The great thing about launching 12 narrative-linked music videos is that there’s no Actual Way to do that. So for instance, setting up a gallery installation where each video sits within it’s own ‘set’ incorporating materials and visual themes from the making of said videos- well that can’t be less wrong than any other way of doing it.
Often once I have to explain something to an audience, that’s when I realise what the thing actually is. So it goes with This Band Will Self-Destruct, which it eventuates is An Album That Is A Room That You Can Walk Around In. Duh.
(The installation was basically lit 100% by the video screens so these room-lights-on photos by Imogen can only do the best they can to communicate what the audience was seeing)
The idea for staging the work this way came of some great advice I got from my long-time band-mate/mentor Julia Johnson, who pointed out that a gallery-style engagement with the videos might give an audience license to take their time and engage with the videos as the One Big Piece that they actually are.
I pitched the idea to Art Not Apart, the annual one-day festival that has steadily grown out the strange mists of the developer-funded-arts-and-culture experiment that is New Acton. In a huge piece of fluke-y luck it turned out that they were using the National Film and Sound Archive as their main venue for the festival, and within seconds my ambitions for the work had quadrupled. The totally rad selection of vintage screens and TVs in the NFSA collection allowed for 12 individual AV set-ups with their own aesthetic pop, and as we looked at the available selections we were blown away by how many natural resonances between the videos and the gear presented themselves.
By ‘we’ I mean installation producer Nick McCorriston and TBWSD Designer Supreme Imogen Keen. The over-the-top tech demands and space design reqs, not to mention the absurdly tight time frame, were almost 100% outside my skill set. I was so so lucky that NickMc was free and keen to put it all together, his extensive experience at You Are Here festival (among many other things) has made him an elite-level creator of weird tech-heavy shows on limited resources. Of course it was amazing to have Imogen carry her fabulously coherent and rigorous design parameters from the videos on through into the final exhibition space, she really made it sing as if all was planned from the start. My favorite parts of what she did were the totally whimsical touches like having one video presented in a portable back-pack and having a display case set up with costumes from the shoot.
We took care to try and have each video presented in a way that resonated with their form and content. For instance, you had to watch Lightbulbs inside an isolation booth that made your surrounds as claustrophobic as the band was in the vid. The soap-y teen-pop aesthetic of Doomed was ramped up by having it playing on a kids’ laptop covered in stickers. The late-night-public-access-am-I-really-seeing-this of Anywhere was shown on a tiny CCTV screen that you had to kneel down and peer at.
One of the vintage TVs could only play black-and-white, so Luke did up a black-and-white version of Save My Brain, the video that had been working least well in the edit. Turned out it was meant to be a black-and-white vid all along. So much of this project has been defined by these happy accidents, or maybe they’re just the natural emergent outcomes of collaboration.
We had dozens of people through on the day and it was a real thrill to see them work slowly around the room, taking headphones on and off. The fact that this version worked so well on such short notice makes me very optimistic for what version we might do now with a bit of lead time. It’ll be hard if not impossible to find screens as cool as this version had though.