Sigur Rós have done something very interesting. Singles tend to be the only tracks which get their own video but the eccentric Icelanders have commissioned a series of videos for their latest LP, Valtari. The 12 film makers involved have been picked without the band having any idea of their style; the instructions were simply to create what comes to mind when listening to the songs. All were given the same budget. The project is known simply as the Valtari Mystery Film Experiment.
“We never meant our music to come with a pre-programmed emotional response. We don’t want to tell anyone how to feel and what to take from it. With the films, we have literally no idea what the directors are going to come back with. None of them know what the others are doing, so hopefully it could be interesting.”
As a result of this artistic and fluid project, ‘Varúð’ currently has not one, but two videos.
The first ‘Varúð’ video has been created by Inga Birgisdóttir. Birgisdóttir uses “moving painting” to express herself, and Inga’s vision is both simple and beautiful. A solitary figure appears on a cliff face, overlooking a body of water. Shining a message in morse code, a second figure appears on another of the rocks to answer, and the two communicate through flashing beacons throughout, at snow falls around them. More silhouettes begin to appear at the three and a half minute mark until the rock faces are covered. There are 13 figures shouting out there message with light as the music reaches its climax. The lights begin to ascend, and the figures disband in the order they arrived. The screen fades to black as the original figure finally steps away. Language isn’t important, understanding the morse code or the Icelandic lyrics don’t detract from the ethereal beauty of the melody. ‘Varúð’ means “Warning”, in case you were wondering.
New York photographer Ryan McGinley’s vision of ‘Varúð’ premiered July 31st. A child skips through the streets of New York as Sigur Ros’s soft and beautiful tones ring out. McGinley has utilised some fancy special effects so that while the girl’s speed and her golden wig remain a constant speed throughout, time around her slows, and stops. Traffic and pedestrians alike are frozen as, the girl travels barefoot through the city that never sleeps. As the sun sets a static shot forces the viewer to watch the girl to skip further away, before disappearing from the middle of the frame as the screen fades to black.
The videos are completely different, yet inspired by the same song. Both work. Some tracks have had videos so iconic that the sound and the imagery are intrinsically linked in our minds, but what Sigur Rós’s experiment has shown is interpretation is the responsibility of whoever possesses artistic control. Neither video may be what Jónsi Birgisson imagined when he sung ‘Varúð’.
Check out the other videos in the series for the visual diversity on offer.
By Maddie Russell
Dance Yrself Clean