Dark Rooms approached me to create a music video for their new song “Like Battling the Hydra” featuring St. Vincent, after their frontman Daniel Hart saw some of my time-lapse painting videos on Instagram. I was thrilled to work with the band, as I had previously gotten to know Daniel a couple years earlier while sketching at concerts of Other Lives, another band he toured and recorded with. Our connection through art and music made the collaboration on the music video all the more exciting.
Our process began with a detailed consultation with Daniel to understand the themes and emotions Dark Rooms wanted to convey in the music video. It was important for us to capture the essence of the song and its meaning in the visual representation. With this understanding in mind, the band gave me the freedom to explore and develop a visual concept that would complement the song’s themes.
To ensure we were on the right track, we scheduled recurring update meetings throughout the project. These meetings proved to be extremely productive, as they kept the band in the loop regarding the current state of the concept and execution, while providing valuable feedback from the band’s perspective. These updates allowed us to refine our vision and ensure we were creating a music video that truly represented Dark Rooms and their artistic vision.
The concept for the music video revolved around Dark Rooms’ song “Like Battling the Hydra”, which pays tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice. The song’s lyrics recite her famous dissent from 2013, and the video was created to mark the first anniversary of her passing.
To visually represent the song’s themes, we developed the idea of an evolving painting that showed portraits of R.B.G. at important times in her life, while showcasing the lyrics as type in motion. My goal was to incorporate the overall topic of change over time, which was reflected in the video’s progression.
I started with a black and white portrait, representing a bygone era, and gradually introduced color as the video progressed. We also changed the aspect ratio from an old TV’s 4:3 to a widescreen 16:9 and eventually to a cinematic aspect ratio. The evolving aspect ratio symbolized the changing times and the progression of R.B.G.’s life.
Throughout the video, we showed Ginsburg herself getting older and older, to symbolize the passage of time and her impact on American history. The result was a music video that paid tribute to one of the most influential figures in American history.
Just before the anticipated release of the finished first music video, Dark Rooms and I have decided not to publish it. Out of nowhere, newly surfaced statements by Ginsburg with more than questionable political and ethical believes made the band and myself feel quite uncomfortable about getting this music video out there, possibly sending wrong signals of conceptions we did not want to defend.
The music video is such a clear tribute to years of relentless role-modelling and fighting for equality and human rights putting Ginsburg utterly in its center. All of a sudden, the video felt misplaced, confusing, disappointing and sorely bitter. The song is, however, about Ginsburg’s dissent. About the Voting Rights Act. A political achievement that she defended in 2013. So we decided to create a new video instead. A video that is less about her and more about it.
Below you’ll find the retracted video, shown here as part of this project and its process.
After the retraction of the first video, Daniel gave me full creative freedom and said, “Just do what you think works.” We scheduled a video call in two weeks, and although starting from scratch was daunting, I knew the basic concept had promise. I decided to keep the idea of an evolving painting, but I replaced the literal portraits of R.B.G. with a more abstract visual approach.
The new concept focused on anonymous and equal humans waiting in lines to vote for a brighter future. The abstract references to the U.S. flag included a blue square in the top left corner and red and white stripes. I incorporated the instruments and musical accentuations visually, while maintaining a balance between spatial painting with shadow and light, and pure abstraction. This allowed viewers to read their own meaning into the video without being too literal.
To showcase the concept, I created a rough animatic and presented it to the band for feedback.