French video artist Christophe Thockler's poetic music video for Mimi Goese and Ben Neill's "Cusp" freezes mementos and symbolic objects into blocks of ice that melt over time. The technique is a simple but ingenious way of visualizing memory and forgetting. The video required 40 blocks of ice and 36,000 still photographs, so don't miss the behind-the-scenes video and the interview with Thockler below. Make sure to watch full screen in HD!
The Atlantic: How did you come to do a video for this song, and what was your inspiration for using melting ice?
Christophe Thockler: I discovered Ben Neill’s music when I was a teenager and immediately loved it. A few months ago, I did an interview for a French website and mentioned his albums as a source of inspiration for my visual work. A few days later I received a message from Ben Neill saying he saw the interview and loved my work. It was amazing, unbelievable. We talked about his new project, a collaboration with the talented Mimi Goese called "Songs for Persephone" and we decided to work together on a music video. I listened to the album and immediately felt in love with the track “Cusp.” The album "Songs for Persephone" was available in a limited edition with a box containing small objects and bibelots related to the songs.
I wanted to make the video a bit surreal, as a metaphor for time and memory. Objects from the special edition represent souvenirs and I wanted to play with ice to symbolize time, like "what is the effect of time on our memories? Do we remember or forget them?" I really think objects are linked to our unconscious inner self, embodying moments in life. Ice is at the same time a cold prison and a soft cocoon.
This behind-the-scenes video documents the process of making "Cusp" (watch the HD version here).
How long did it take to make the video? Tell us about the process.
The video was really a huge project. It took me two months to do it, working almost 18 hours a day. “Cusp” is entirely composed of still photos. There is no video in it but no less than 36,000 photos. I had to create 40 blocks of ice, putting the objects in boxes with water and freezing them. Taking a photo every five seconds, I melted the ice at different rates with a burner and hot water, to fit the rhythm of the song and to create a sort of organic feeling. Editing the video and adjusting the contrasts and the colors of the 36,000 photos was also a very long process. Some fun facts:
- I did some scenes outdoors but due to bad weather I also did some inside, literally cutting a square of grass from my garden and moving it inside.
- Melting a block of ice took approximately 4 hours.
- 25 liters of water were involved in the making of the video, and probably even more coffee.
- Playing with ice and water near electric cables is dangerous. I almost electrocuted myself twice!
- Running up and down stairs with a tripod and a block of ice in hand is not safe either.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I got into filmmaking by coincidence. I studied English art and literature and wanted to be a teacher. I always loved music videos and graphic design, but never realized it until I got my first computer in 2006 and started to try photography and design. In 2007, I put some visuals on the Internet and an English rapper, James P Honey, asked me if I would like to make a music video for him. I was very fond of the stop motion technique I saw when I was younger, in Michel Gondry’s videos or Shinya Tsukamoto’s movies, and decided to try it. The result was my first music video "Nice Clean White." To my surprise people loved the video; it won some festivals and was exhibited in museums and broadcast on French TV.
What's next for you?
“Cusp” was released few weeks ago, so I really hope this video will be seen by many people, because it's (like my other works) directly aimed at the viewer, playing with his feelings and his own memories. I really wanted to do something special with this project so I am creating two series of limited edition photos from the video, a large format limited to 15 prints and a smaller one limited to 50 prints. For more information about the prints, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In December I will host a screening of my videos in Le Musée de l'Image in the French city of Epinal, during the GeNeRiQ Festival. I am also looking for artists to collaborate with on music videos and album packaging. Ladies and gentlemen, send me your tracks!
For more work by Christophe Thockler, visit http://www.christophethockler.com/ or his Twitter or Facebook. For more music by Mimi Goese and Ben Neill, see http://www.mimigoeseandbenneill.com/ or their Twitter or Facebook.
Via Vimeo's HD channel.