Image is Aspirin. Sound is Sperm.

unpublished email responses to the curators' research for the Video Hits exhibition, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2004
The Human League on Top Of The Pops (1982)


Typical scenario: a curator plugs into what he or she thinks is a 'zeitgeist' issue to formulate a 'contemporary art' group exhibition with a 'relevant theme'. Usually, the topic is divorced from the refined aesthetics of art, and often is something vaguely to do with big issues like society, politics, 'real life', the media, technology, popular culture. In this last sub-category (popular culture), 'pop music' is a favourite subject. Without exception, curators who tackle this produce embarrassing shows. The Video Hits exhibition was no exception. Typical of much new-millennial discourse on music videos, critics, curators and journalists thought the medium had been amazingly re-invented by the holy trinity of Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry. Bjork seemed to be everywhere. Everyone was 'creative', 'artistic' and 'boundary breaking'. Back then in my view, it was nothing but vague hipster advertising, validated by notions that these sparkling music videos were manifestations of 'contemporary art'. On the contrary, they were as artistic as 'arthouse movies'. The curators of Video Hits emailed all the artists an incredibly dumb questionnaire. I felt like I was in high school. My responses unsurprisingly were not noted or included in the curators' 'catalogue essay' for the exhibition.


Are there particular aspects of music video form, style or content that you find interesting in relation to your artistic practice?

I like cheap videos where the performer is visceral. Hopefully they get hurt when shooting the clip. I like sweat, not glycerine. I hate any clip that looks like a photo shoot, probably cos I hate photography, though I like hair a lot.

Do you like music video? Do you think it is an important cultural form?

Videos died long ago. In a i-pod era where even my dead grandmother is a computer nerd, intelligence has spread like mould in the fridge. Everything is validated now, especially video-clips. I prefer the original MTV-era of Twisted Sister when clips were reviled for their crassness. Music video is now a thoroughly unimportant form because of its recognition as art. My favourite form of video is the UK Top of the Pops. Perspex music stands that wobble on shaky stages; make-up that doesn’t look good under cruddy BBC lighting; an audience who have no idea who they’re looking at. Gary Glitter is solid gold.

Are there particular bands or directors whose videos have interested you? Perhaps there is a clip (or clips) that have made a strong impression on you and may even have had some influence on your practice.

David Bowie – Sorrow, Boys Keep Swinging, Fashion, Day In Day Out
Madonna – Bad Girl, Human Nature
Michael Jackson – Black or White, Ghosts, Scream, Thriller
Prince – Kiss, Mountains
Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi
Sly & Robbie – Boops
The Art OF Noise – Beat Box Diversion 2
Sir Mix A Lot – Baby Got Back
Herb Alpert – Keep Your Eye On Me
PIL – Seattle
Herbie Hancock – Rockitt
Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm
Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Shoot It Up
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Missy Elliot – I Can’t Stand The Rain
Yoko Ono – Walking On Thin Ice
Metallica – One
Public Enemy – Night Of The Living Baseheads
Kate Bush – Cloud Bursting
Ice Cube – It Was A Good Day
The Jacksons – Can You Feel It
George Clinton – Atomic Dog
The Melvins – Lizzy
Janet Jackson - Nasty
The Skatt Brothers – Life On The Outpost

What are some of the reasons for the way you use music/sound in your work? How do you think the soundtrack affects the viewer's experience of the video images (and vice-versa)?

Image is aspirin. Sound is sperm.

What are your thoughts today on the relationship between music videos and other cultural forms such as video art, film, television and advertising? (I know you have published on aspects of this at various times).

Too difficult to answer. See my liner notes to Honeysmack's Rock CD, Smelly Records, 2003.

Text © Philip Brophy. Images © The Human League / BBC.