Soap Pick: Poetry in motion at CAC

As a child of the MTV generation, Jonathan Wells thought he knew a lot about music videos. In the 80s, by the time he was 16, he was hosting his own music video show on cable access. In high school, he edited the entertainment section of his school newspaper. And after college at San Diego State, where he majored in sociology and minored in French, he spent years designing and producing events, including working with film, video and art programming.

Then he started researching the history of music videos for “Spectacle: The Music Video” exhibit that he curated, which debuted at the Contemporary Arts Center last month. “I think that there are a lot of hidden gems to discover,” says Wells, 41, who lives in California but will be back in Cincinnati next Monday, April 9, for an intimate conversation with recording artist Feist and the director of her latest music video, "The Bad in Each Other," Martin de Thurah. "I’ve learned so much.”

One of Wall's early favorites, the video for The Art of Noise’s “Close to the Edit,” illustrates the kind of genre-defying filmmaking that continues to capture his imagination.

“There were such interesting experiments,” Wall says, recalling videos of Herbie Hancock and Peter Gabriel. “These were conceptual videos that blur the line between experimental art films and commercials for records. They are about making something you have never seen before and can watch over and over again.”

From the moment he entered the CAC in fall 2010, he determined to work within museum’s cubbies and crevices. “The building really inspired us,” he says. At the exhibit, visitors explore areas of the museum never before incorporated into shows, and can literally walk around and inside scenes from classic music videos, like the comic book frame of A-Ha’s “Take On Me.”

No matter where the exhibit travels, Wells doubts it will have the same “magical, immersive” impact that it does at the CAC. “That building is so unique,” he says.

Next week, he’ll have questions for Feist as well as award-winning director De Thurah, known for arrestingly stylish music videos and commercials.

“I have a lot of experience in interviewing and talking with filmmakers over the years,” Wall says. “I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to so many musicians. We’ll be looking at some of Leslie’s (Feist) videos and talking about what her collaboration was with those different directors.”

In the spirit of experimentation, Wall has asked the artists to create something new, something fresh, something to be kept secret until Monday’s program. He’s keeping quiet on details, but says with a laugh that it will likely include music, video and the audience.

Tickets to Monday’s event are available online.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.