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Marco Brambilla: From Civilization To Power

CH exclusive: The making of Kanye West's newest music video "Power" with its artist/director

by Aaron Kohn in Culture on 04 August 2010

Kanye West has been kicking up controversy right and left recently—showing up at both the Facebook and Twitter HQs, turning his teeth to diamonds and engaging the public with his crude and prolific Tweets. After noticing Marco Brambilla's "Civilization" video installation in the elevators at The Standard New York Hotel in 2009, Kanye not only wrote about it on his blog, he commissioned the experimental filmmaker to collaborate on the video for "Power," his new single.

We're premiering the behind-the-scenes video with the artist created by The 88 (above) and directed by Jenna Elizabeth, which starts by introducing "Civilization" and then shows how "Power" was made. We've also got an exclusive interview with Brambilla below.

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Cool Hunting: What is the concept and how did it come about?

Marco Brambilla: To me "Power" was about a symbol, an icon of power about to fall, like an emperor about to fall. That's when I thought I'd like to do a sort of moving portrait, a video portrait of Kanye as an authority figure in a moment when everything is about to collapse. I wanted to make it really sensual and use a lot of baroque imagery that I had used in "Civilization" and create this kind of decadent imagery around him and have all the decadence and sexuality and excess conspire against him. By the end of the video there's a change in his position. So his position is compromised at the end of the video.

CH: Are you interested in doing more collaborations in the future?

MB: Kanye is more connected to the art world than other artists, so I thought this would be an interesting opportunity to work with someone who really understands how far you can push things and how experimental you can be. A lot of people will tell you they want to do something experimental but it becomes commercial. I thought Kanye would let me be true to my vision. I've never done a music video and one of the first things I said to Kanye was that I'm not interested in making a music video, but if we want to work on something that's experimental, I can definitely do that because I really connected to that song.

CH: Is it strange that a celebrity would depict their fall from power?

MB: I think he's a true artist—he doesn't react to what people think of him. He's aware, but he's not the type of person who's going to react to things in a way that is better for marketing. He wants to push the limits. I think using part of his public image as part of the way of illustrating his new album will resonate.

CH: What was the production process like?

Once we locked in on that concept it was pretty fast; essentially a three-four week process. The post production was pretty intense because there's about 22 layers of video in the piece and each piece has to be choreographed—it's almost like a very complicated matrix. The shoot itself was shot in extreme slow motion on a Phantom camera. The characters come to life, but they're moving in a very stylized way. I knew exactly what I was going to shoot the day we went on stage. I actually shot images of the models at the casting and then I put the models together in Photoshop, so we had it pretty well figured out.

CH: Are video collages your signature now?

MB: One of the reasons I took this project is because conceptually it made sense to explore celebrity, sexuality, self-consciousness, self-destruction. This idea of being in the center of the universe becomes a little intimidating to people. I've explored it in my work before. Regardless of whether I do a video work based on sampling or based on collage, those themes come through in my work.

Marco Brambilla and the Christopher Grimes Gallery are currently working on a show called "Evolution" that will open in 2011 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

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