Floria Sigismondi once described her video work as portraying ‘entropic underworlds inhabited by tortured souls and omnipotent beings’. Just by browsing through her work with musical artists on an impressive roster including Marilyn Manson, The Cure, Björk, David Bowie, and the White Stripes, it’s not hard to understand where that description comes from. And in an industry where competition is rife with superfluous imitation, this Italian-born director, photographer and exhibition artist knows exactly how to send an original message across. One thing I first noticed after coming across Sigismondi’s work back in 2003 was that she always stays true to her art and sense of vision regardless of who/what it is for. Originally a student of painting and illustration, it was after she switched to fashion photography that she first had the opportunity to direct music videos. And from then onwards, her dark Daliesque and hauntingly surreal work drew the attention of famous musicians seeking the most suitable cinematic apparatus to put their songs into action.
With no shortage of metaphors in her dream-like scenery, Sigismondi’s videos could be characterized as ‘psychological thrillers with a moral’ had they been short films. Her style can be attributed in part to her creative process, which involves delving into the music and then proceeding to feel her way through without preconceived notions of how it should appear. Through her choice of livid colours, Gothic detail, and unexpected juxtaposition of different elements and beings, she transitions from the music video dimension into a world of installation art that would fit in quite well with the Saatchi Gallery crowd. And this is further made evident when one considers her fascination with body-modification, reminiscent of the YBA‘s Chapman brothers, but with a style entirely her own. Classifying herself as an optimistic realist, Sigismondi is ultimately known for portraying images that teasingly allude to the status quo, setting a focus on human nature and questioning the direction in which the world is heading.
Two videos in particular that come to mind are for songs that have strong messages in and of themselves and yet are elevated to another level through her unique ability to portray strong themes of satire and social criticism: 1) the cult-status Incubus music video for their hit ‘Megalomaniac’, depicting neo-fascism and the all too common oil mongering of hegemonic states in the world today, and 2) the award-winning Sigur Rós video for ‘Untitled #1 (Vaka)’, portraying the tragic threat of modern day, man-made military and environmental disasters. Watching them says it all, but I think that both of these videos serve as perfect examples of precisely what it is that sets Floria Sigismondi’s work apart from the rest (Editor’s note: The lovely people over at BMG Entertainment who are self-defeatingly opposed to free publicity have made the ‘Megalomanic’ video unavailable on YouTube at large, though it is still on Spike. But I’ve replaced it below with a more recent track until someone decides to remove that too. Featured below is ‘Dig’ from the album Light Grenades , directed by Kaamuz and featuring illustrations by Alan Aldridge.)
Sarah Badr © MMVI
See also: Floria Sigismondi (Official Site)