Laura Davis meets the man who has spent 17 years collecting pop videos from across the globe
ALL exhibitions are years in the making but the curators of FACT’s new show have spent the past decade and a half collecting together its exhibits. German-based Michael P Aust and Daniel Kothenschulte are the proud owners of thousands of pop videos, which they argue are an important part of our visual heritage.
They have whittled down their 17-year collection to just 111 clips that will form The Art of Pop Video exhibition.
“It’s 111 and counting,” says Aust, who stores them on beta tape, DVD and digital hard drive upon rows of shelving in his Cologne studio.
“Daniel and I sit down and have hundreds of videos that we really think are important and then we have to find which goes into the exhibition.
“It’s growing day by day because we’re still finding stuff that we absolutely need to show.”
These will be displayed on some 60 screens – plus additional projections – with headphones provided.
Themes range from Amateur, showing films such as Fatboy Slim’s Praise You and Weezer’s Pork and Beans that were influenced by the YouTube do-it-yourself ethic, to The Dancing of Politics, examining those made as political statement including those by Pink Floyd and Russian feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot, who were arrested last year for protesting against the Orthodox Church.
The exhibition opens with a section on the history of the pop video.
Unexpectedly, the earliest film being shown is 80-years-old – made four decades before Top of the Pops started showing music videos and 85 years before MTV launched by screening of The Buggles’s Video Killed the Radio Star.
Man Ray’s 1926 work Emak Bakia, which means Leave Me Alone in Basque, features many of the techniques – double exposures, soft focus – for which he is well known.
Although it was created as a silent film, it is often screened to a soundtrack.
“It’s a kind of photographic experiment with abstract elements and it already uses one idea that many of the later music videos featured – of telling a little story that gives it a dramatic tension that makes us watch the whole clip,” says Aust.
“They played records to the film or someone played live. Sometimes the records got changed from one performance to another so each time it would be different.”