I ♥ †

22 01 2012

Audio, Video, Vanitas

The new video for the Justice single “On ‘N’ On” pairs the emptiness of space with the emptiness of vanity, and it’s a tour de force that bisects asteroids and carcasses in its linear push toward infinity. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Roll the tape.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIW1m3jbEsg&ob=av2n

This thing is straight-up infested with vanitas symbols. Some of these, like the goblet and the hourglass, are striking even though they occur only once. The musical instrument in this tableau is an electric guitar positioned between two nudes, and the fruit, though spilled as bounty from a cornucopia in one of the few active vignettes of the video, is colorless. Other visuals are serial, and become more interesting with each iteration. Among these recurrent vanitas symbols are diamonds, coins, and swords, as well as the steady depictions of stars, planets and other celestial bodies and phenomena (I guess this includes all the Kubrick nods; that light show at the bridge is essentially a 2001: A Space Odyssey homage). Most prominent, though, are the vanitas symbols involving the human form, including long flowing hair, the female nude, skeletons, and skulls.

Fig. 1. An assortment of skulls.

There are also hybrids. Though no mirrors occur per se, many visuals are twinned or doubled—often as a mirror image. And included among the video’s representations of the human form is imagery that borrows heavily from the exploded diagrams and cutaways of classic anatomical illustration. These repeated suggestions of a human corpse range from the the realistic to the surreal, and reinforce a tone that is more empirical than ghoulish. But my favorite thing about this video? The vanitas symbols of coin and skull are combined in the appearance of an Indian head nickel that has been altered by carving.

Fig. 2. Hobo nickel.

Though it was the crucifix, and not the cross, that was a popular inclusion in vanitas painting, the Justice logo has its own assigned meaning when it comes to momento mori symbolism. Because it has come to indicate death when attached to a name or date, the symbol of the cross will forever signify  justice pour tous. Not to mention that, when it’s hurtling through space, a monolithic slab of a cross passes as another good 2001 reference.