Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

What immediately struck me about this video is that, counter to so many other music videos, the women are not hyper sexualised. Judging from the comments on YouTube however, this artist hasn’t maintained this stance, which a number of the commenters have found deeply disappointing. I haven’t investigated further, preferring to maintain my illusions, restricting my interpretation to just this one work.

The setting is an asylum boasting the cryptic title of ‘The Palace of the Dogs’, with a pre-title explaining ‘Dancing has long been forbidden for its subversive effects on the residents and its tendency to lead to illegal magical practices’. The inmates – far from the usual shambolic and miserable stereotype of the interned mad person are a voluntarily disciplined and cheerful group dressed and coiffed with extreme elegance. Everybody – male and female – is wearing a black and white tuxedo and two toned shoes or is dressed in simple black – with the one exception of the asylum nurse who is dressed in white. The mysterious otherworldly wardens are dressed in long flowing black robes with nothing but a sinister mirror for a face beneath their hoods. The dancing and choreography are superb, the black and white design striking, and the dance music builds as it goes along. There are more than a few elements of Michael Jackson ‘hommage’ of course. Like many music videos, the lyrics of the song have little to do with the video and the story it is telling. The video tells a far more interesting story than the song and music do.

The performance of the residents is not the sad madness of the Carnival of the mad. It is a counter-disicipline fully enacted and chosen by the residents. It is their exit and resistance from the disciplinary institution of confinement, but they are ultimately defeated and separated as indicated by the main character being returned to her cell by the alien warders after a magical escape to the outside generated by art and artistic skill. The asylum stands in for so many social institutions with the inhuman masters delegating duties to members of the incarcerated community. The nurse cannot help but participate from the sidelines in the dance fest she is observing – she can never be entirely separate.

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