Arcade Fire and the remediated revolution

Posted: 13/09/2010 in ARIN6903 Exploring Digital Cultures, Uncategorized
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Are music videos an art form or just another overproduced piece of popular culture? For me, the distinction is senseless, as is the categorization of films into “arthouse” and “commercial”. Anyhow, every once in a while, someone comes up with an idea for a music video that truly revolutionizes our audiovisual culture in general, not just the MTV screen. Filmmakers like David Fincher (Fight Club), Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) or Spike Jonze (Adaptation) began their filmmaking careers creating music videos: their aesthetics have influenced a generation of video artists and filmmakers, and their own films have become cornerstones of modern cinema. Anyway, I recently bumped into the website http://thewildernessdowntown.com/, which hosts the interactive music video for Arcade Fire’s “We Used to Wait”, included in the band’s newest album, The Suburbs (great album, by the way). The site was constructed with help from Google, specifically Google Earth, and is defined as a “Chrome Experiment”. It offers you a simple, yet fascinating deal: revisit your childhood. In the first screen, you have to type in your childhood address and if you are lucky (I wasn’t), Google Earth will have street and aerial views of your childhood home. If not, just type any address you have lived in (I typed my address here in Sydney) and go to the next screen. What follows is the stuff sci-fi movies were made of just a a few years ago. First, you see a kid running and then you get an aerial view of the address. The camera travels through your old neighborhood. Then many screens overlap and start to COMMUNICATE among them through visuals and rhythm. If you were lucky enough to visit your actual childhood home, I am sure a sense of nostalgia will come over you. When the song is over, you can write a message for the people who live in that address now. I am sure this music video will be the first of many more to come. The screen (or shall I say screens?) is becoming increasingly interactive.

This website is an exemplar of the process of remediation, as it mixes the grammar of music videos,videogames, geo-tagging tools and a nostalgic, ancient form of communication: the postcard.

Try it, it is totally worth it.

For ARIN6903, Exploring Digital Cultures, The University of Sydney (Master in Digital Communication and Culture).

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