“Home & Dry” for Pet Shop Boys) and Australian artist Jeremy Hynes (Polyestergirl for Regurgitator), as well as others.
The second part is designed to examine further the relationships between art, music and video while also hinting at critiques of the construction of video clips in a mainstream market. Co-produced works such as Love Town, the work of Tokyo artist Yayoi Kusama and director Peter Gabriel, are the main feature of this section. The crossing of art and film is also exemplified by American music video director Mark Romanek’s Red Hot Chili Pepper’s clip “Can’t Stop” which incorporates instalations inspired by Australian sculptor Erwin Wurm.
Examples of critique include Candice Breitz’s Double Annie which uses images of Annie Lennox from a Eurhythmics clip, repeating the word, “I” and the word, “you” to demonstrate the dichotomous nature of love songs. Also, parody works by Sydney dragking outfit The Kingpins aim to deconstruct the constructions of pop culture and masculinity is recurring elements of film clip design.
Video Hits is a visually massive exhibit designed to make you look a little closer at the film clips you see on TV. By finding recognisable points of reference it works to deconstruct the film clip without tearing it apart. So if you are an artist, muso, film maker or just love watching clips on a Saturday morning be sure to check it out.