Dancin’ in Tongues
Johan Söderberg’s award-winning (and Pitchfork-approved) video for Swedish techno act, Familjen, turns avant-garde appropriation on its ass, or more appropriately, saves it from pretentious flights of fancy by allowing the old footage to speak for itself within a completely profane context (Evangelist revival as Friday-nite rave) and transplanting the emotional intensity of the religious to the secular. What’s better than Daft Punk as some sort of deity controlling our convulsive bodies? Through the conventions of step-repeat-step-repeat-etc, Söderberg cuts across the divide between seemingly archaic rituals and hedonistic forms of release, the latter being a chore urbanites practice more often than their God-fearing forefathers. Whatever the reason may be, emotion and motion are mixed so precisely (meticulous editing!) and organically, that the existence of the video is essential to us seeing the music and hearing the images when the song is played alone on iTunes. Director Werner Herzog has always been a proponent of ecstatic truth over factual claim, preferring the wisdom gained from the experience of the sublime through tactility. It never lasts long enough, but once there, on the beer-stained concert floor, on the rotting wooden planks of a blazing white cathedral, or on the creaky metal foundation of the Metro bus, the ecstasy will seem to last forever. Shuffle to the next song, please.
Peter Adair’s Holy Ghost People (1967) captures the day-to-day movements of a Pentecostal Church in what has been circulating as a verite document of folk Americana. A frustrating short film placing the viewer in the middle of action, the clip below with all the snake handling and mumblecore babble absolutely enraptured me the first time, but placed side by side with the Soderberg’s music video, it makes me uncomfortable, those flaying arms and jittery knees bring FAITH to a freeze frame, once a product of unfathomable belief, now laughing stock for those skeptics too cool for Sunday mass.
Look again at the new church! Put your hands up high!