Santigold Banshee Video by Kara Walker and  Ari Marcopoulo
Kara Walker’s puppets for the “Banshee” video include a likeness of Santigold.

 

THE NEW VIDEO for “Banshee,” a track on Santigold’s recent album 99¢, starts off like many others. It’s a street scene filmed in black-and-white, a visual narrative meant to bring the song’s lyrics to life. Soon, however, it becomes clear that this isn’t a run of the mill music video. After the opening credits appear—citing that the film is by artists Kara Walker and Ari Marcopoulos—the scene transitions to a shadow puppet show.

As Santigold launches into the song, repeatedly chanting “C’mon, c’mon,” puppets dance to the upbeat tune silhouetted against illuminated color backgrounds. At times Santigold and Walker are shown operating the articulated, two-dimensional puppets. At other moments, Santigold performs solo on the shadowy set singing and bopping to the music—a kinetic mix of synthesizer-laden pop, new wave and alternative hip hop. Throughout the video, the studio work is interspersed with the street footage.

The collaboration was a fluke, according to the New York Times T Magazine. Walker and Marcopoulos attended a Gucci fashion show earlier this year and ended up sitting next to Santigold and her husband, who have known Marcopoulos for years. They decided to hang out afterward and had a ball. At the end of the night the artists told the singer they had an idea for a video.

 

In Milan, artists Ari Marcopoulos and Kara Walker arrive at the Fall/Winter 2016-17 Gucci show. | Photo by Jacopo Raule, Getty Imges

 

Known for her cut-paper silhouettes exploring the imagined indignities and violence experienced by blacks in the antebellum South, Walker has experimented with several other mediums, including producing and filming shadow puppet shows that animate the challenging race, gender, and subjugation issues raised in her practice.

Her work with Santigold was far more playful and light hearted. Walker made a puppet version of Santigold and the filming took just one day. It was very improvisational with some sketching of scenes but little formal storyboarding.

“We decided to just all get together in the studio with the puppets, a bunch of lights, and just have a good time and made decisions as we went,” Marcopoulos, who directed the video, told the Times. “It was a total team effort. My son Ethan was the cameraman and Kara’s daughter the stills photographer.”

“We decided to just all get together in the studio with the puppets, a bunch of lights, and just have a good time and made decisions as we went.”
— Ari Marcopoulos, The New York Times

Santigold 99 centsTHIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME Santigold has partnered with a visual artist. In 2013, she collaborated on an eight-minute film with Wangechi Mutu. “The End of eating Everything” was commissioned for “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey,” the artist’s first survey exhibition in the United States.

Santigold’s work with Walker is the latest example of the music world looking to the art world for inspiration, and vice versa. There are plenty of others. Solange Knowles shot the trailer for her “Losing You” video in the studio of Mickalene Thomas. The artist created limited edition cover art for her EP and Knowles served as DJ at a party celebrating Thomas’s exhibition at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Jay-Z’s “Picasso Baby” video featured Thomas, Mutu, Lorna Simpson, Andres Serrano, Kehinde Wiley, Rashid Johnson, Ouatarra Watts, Fred Wilson and Maria Abramovic. Featuring illuminated colored boxes, the staging for Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video is reminiscent of the work of James Turrell. Kanye West has been working for a while with Vanessa Beecroft. The artist designed his wedding and envisioned his Yeezy fashion show at Madison Square Garden (and recently made absurdly ignorant remarks about race in New York magazine). Also, West’s “Famous” video was inspired by a Vincent Desiderio painting. Then there is the artistry of “Lemonade.” Beyonce co-directed the visual album with Khalil Joseph, an artist and director who has also worked with Kedrick Lamar.

Meanwhile, the end of Santigold’s “Banshee” video captures the singer laughing with Walker, expressing sheer delight with their puppetry skills and satisfaction with the collaborative process.

Walker told the Times: “It’s been a few years now, but the last video I made shows one puppet being tortured and set on fire — so this video is a bit more cheerful.” CT

 

BOOKSHELF
Documenting Kara Walker’s two-decade career, several volumes have been published on the occasion of her exhibitions. Recently, “Kara Walker: Go to Hell or Atlanta, Whichever Comes First” was published to coincide with her fall 2015 show at Victoria Miro Gallery in London. “Kara Walker: Norma” documents a unique project Walker undertook during the 2015 Venice Biennale, the direction and art direction of Vincenzo Bellini’s two-act opera.

 

 

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