As part of O.T.O, the curators were inspired by Ian White’s writing practice, with his essays and blogs providing a model where personal experience and critical writing around moving image can be merged. Given that part of the impetus behind O.T.O was redressing the underdiscussion of critical writing about music videos, this zine is an attempt to apply White’s approach to writing about the medium. Intended to be read as a complement to the live event, these texts by the curators address their relationships to music videos and through these relationships, the medium’s connection to the wider world. This publication is intedend to take the form of a seris of rushes, meaning both the raw, unedited tapes produced after a day of shooting on set, and the heightened, pleasurable sensation felt in, for example, a club. Ranging in form from interviews, screenplays to playlists and letters and tackling topics including globalisation, gender and Carly Rae Jepsen, these texts are available to read below this introductory piece by Lewis G Burton.
Foreword - Lewis G. Burton
In the wise words of the legendary David Hoyle, welcome ladies, gentlemen, and those that have been lucky enough to transcend gender. For those of you who do not know me, I am Lewis G. Burton - a performance artist, DJ, and the founder of INFERNO - a platform for emerging LGBTQ+ artists and DJs.
I am a big fucking queer. I was once a faggot who found out they are intersex through exploring their transness and is currently going through a lesbian era. I am, or have been, nearly all of the letters in the LGBTQI+ spectrum. Unfortunately for me, life hasn’t always been this way. I always knew I was queer, that I wasn’t like everyone else that I saw and interacted with in my life, whether at school, at family functions, or on TV. However, due to not having seen any other queer people throughout my life, I fell victim to the cruelty of shame. The only respite I got from shame was the glimpses of queerness through the music videos I would watch on MTV and Kerrang! These music videos would offer portals to look into the minds and worlds of different artists, musicians, and bands.
Was any of this queerness I was witnessing actually authentic? Probably not. It was mostly shock tactics to gain publicity through any means necessary, including whipping conservatives into a frenzy over self-expression outside of the heteronorm. Although inauthentic, the impact it had on young Lewis, and many other young queer people at the time, was tremendous and I can still feel the aftershocks of it to this very day. Those moments were like rays of light piercing the dark storm cloud of shame that lingered over my young self.
The first music video that greatly impacted me was All The Things She Said by t.A.T.u. I was 11 or 12 years old and had just come home from school. I turned on the TV and was spellbound by the two school girls hanging out in the rain, holding hands, cuddling, and kissing each other. This was the first time in my life I bore witness to same-sex couples being intimate with each other. It imitated the desire I currently felt for one of my classmates at the time. The music video saw the duo being judged by their classmates, the locals, and wider society but they did it regardless and without fear. They were defiant in all of their queerness. It was empowering. I wished and prayed for the same bravery so I could be free of the shame, to find the freedom to be myself in all of my authentic glory but alas the prayers fell on deaf ears. Or honestly, and more realistically, I think pre-teen Lewis was paralysed by the fear of living loudly. Seeing this music video was one of the first times, if not the first time, in my life that something resonated so deeply with my inner workings. It was my first queer awakening.
It was not until much later in my mid-to-late teens that I would find the courage to start expressing myself, playing with gender, and figuring out my sexuality. An integral moment that really shook me to my core and turned my world upside down for the better was witnessing Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy late one evening whilst flicking through the music channels. The music video directed by Jonas Åkerlund is a must-watch. You follow a person from their viewpoint often seeing only their hands and legs as if the viewer is the person. You follow them on a journey of getting drunk and high as they make their way through various nightclubs, eventually ending in a strip club. They are sick, get in fights, and mistreat the women working in the venue. Somehow this character manages to charm one of the strippers to come back home with them where they indulge in more booze and drugs before fucking. Just as the song is about to finish and the pair have climaxed we get a glimpse of the protagonist in the mirror. The person we are led to believe to be a man due to everything from the way they dress, use the bathroom, disrespect women, and abuse substances, is actually revealed to be a woman.
The way that Åkerlund plays with stereotypical, hetronormative gender roles in the music video offered a new perspective on life, something that I had not even considered, let alone to be a possibility. The veil was lifted and I saw the world for what it really was - a show, a piece of unscripted theatre with unwritten rules to follow and taught to us by our parents and everyone around us. It was the permission I needed to explore my femininity and denounce the masculinity that had been assigned to me at birth. It truly felt like the moment I first started living. It is when my artistic practice took a turn and I started to use it to explore my gender in extreme ways, using my body as the site of transgressive and gender-bending performances, as well as still and moving images. I began buying clothes from the women's section and crossdressing, wearing make-up, shaving my body, using corsetry, and other aspects that would feminise my form.
These beginning steps were the building blocks of my practice and are still carried out to this very day when I am still using them to deconstruct and decode gender. Art became my therapy before I knew what the word therapy meant. It allowed me to process, unpack and unlearn the years of shame that I had held on to. This would not have happened if I had not had those life-changing moments of witnessing these specific music videos in my youth. They provoked and stirred up emotions and feelings in me that completely changed my worldview, they made me feel less alone and became a source of strength and power. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? To connect with people in a way that shares our humanity or to tell our stories and express ourselves even when we don’t have the language or words to communicate how we feel.
Music videos have stirred things inside me just as much as visual art has done - if not more. We need to ask ourselves - what art means to us. Are we just following someone else's script of unwritten rules telling us what art is meaningful and impactful to us rather than making that distinction ourselves?
Tracking shot: Tracing contexts
‘play/pause’: playlist interruption
Tags: youtube; interaction; interruption
At 17:19, it will be 16am.
Tags: party_as_artistic_medium; bar; retelling_conversation
Tags: screenplay; stan_culture; speculative; BFFs; little_monster
Close-up: Deep dives
What you waiting for?
Tags: coming_of_age; Gwen_stefani; personal_essay
Tags: first_crush; call_me_maybe; queer_imaginings
The K-drama of pop music
Tags: parasocial_relationships; fandom; obsession_as_business
Out of frame: Beyond the music video
Where do I go
Tags: dual-language; shipping; nisu; k-pop/c-pop
An Encounter Moment
Tags: diary; militant_joy; garden; cross-pollination; encounter