January 12, 2015
The Visuals And Choreography Of St. Vincent’s Digital Witness
“The inspiration for the treatment came from a few different sources, a soviet sci fi novel called We, the painter Neo Rauch, photographers Josef Schulz and Elad Lassry, Playmobil toys, comic books.” — Digital Witness Director Chino Moya
From the video’s onset, these influences bloom. The flat colors and squares look like a frame from a comic book. Annie Clark’s costume evokes a Playmobil body. Her stiff neck and robotic glance to the left is similar to the way a child moves the head of the toy.
Clark also moves her head up and down in similar fashion throughout the video. She gives emotionless blinks. She stares. This choreography syncs to the song’s theme set inside this dystopian near future. The Digital Witness human being is reduced to a repetitive robot in front of the smartphone. Up and down we scan our feeds. Left and right we read. Eyes fixed.
♫ Get back to your stare
I care, but I don’t care
Oh oh, I, I want all of your mind
Give me all of your mind ♫
The boxed-out yellow wall behind Clark is similar to Lassry’s Untitled (Cheetah):
And her costume’s green is similar to Lassry’s Women (065, 055):
Lassry’s Women (065, 055) pops up again later in the video. The slicked-back hair and similar makeup. The collared costuming. The women here also move in repetitive fashion, as their hands scroll back and forth on tablet-sized rectangles as they nod up and down:
The video’s exterior shots are reminiscent of Schulz’s bleak photography.
Inside we see a table with more repetition and a room with a monochromatic color scheme. The red-headed boys and slicked-hair girls create symmetry on either side of the table, as do their food, cups and costumes. It feels like a prison. All hungry inmates at the Like Penitentiary.
The Rauch inspiration shines here with his 2007 piece entitled Paranoia:
The room with a table. A person at the head with arms out. The green and yellow. The painting’s title is also apt in this room as Clark and the subjects toss around paranoid glances at each other similar to those in the Rauch piece. We’re always looking for eyeballs in the Digital Age.
♫ If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me
What’s the point of doing anything?
What’s the point of even sleeping? ♫
Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We finds its imprints all over the video. The book features a “prison design concept … People march in step with each other and wear identical clothing … The dystopian society … is surrounded by a giant Green Wall to separate the citizens from primitive untamed nature … Every hour in one’s life is directed by ‘The Table.'”
Many of the exteriors feature marching men in identical costumes. They are also devoid of nature.
The video ends with Clark’s back to the camera, facing blinds in front of a window that doesn’t even exist. She’s trapped in this world.