It’s a cliche to bemoan the death of the MTV of our collective memories. (But before I accept my own premise, let me add that TRL boybands and booty-shaking hip hop videos hastened that demise long before Snooky/Snooki/Snoopy reared her Medusa-like head.) But I wonder if anybody has considered what the evolution of MTV into a reality TV channel has done for the art of the music video. Perhaps I’m betrayed by my age and my passion for the field, but I can’t help but wonder where the next generation of film/video artists are going to get their inspiration if their childhoods haven’t being artificially inseminated by the early work of David Fincher, Mark Romanek, et al.
I recently came across two videos created by Jared Swanson for his band Abbot Kinney and their Kickstarter campaign and what strikes me first (aside from the good music) is that the two visual approaches of the videos have differing levels of success. Perhaps this is my own subjective experience, but I feel like the “musician in front of webcam” style of It’s the Middle of the Night does a better job of selling the music than the concept video style of Wild Salmon.
Mind you, I fully appreciate the immediacy that webcam style video can provide (as can low res video in general), and I completely “get” the value of cinema verite, from both an academic and aesthetic perspective. But I wonder if we as artists and as audience haven’t trapped ourselves in a world where creative, conceptual and/or fictional music videos aren’t appreciated at a level where they foster greater artistic growth. A few months ago, my girlfriend and I saw the Herb Ritts exhibit at the Getty Center and saw his sexy Janet Jackson video projected on the wall along side priceless works of art. That was Ritts’ first foray into moving images. If Herb Ritts was an emerging photographer today, he would have all the resources of the internet and digital video to become whatever artist he was destined to become. But would the world even notice?