From A-ha to OK Go: A museum exhibit all about the music video

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still_for_web-detail-mainIn the early ‘80s, before MTV turned its attention to reality TV, David Bowie, Madonna and the Pretenders lit up small screens, using a new medium to showcase their songs: the music video. Recently, we’ve seen a resurgence of this art form as cinematographers, musicians and artists join together to supersize their visual creativity. But now, instead of gathering around the TV, we watch on YouTube.

To celebrate this young art form, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York, presents Spectacle: The Music Video, said to be the first-ever museum exhibition all about the evolution of the music video. The exhibit includes more than 300 videos, as well as artifacts and interactive displays, grouped by genre — and videos are further classified by subdivisions like choreography and controversy.

This exhibition was curated by Jonathan Wells — who’s our go-to curator for interstitial videos at TED — and partner Meg Wells of the global art cooperative Flux.

Like so many others, Jonathan and Meg cite A-Ha’s “Take on Me” as a pivotal moment in their love for music videos. As Jonathan tells Fast Company, “It was just this magical moment of someone diving into a comic book that really stuck with people. That’s an example of how a video can introduce and break an artist. We have the original illustrations that were done for the video.”

TED’s own Shanna Carpenter wrote this from the exhibit opening: “It’s an incredible collection — taking you on a sensory journey that starts in teenage nostalgia and progresses to obscure experiments in moral sensibilities, interactive digital experiences and yarn-bombing,” she said. “And, all of it in a crazily chic contemporary museum in Astoria.”

Find Spectacle: The Music Video at the Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, New York, April 3-June 16, 2013.

Can’t make it to Astoria? Watch a TEDx Talk about the making of one of the featured videos: “This Too Shall Pass” by OK Go »