I watch a lot of music videos. Sometimes to break up the inanity, I start up a thought experiment where I imagine what it would be like to live my entire life within a particular video. This leads to mixed results: any reality based off a four-minute promotional clip is going to be a little bit horrifying, but there are some Vevo eternities that are undeniably better than others. Jazzy J and the Fresh Prince’s Summertime, for example, would be an uncontroversially excellent life. Others would be awful –most Mark Romanek videos, Trey Song’s Bottoms Up, anything that takes place on a white sound stage. It’s funny how we take in visuals without taking into consideration the worlds that they imply.
A life based off Purity Ring’s heartsigh would be a miserable existence. Megan James and Corrin Roddick’s reality consists of: plunging through the eternal void, faceless KKK-looking ribbon dancers, flashing lights. I have nothing against any of these things on a time-to-time basis, but for my entire existence to be a constant rotation between those three poles would be some sort of unimaginable hell that I don’t even know how to think about.
What’s strange though is that after watching heartsigh for the first thing, all I felt was a sense of peace and comfort. The unpleasantness of the visuals only strikes me when I start to think about them too much; when I’m caught up in the mindless viewing experience, it’s nothing but high-contrast beauty. Megan James and Corrin Roddick are beautiful. The weird futuristic drum machine thing is beautiful. The KKK-looking ribbon dancers are, in their own way, beautiful. All of it is filmed by what I imagine is a very beautiful camera.
We’re at a funny point in our cultural history where we can acknowledge the horror of a particular scenario on one hand without feeling even the slightest hint of that horror on the other. All of the bleakness that used to inspire nightmares has been reduced to a pretty aesthetic haze. Heartsigh is so emptied of semiotic intention that there’s nothing to even to really say about it. Like so many other indie music videos, it’s just another clip in an empty flow of audiovisual pleasantness, a drop in the constant stream of entertainment images that I’ve been processing from my birth until now.
It’s wild for me to imagine a time when people were literally willing to worship images. People cared about what they looked at. Wars were fought over a belief that one particular picture held more divine essence than another. This is so far from my present experience. I spend my entire life processing images, all of them almost part of my life but not quite, all of them deeply imbued with meanings that are present at the limit but that never make it beyond the surface. A body floating in blackness is just as good as a body dancing in whiteness is the same as a body cocking a gun on a green-screen tropical beach, all disembodied bodies making their way through worlds that mean absolutely nothing. To the actor or the director or to me.
THE LAST MAN
By Ben Tuthill
At about two minutes into heartsigh, the camera focuses in on Megan James’s shoes. They’re Nikes, some limited edition white hightops that I don’t immediately recognize. It’s the only image in heartsigh that resonates with me. The Nike swoosh means a million things to me. It’s been in my life for as long as I can remember. There’s never been a moment when it didn’t evoke an emotional response from me. There’s nothing inherently meaningful about it, but it’s relatable in a way that plunging through the void or KKK ribbon dancers will never be. It’s part of my own personal audiovisual eternity, always present in and always beyond my everyday life. It holds a seat on the pantheon of the only mythology I’ll ever have.