08 July 2005

“Rubber Johnny”

Aside from the shitty NIN video that ruined my evening, leave it to Chris Cunningham to make it ten times better with some extra Rubber Johnny footage, about "a hyperactive, shape-shifting mutant child, kept locked away in a basement." (Official site.) It was released in Europe last month and comes out in about a week here in Canada.


Here, the BBC Collective conducts an interview with one of my favourite media masterminds of all time:—
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Chris Cunningham, the video visionary whose technologically astounding Satanic visions of the modern world get you below the skin like a virus. “Probably one of the reasons I don’t work in the mainstream anymore is that I’m only interested in making the stuff I want to make,” he reflects. “Since I don’t make much money and I’m working on the margins, I’m not going to compromise the work.”

His new short film, Rubber Johnny, the story of a deformed boy left to party in a basement room, is Cunningham working at his dirty, visceral best. The boy, whose anatomy is largely composed of the filmmaker’s genitalia - at least, in the book of photos that comes with the DVD release - has quite a time in the dark cell where he’s locked away from the sensitive eyes of the outside world. Unsurprisingly, the film’s borderline sexual content and accompanying artwork have made it hard for the work to be shown in magazines or on TV.

Censorship is familiar territory for Cunningham. “I can understand banning something that has a shot of a cock in it on terrestrial TV,” he concedes. “But as far as Come To Daddy goes, I can’t understand it.” In the notorious video for Aphex Twin, munchkin delinquents, all with Richard James’ face, terrorise a grim tower-block wasteland as a nosferatu on an unplugged TV sings, “I want your soul”. A work of horror genius certainly, but cultural watchdogs banned it in an instant.

While he has a knack for getting adult fingers wagging, the desire to tap the fears and free imagination of childhood is at the heart of Cunningham’s creative process. He explains: “When I draw, whatever comes out is what comes out naturally. I don’t see it as ‘dark’. You’re trying to work instinctively, to make stuff as you would when you were 12.”

In his seminal career, there have been moments of beauty, like the Björk video where marble-hard white robots lubricate and make love, art video installations such as Monkey Drummer or Flex, where a man and woman fight and f**k against a black void, and soaring highs of commercial innovation like the PlayStation advert, Mental Wealth. All are underscored by a pithy commentary on 21st-century life. In the PlayStation ad, for example, a young girl talks about internal adventures of the mind, with her head distorted into an alien balloon, by implication from too much PlayStation.

“I might find, looking back in 10 years time, that working in a relatively commercial arena was where I did my best work,” he considers. For now, though, it’s the creative process itself that Cunningham lives for. “You want to explore inside your own head as much as you can,” he says. So be brave and take a peek.


shadowbox said...

That rubber johnny photo is the creepiest thing I've seen in a loooooong time. Love it!

Anonymous said...

That video of Rubber Johnny, is the most fucked up think I have seen in a long time. It is bloody awsome