Since the dawn of MTV in the 1980s, the art of the music video, from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” has become an indelible part of music pop culture.
A new exhibit at the EMP, “Spectacle: The Music Video,” explores this art form in a behind-the-scenes, interactive experience of music videos over time. Opening May 17 and staying until January 2015, the exhibit takes viewers on a journey through different music video genres from the pre-MTV era to the present day.
Exhibit curators Meg and Jonathan Wells said they wanted “Spectacle” to be a more comprehensive, immersive experience than any other music-video exhibit yet.
The two curators, a married couple from L.A. who run a creative studio business together, were both teenagers during the golden age of MTV and have grown up with an appreciation for music videos. Jonathan said they had wanted to create an exhibit for quite some time that would share this appreciation with others and “establish that we can look at music videos as an art form.”
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They have gathered artifacts and exclusive footage from some music-video milestones, including the paint-splattered jumpsuits from OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” and the original drawings from the 1985 hit “Take On Me” by aha.
“When Meg and I set out to create this exhibition,” he explained, “our goal was really to create an immersive environment so you actually feel like you’re in a video … that we kind of captured the magic of what it was like to see one of these videos for the first time. That’s never been done before.”
The exhibit originally opened in Cincinnati in 2012, and has since been to Brazil, New York and Australia before coming to Seattle. At each venue, the content has also been customized to add a little local flavor.
For the Seattle iteration, the duo reached out to hometown celebrities Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who skyrocketed to stardom with the release of several music-video hits in the past couple years.
Viewers can expect to see some never-before-shown ephemera, such as interview footage from the local music stars as well as some music-video props, such as Macklemore’s signature fur coat from “Thrift Shop.”
Meg Wells said the exhibit has thus far exceeded attendance expectations in all previous locations, which she believes is due to the accessibility of music videos as an art form.
“The reason why this is an important exhibition is because it reaches everyone,” she said. “The music video is a kind of art form that, pretty universally speaking, everyone can relate to … So I think people who go to it, no matter how old you are, no matter what your perspective is, there’s always a little take-away for someone in the exhibition.”
Shirley Qiu: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @callmeshirleyq