Video Jam x Basquiat

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Barbican to see the ‘closing ceremony‘ for Basquiat’s exhibition. It was a (roughly) 2-hour show comprising 7 new short films commissioned for the occasion. Along with the films, musicians were selected to play live. Each film had a different score, played by a different set of musicians.

A while ago I went to see Kim Noce’s performance at the ICA, and in a way, this show reminded me of it. If for nothing else, the use of live music to accompany a film, and the experimental feeling of both film and audio in all of the 7 collaborations, alluded to the same feeling I had when watching Kim’s performance.

This time though the films were mainly live action, although there were 2 of them animated (I’ll get there soon). The abstraction and the seemingly scriptless films converged into discourses of race, freedom and in some cases gender.

Overall it was great to go and to see such varied approaches to celebrate Basquiat. I found myself sometimes questioning what would’ve he thought of the whole show, only to come to conclude that it cannot be offensive to inspire other artists to build upon our practice. I felt the energy of the room was really supportive and positive and that was quite nice too.

It’s been a while since I have seen the show and that, although not ideal when reviewing something, put the distance for me to think about the films and/or musical performances that have really put a mark on me.

So to begin with let’s talk about the first animated film that was screened: Fishbowl by Gabrielle Ledet and Jack Wedge. To be honest, i thought that the animation in itself was quite clunky and naive looking, but it matched quite well with the visuals and, above all, the music by this London band called Ibidio Sound Machine was the perfect proof that sound makes the greatest difference in a film. With such a colourful and gleeful looking animation, the band just heightened the whole thing with a very very happy and catchy song filled with an African heat that just made it so fun to watch I was actually a bit sad when it finished.

Music wise, apart from Ibidio Sound Machine I was also really impressed with Seaming To. For me, on these two occasions, it was the music/sound that pulled the film and made it (more) impactful.

Then there were two very very strong films that had the luck to have an amazing score to play along. It so happened that they were the last two films.

I was completely mesmerised with ’88 by ruffmercy. Firstly, I had no idea of the existence of this person and I felt my life had been incomplete. The maximalism in the film was overwhelming in a good way, and the animation worked amazingly in the context. He used loads of elements from Basquiat’s work and mixed them all together with a good amount of morphing and always a great screen composition – and by that I mean the background was constantly frantically changing, the colours flashed into different ones and everything was so busy and intense! ah, I loved it!

I immediately googled him when I got out of the room, but I do have to say I think his work becomes way more interesting in a showroom more than on my phone. His work felt all very similar once I watched a couple of video clips..

But after all this time, I think the most powerful film of that evening, for me, was Fetish by Topher Campbell. He filmed himself walking naked in the streets of New York, and it came across as a very strong commentary on race and our culture. The music by Young Fathers accompanied the film so flawlessly, it was really a strong piece.

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