Music Video: 1982-2000

Ed Steinberg, F. Gary Gray, Michel Gondry, Hype Williams, Mark Romanek, Anton Corbijn, Chris Cunningham, Jim Yukich, Spike Jonze, Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Doug Aiken

4/1/2005 - 6/18/2005

Know anyone who doesn’t like music videos? Thought not.

Given that many of us/the current generation grew up watching music videos, one could argue that they constitute the most influential and popular art form of the last two decades. They have permeated (even saturated) our daily reality, influencing all contemporary visual and entertainment media, including film, fashion and design. Since the 1986 debut of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammervideo, artists working in new media, especially animation, have taken many cues from MTV. Despite music video’s evolution outside of art traditions and venues, it is now thoroughly integrated in the contemporary art world with many artists straddling the high/low culture realms. For example, one of the successful directors in this exhibit, Chris Cunningham (director of Björk’s All is Full of Love), is represented by a New York gallery and exhibited in the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In blending both commercial and artistic agendas, music videos reflect the impulses of Broadway productions. They are driven by both sales and music. However, Broadway musicals luxuriate in performances of up to three hours. Music videos approach three minutes in length and must meet a variety of criteria to succeed. Strategies of the instantaneous, such as non-linear and rapid editing are often employed, borrowed from the advertising industry. Like ads, music videos must forge an instant connection with audiences, but also withstand the repetitive play endemic to the entertainment industry and essential to its success. Numbing is inherent to any repetition, so the challenge is to sustain those instant connections through content and quality.

The guest curator of this exhibit, Ed Steinberg, has chosen music videos produced since 1982, the year following an explosion in budget and distribution with the growth of cable television and MTV. The typical budget grew exponentially, from the low tens of thousands to nearly half a million dollars with Michael Jackson’s Beat It. Despite their economic ramifications and impact, Steinberg based his selection of music videos on their creative qualities and innovation. To provide the fullest exposure, the 14 DVDs in this exhibit are projected continuously on large screens on a rotating basis.

Steinberg gravitates toward works that do not conform to the formulaic. They span a variety of productions by both industry directors and artist directors. The former include F. Gary Gray, Michel Gondry, Hype Williams, Mark Romanek, Anton Corbijn, Chris Cunningham, Jim Yukich and Spike Jonze, while the latter include Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and Doug Aiken. Remixed dance videos, spotlights on particular recording artists (such as compilations of Madonna and Björk) and “random cool” videos also add to the mix. Steinberg is open about trusting the opinions of practitioners in the field – the artists, themselves.