There’s been much to celebrate in 2013, the least of which has been our intoxicating ode to music video as an art form – Spectacle.
To celebrate the success of Spectacle we asked staff across ACMI, from curators to visitor services officers, to nominate their favourite music videos that appear in the exhibition.
Tom Stammers – Visitor Services Officer
The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist (2001)
With over 900 samples meticulously crafted into a singular album-length dance party, The Avalanches’ Since I Left You brought Australian music well and truly into the 21st Century. Thirty-seven of those samples are on the album cut Frontier Psychiatrist; a mish-mash of spoken word, horns, beats, and sound effects drawn from all different sources. What more could you want from the film clip than to see all these strange things performed by an orchestra? Rather than just musicians, their orchestra is packed with cowboys, ghosts, parrots, and of course, psychiatrists. Thanks to Spectacle’s collaboration with Rage, the gallery holds a wealth of Australian content that’s spread all throughout the gallery. You’ll be able to find this one in the ‘Bowl of Surreal’ section.
And make sure to hang around for Devo’s Whip It, which comes up straight after!
Kat Mew – Head of Design
Tame Impala – Half Full Glass of Wine (2008)
There’s something so primal when you hear Tame Impala’s Half Full Glass of Wine that you involuntarily find yourself rocking out like you are so awesomely hardcore – well, at least in your own mind.
So what visuals could possibly live up to such a huge track? NZ animation creatives, Special Problems, explode a big old pot of visual squelch in perfect synergy with Tame Impala’s aural splendour. I love animation and I love this video! It’s a stop motion, paint animation, treated footage, rainbow-land frenzy. It’s smeary, it’s scrunchy and all hand-made psychedelia. It’s got hand animated video feedback! Need I say more?
But wait! As the ultimate in awesomeness, it’s got hand-drawn rotating pyramids! Oh the intricacy of the angles! What’s not to love?
Er, sorry, I’m such a nerd…
Fiona Trigg – Curator
Metronomy – A Thing For Me (2009)
I love how this video recalls some of the very first song films ever made. In the late 1920s, the Fleisher film studio began releasing short “singalong” films that included a mix of animation and live action performances of popular songs of the day. These would be shown in cinemas as part of the shorts package before the feature, and used “the famous bouncing ball” moving along the lyrics on the screen to help the audience keep in time.
The bouncing ball appeared occasionally on early TV variety and children’s shows but seemed relegated to history until karaoke revived the singalong tradition.
In creating A Thing For Me, Megaforce (a collective of four directors based in Paris) start by showing the band perform in front of a cheesy, karaoke-style sunset and then proceed to make as many jokes out of the bouncing ball and lyrics scenario as they can fit into the 3:28 mins of the song. Although they don’t reference the Fleisher animations specifically, the visual gags used in the music video come from a long tradition of cartooning in which clever visuals trump story every time.
Chris Sullivan – Digital Producer
The Beastie Boys – Shadrach (1989)
I remember seeing Shadrach for the first time – I’d just knocked off from work and was sitting in a dark living room eating cold pizza and watching Rage. Shadrach stands out, it’s animated and every frame is hand-painted in a style that exaggerates the movements of the Beasties’ live performance. In a blaze of colour and movement the irreverent lyrics seem to take on a power of their own as the group manage to tie together Charles Dickens, Mario Andretti and Goodyear Tires into a coherent whole.
Vicious circle of reality since the day you were born
And we love the hot butter on *say what?!* the popcorn!
To my mind Shadrach manages like few other music video clips to tie together the energy of a live performance with the sensibilities of the band and its members. Shadrach is a one-of-a-kind music video and in that dark living room was unparalleled.
Tim Bright – Assistant Producer
Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar (2001)
When I first saw this video clip I loved it, then after talking with a friend who explained it to me I really loved it. The optical illusion central to this masterful clip from Michel Gondry is so effective that on first viewing I didn’t realise the synesthesiastic trick that was being played on me.
Star Guitar is at first glance a ludicrously simple video clip. The audience gazes out of a train’s window as day turns into night and back again, while the luscious melodies of one of the Chemical Brothers’ more gentle club hits washes over us. But on closer inspection, or in my case a little encouragement from my friend, you notice that the objects outside the train window have a certain rhythm and regulation about them.
In this clip Gondry has composed a visual musical score where by every element of the music is represented by an object in the landscape. A telegraph pole will be cymbal, a house a drum hit, a suspension bridge a vocal melody, every single element of the music is represented in this master class of visual effects composting. What completes the clip for me is that Gondry further extends his concept by representing the meta language of the song within his visual landscape.
As the song moves from verse to bridge, from energy to rest, so too our landscape moves from day to night, while still maintaining individual song elements in the landscape’s composition. Gondry has explored similar ideas of synesthesia in a number of his clips, perhaps most notably in Daft Punk’s Around The World.
Go check out all his clips and see if you can see some patterns you didn’t notice before.
Do you agree with our staff picks?
Tell us in the comments below what your favourite clips from Spectacle are.
Spectacle: The Music Video Exhibition is a historic collection of clips, recreated sets, props and costumes that spans the history of music videos. Open from Thursday 26 September to Sunday 23 February.