The Art of Pop Video

Next month sees the arrival of FACT’s new exhibition The Art of Pop Video. It should be a wild ride…

When FACT unveils latest exhibition The Art of The Pop Video in the second week of March, astonishingly, it will be the first of its kind in the UK. Astonishing because, as with film, the pop video has produced great artists and pieces of great art.

The problem seems to be in the title: the pop video is something which ordinarily perhaps we file under ‘throwaway’ culture; certainly not something we would think of presenting or including in a gallery in any traditional sense.

MTV, which helped define the industry, as well as a generation of viewers and creators since its inception in August 1981, is perhaps to be celebrated and blamed in equal measure. Originally intended for a young adult demographic, the channel is more heavily tailored toward teenage girls these days, as such, so is the music video. And it often shows.

But without it, we may have been robbed of some stellar names – primarily directors – who have made, and continue to make, interesting and ground-breaking videos. A trio in particular springs to mind in Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham. A decade ago, US-based entertainment company Palm Pictures released its Directors Label series, a set of DVDs devoted to high profile and respected music video directors.

Its first releases in the series were dedicated to that trio of Gondry, Jonze and Cunningham, linked only by their respective aptitudes for taking risks and pushing the boundaries of what had come to be expected within the medium. It was these collections incorporating the videos, plus photos, notes, drawings, storyboards and personal insights, which made us look again, and with fresh eyes, at the music video.

British director Cunningham had made his name working with the likes of Aphex Twin and Bjork; Gondry with the White Stripes and Bjork (her again) amongst others, while we first came across Spike Jonze’s handiwork with the promo for the Beastie Boys’ incredible cops and robbers pastiche, Sabotage – almost certainly the first time we sat and watched a music video on its own merits rather than as a tool merely made for selling a 3 minute pop song.

It is with no little anticipation then that we look forward to The Art of Pop Video, featuring as it does a look at those very directors, also joined by Anton Corbijn, Andy Warhol and Wim Wenders, to name a few. The exhibition takes a look at the work of artists such as Man Ray, Madonna, Daft Punk and Lady Gaga, as well as showcasing the work of visual artists who have been unashamedly influenced by the field, including Pipilotti Rist and Wolfgang Tillmans.

With talk of “placing the music video in the context of the history of visual arts and film,” there seems a real emphasis on repositioning the medium, providing it every chance to be recontextualised and reconsidered, and in so doing, its practitioners to be thought of very much as operating within the realms of art.

It all adds up to a great opportunity to look at these little creations in a new context, away from music TV, enabling us as an audience, to reassess their worth (or otherwise if you remain unconvinced) as Art. Plus, with a set of screenings curated to provide some great accompaniment (including the excellent All Tomorrow’s Parties and the Beastie Boys concert film Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!), the worlds of music and film look set to collide very nicely at FACT in the coming weeks.

The Art of Pop Video opens Thursday 14th March @ FACT

Posted on 21/02/2013 by thedoublenegative