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When MTV first signed on the air on August 1, 1981, it changed the face of music forever. But the medium extends well beyond the cable channel. And EMP Museum’s newest exhibit brings together an unparalleled experience chronicling the marriage of music and visuals throughout its rich history to today.
“Spectacle: The Music Video” is the creation of Los Angeles-based artists and curators Meg and Jonathan Wells of art cooperative Flux. It features over 300 videos the couple considered most representative of the best of the medium. But Meg says it’s far more than just a bunch of TV screens.
“In putting this together, our goal was really to make an immersive experience for people. So this is the first time people will see artifacts, props, sketchbooks, costumes, work from around the world,” she says in an interview for this week’s edition of KIRO Radio’s Seattle Sounds.
Among the prized artifacts are the original drawings from the seminal 1985 live action and animated video “Take On Me” by A-ha, jumpsuits worn in OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” video, MTV’s iconic “Moonman” trophies and more.
The show originally opened in 2012 in Cincinnati, and has since traveled to Brazil, New York and Australia.
In each city, the curators focus on some artist or aspect of local music. Here in Seattle, they’re featuring the work of hip-hop superstars Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, including props from some of their music videos including the now-signature fur coat from “Thrift Shop,” as well as interview footage and other never before seen video and memorabilia.
“They have been very innovative with their music, their visuals, their messaging. They’ve been very true to their Seattle roots, but their work speaks to the whole world, so we were very excited to share this with everyone here,” Meg says.
While the exhibit has plenty of videos and items from the MTV-era, Meg says it was thrilling to discover a rich history of music and film dating back to the earliest days of filmmaking.
“When you come to the show, you’re going to see it’s been an incredibly creative medium for a very, very long time,” she says. “In our research we found old soundies from the 1920s, video jukeboxes in France, going through to the Beatles, David Bowie and Queen in the 1970s and beyond.”
Meg says the ultimate goal of the exhibition is to celebrate an art form so influential to the couple as self-professed “children of the MTV generation.”
“We’ve been so inspired by the medium. The music, the visuals, the fashion, the culture, the type of music that would evolve over time. Over the years we’ve always been huge fans of music video personally and professionally. And we wanted to share that with others.”
Listen to Meg Wells discuss the exhibit on Seattle Sounds, Sunday at 5:00 p.m. on KIRO Radio 97.3 or online.
“Spectacle: The Music Video” runs through January 2015 at EMP Museum in Seattle.