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Director Describes Meaning Behind Kanye's "Power" Video/ Snippet

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Artist/director Marco Brambilla and rapper/producer Kayne West recently released West’s video “Power,” a 1:15 minute clip that places Kanye in the center of a moving painting. And it's causing a ton of controversy!

Here's an interview with the director Brambilla to tell us what this video really means.

There are a lot of allusions and historical references in the “Power” video that you directed. Where did you draw our inspiration and what does it all mean?

I think the visual inspiration for me was definitely the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel; they are kind of bombastic and iconic. Then the tonal reference was really “How do you visualize a symbol of power that’s almost timeless?” This video is almost like a portrait, a video portrait of Kanye as this symbol of power. The video is actually one continuous shot – it comes out from a close up of Kanye and gradually reveals this decadence and sexuality around him. Once we come to the wide shot, we challenge that position of power.

The narrative within it is a moment of transition. It’s almost like the precarious nature of power, the epic portrait of power. In one sense it’s both the rise and fall of a celebrity in a way and that’s one of the things that interested me about working with Kanye. I wanted to use some of his baggage in terms of the year he’s had coming into this and releasing his first single in a long time. I wanted to use the kind of public perception of him and have fun with that and the concept of him being a celebrity and what he’s gone through recently.

What was it like corresponding and working with Kanye?

I think we’re fairly similar in terms of the fact that we are both perfectionists and we are both fairly hyperactive people. The set was quite energetic, but there was a seamless communication.

I like to improve quite a bit onset and I went into it with a photomontage; I shot all the models and the positions in which I thought I’d need them for the composition at the casting sessions ahead of time. Once I had those shots I also improvised with a lot of different variations.

So when it came to shooting and directing the video, how did it go?

We only had one day to shoot, and it was a very frenetic kind of day. I remember that we shot Kanye in two different wardrobes, once at the beginning of the day – the very first shot – and then in a different wardrobe at the very end of the day, and it was really interesting to get the same kind of intensity from what we shot at 10 in the morning versus what we shot at 3 in the [following] morning.

He’s just so professional and so there and present that there was virtually no difference in the intensity he had from the morning shoot to the night shoot. It was a very kind of organic process. I’m used to working with actors that have a certain celebrity so it’s not new to me but he was certainly one of the easier ones to work with.

How did you originally get involved?

It began with “Civilization,” the piece I did for The Standard [Hotel]. I think he saw the piece when it was first installed in the elevators and he put it on his blog then very shortly after I heard from my gallery that he wanted to meet and I think it was based on his interest in that piece. I think from his point of view, he wanted to do something that would have a similar kind of visual language as “Civilization,” using this kind of video collage technique that I developed for that piece. The rest of it was a little bit more open.

How was it more open and who came up with the idea of him in the center of a moving painting?

I thought I should just do a portrait of Kanye and it should be like a video portrait, which we did in extreme slow motion and then we took his image and kind of blew it up all out of proportion. And then we surrounded him with every kind of icon of decadence, sexuality and excess and kind of exaggerated all that, Then I contextualized it into a neoclassical painting, and that’s when it all clicked. I showed him a lot of references of different painters - [Michelangelo Merisi da] Caravaggio, Michelangelo, [Peter Paul] Rubens…So a lot of the references were classic lighting and very elegant color palettes and he likes that kind of visual as well.

[Kanye’s] really visually sophisticated, so once I showed him the first collage I did he called me and said “Oh my god I really like this, it’s what we should do,” and at that point that’s when I started casting and preproduction on the piece.

How long was the back and forth between you two?

It was probably about three weeks of me sending collages and references and having conversations and meetings and then we shot fairly quickly after that. Post-production was really intensive because the final video has 100 layers of video channels in it. And because it’s one continuous take it’s really hard to manipulate any individual thing without going back and redoing the whole thing. So the post-production took about a month. It’s only 1:15 but if you think of that with 100 video channels then all of a sudden you know you are dealing with a very complex collage.

In the past Kanye has worked with Takashi Murakami and other artists. He’s got a unique eye for what he wants and what he wants to display. So what does it mean to you to be a part of his work?

For me a lot of my work has dealt with what it means to be at the center of the universe and how alienating and kind of seductive it is. A lot of my work is very aggressive and very visual, but at the same time it has a lot of tension in it and makes you kind of uncomfortable sometimes. So for me the concept was “let’s explore what a moment of transition for a celebrity.” And the music obviously underlines all the themes and the lyrics within the song itself, which are very much about that kind of contradiction of wanting to be in the center of the universe and then finding that to be a very distracting and unfulfilling place. So the concept of it is what really attracted me to working with him because I thought A) he’s an artist not a constructed pop act, and B) he has an integrity that a lot of other musicians don’t.

I don’t usually do music videos or collaborations but in this case it was a theme I really thought would be consistent with what I was attracted to in the past. There’s also the opportunity to have a little bit more reach into the mainstream and kind of subvert an image of someone and subvert it in a way that is playful and fun hopefully.

This video is short but powerful. What do you predict the interpretation of the public will be? How do you think it will be seen?

I think it shows the end of an era and maybe the end of an era of celebrity. Maybe end of era for figure of power, maybe it’s a moment of transition for society in general. It has all these kind of ambiguous messages, but it’s something that you can visually experience. It has so much imagery within it hopefully people will react to it on a purely visceral level. But also what I would hope is that they see the kind of subversive qualities of it where it poses these questions about power, celebrity, sexuality decadence that kind of thing.

To hear what others are saying about this video and to watch it, click below:

Kanye West: "Power" [MUSIC VIDEO]

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