2 April 2013

Everyone goes through those childhood obsessions with collections. The idea of amassing something, proudly showing it off in the schoolyard and hunting for those rare, hard to find items to complete the set is an experience most of us share.

On hitting 13 I had a revelation. Whilst watching the US Top 20 one day with my dad, a video came on that had me immediately and utterly beguiled. The song was Fast As You Can by Fiona Apple (directed by her then boyfriend Paul Thomas Anderson), and the image of this winsome, unkempt waif moving her mouth impassively out of sync to the lyrics of her disjointed, jazz wrought song provoked a fascination in me that endures to this day.
Nobody at school had a clue who or what I was talking about. They didn’t have the same music channel privileges my household did (my parents replaced their avid attendance at local gigs with a music package from Sky); I was adamant that they see it. I sat transfixed by the TV for days waiting for the video to be shown again, a blank VHS loaded up in the VCR. Waiting with remote control in hand, I developed gunslinger-like reflexes, pressing record at the very beginning of videos that I treasured more than those Polly Pockets, stamps and football stickers put together. A practice that eventually produced a small collection of VHS tapes that varied from the comedic to the stunning, artsy to angsty – some so rarely shown that I’d near break my neck to capture them.

Now of course you encounter music videos at just about every turn, regardless of whether you actively want to see Rihanna half clothed gyrating on a beach or not. From the priciest of bars to the scummiest of chippies, music videos run a kind of background quasi babysitting service for the easily distracted.

The music video has become the new boom box to any kid with a device fast enough to stream through the endless libraries available to them. Their ephemeral gallery spaces set up on street corners and on the top decks of buses. It’s comforting to think that my teenage obsession exists still, and in an online and technological realm that broadens the scope of reach and possibilities of communication.

Because back then, with those VHS tapes, we had the sense that art could be ours, too. It didn’t just belong in a stuffy gallery somewhere that would probably throw us out for being young and loud, it belonged here with us and as loud as we wanted it to be. We were vivid, lucid, plural and above all, we had the shared voice and visual of hundreds of videos that not only felt as though they spoke directly to us, but also spoke it back out to the rest of a World we felt may never have understood us otherwise.

Read the rest of Amy's article at The Double Negative

The Art of Pop Video continues at FACT until 26 March. Find out more here.