Artist Chris Cunningham started out sculpting prosthetic Alien heads for Ridley Scott. He then went on to combine his love of art, industrial design, film and sound as a director of music videos. Part of the same generation of video artists that include Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and Jonathan Glazer; this elite group created cutting edge music videos in the 1990s.
Each filmmaker featured on the Director’s Label, a series of DVDs showcasing their groundbreaking work. Before the advent of blogs and Twitter, this was the kind of thing people needed to find the most ground-breaking audio-visual creations. The videos featured on the Director’s Label had a big influence on both the ad world and the film and TV industry. What should also be remembered is that these directors didn’t have the same kind of technology available to videographers today.
Aphex Twin – Windowlicker
“I learnt to work within the confines…I kind of get off on it. For me being given utter freedom… it’s hard to get up and running.”
One of Cunningham’s most famous music videos was created with another maverick of the British creative scene, Aphex Twin, who has also managed to stay somewhat ‘underground’. Cunningham, with his dark, disturbing yet also humorous creations, helped to redefine the approach to and the way people regarded videography. His combination of film, animation and twisted post-production techniques still wows audiences today. Other artists he has worked with include Bjork, Madonna, Portishead and more recently (the late) Gil Scott Heron.
But unlike his contemporaries who went on to direct feature films like Where the Wild Things Are (Jonze) and Sexy Beast (Glazer), Cunningham – already with a background in the film industry – has continued to focus on innovation and pushing the boundaries of his art. (Also, if you’ve seen any of his videos you’ll quickly realize if he did make a feature film, it wouldn’t be the sort of thing to show Grandma…) Cunningham has continued to experiment with multiple disciplines fusing motion art, music and technology together for live audio-visual performances at shows all over the world.
Which takes us to his latest creation: A laser-firing Frankenstein of an installation called ‘Jaqapparatus 1’. Launched last month at the Audi City London high-tech concept store, it takes Cunningham’s science-fiction influences, his aptitude for technology and industrial design and his warped and wonderful imagination and creates something out of this world. It pitches two Talos motion-controlled camera rigs in a battle for kinetic supremacy with a dramatic display of light and sound. The artist explains:
“Mounted on the robot’s heads are powerful lasers which they use to attack, repel and communicate with each other in a kind of duel, a surreal mating display which sees each machine trying to dominate the other.”
The Audi City space in Mayfair is the German car manufacturers attempt to push the boundaries of brand experience, creating an ‘interactive way to explore’ Audi’s products. Whilst most would be happy enough test driving an Audi R8, this sort of thing won’t do the already-well-coveted company any harm. Not only do they have a reputation for mean and sleek automobiles, they are also bringing the most sharp-edged and talented artists into mix. The store will feature iPad-activated showreels for customers to discover products, as well as floor sensors and top of the range video screens and sound modules selling their wares. It’s a shape of things to come (we reckon) as the internet continues to monopolise your daily shop, being lured out to a physical retail space will require even more imagination and intrigue. Cunningham’s installation could be construed as the machines on the Audi assembly line taking over, becoming embroiled in some sort of roboticised ballet recital. Whatever the case, it’s very cool.