Monday, December 01, 2008

All Is Full Of Love

All Is Full Of Love
Directed by Chris Cunningham
USA 1999 (4 minutes)

Bjork's visual art has always been just as interesting as her music. Throughout her solo career she has teamed up with some of the more acclaimed music video directors of the time (Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham among others) to deliver arresting short form cinematic expressions like this one. In Jihyun's original posting on this video she stated, "I do not really understand what relationship her music videos have with her song lyrics." I think that's a reasonable reaction, as there often isn't very much explicit thematic or narrative correlation between the two. Instead, I think she's more concerned with creating a mood and visual aesthetic that compliments the music. In such design, she often returns to a common theme regarding the marriage of technology and nature.

In the case of this particular short, Jihyun was apt to discuss the techniques used to create the video as Bjork's visual media work remains some of the most innovative in the industry. It remains difficult to separate the thematic content of the videos from their production. Here, we see Bjork herself being constructed in a sterile industrial facility in the form of an android. The film concerns itself with the sensuality of the human form within the context of a purely mechanical environment. The parallel can be clearly seen in her music as well. Her song writing frequently incorporates Earthy imagery and sexual or anatomical content, while her arrangements and functional music-making have become increasingly digital over the years (with the stark exception of Medulla, a nearly 100% vocal album). Personally, this balance proves refreshing and particularly compelling, in a time where much of the world feels divided between a sort of technological paranoia and environmentally-ignorant industrial mindset.

It stands to be determined exactly how these videos function within the wide realm of short films as a whole. I believe the very basis of this interplay between technology and nature drives the meaning of her videos. They exist as singular non-narrative expressions lauded for their visual inventiveness, supported by her similarly inventive song writing. Given the wide distribution of music videos as a predominantly advertising-focused format, Bjork's shorts probably have the greatest influence as examples of filmmaking innovation. There seem to be two distinct design schools in her work: a hyper-stylized "analog" form, and a sleek sterile digital form. The former, exemplified best by Michel Gondry's work, showcases a nature-rooted in-camera display of visual inventiveness (as seen in "Bachelorette" and "Army of Me"). The latter form often features Bjork herself subject to a variety of cutting-edge digital effects manipulation (such as "Hunter" where she morphs into a polar bear, and "Hidden Place" where a mystical amoebic ooze enters parts of her head).

Even within these two schools of thought that thematic dichotomy remains evident. However, she broke even another barrier recently with her video for "Wanderlust", one of the first internet-based 3D digital stereoscopic film productions. Viewing the movie in its proper 3D required acquisition of anaglyph glasses, or for the viewer to go to a designated music store where viewing stations were set-up upon release of the single. Sure to prove a landmark short once 3D has become a common and familiar format both in movie theaters and in the home, "Wanderlust" signals yet another breakthrough filmmaking experiment and perhaps the perfect amalgamation of modern technology and natural "analog" imagery.

For those interested, I'm going to post links to all the videos I referenced here, because I think they're all worth exploring to really identify this concept I've addressed.

Wanderlust (just the 2D version, but you can find the 3D take with little effort)

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