[Premiere] Grief Sparks Creativity in an Animated-Painting Music Video

The video for Makeunder’s “Great Headless Blank” turns a story of devastating grief into an emotionally vibrant animated painting.

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Aug 25 2016, 1:35pm

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The thick paint swirls which submerge and surround the title character of the “Great Headless Blank” music video represent internal struggle and trauma. The piece is an animated painting, colored by deep blues, greens, and yellows that play with the song's escapist theme. The character’s emotional turmoil is made visible through a variety of visual motifs: physical transformations, blocks, which perhaps represent the outside world, falling into his head (or the place where his head should be), and his entire body being lifted up and turned upside down in the air.

The character is represented, unsurprisingly, as a headless blank—the place where his head should be is filled with a giant swirl. The animated painting, which premieres today on The Creators Project, was created painstakingly by Carine Khalife. The artist turns pain into something artistic—literally using spirals of color in the place of mental angst. Art and pain are irrevocably linked. While the video for Makeunder’s new song is playful, and the song energetic, the sense of isolation is omnipresent.

Hamilton Ulmer. Image courtesy of the artist

Hamilton Ulmer, the man behind Makeunder, has a deep connection to visual art, as his mother and father were both artists. He tells The Creators Project that he’s “always seen music as a visual medium—both in terms of tone color and shapes and structures.” For this music video, he decided to see how artist Carine Khalife would interpret the song. Taking inspiration from Francis Bacon and album artist Gabriel Schama, Khalife reified the destructive grief of the tune. “Carine managed to capture... the feeling of spinning endlessly without really ever departing,” Ulmer says.

Last month, Ulmer wrote to Bo Boilen of NPR to share the story behind the Great Headless Blank EP. Telling the tragic story of his 26th year, during which his father and two grandfathers passed away, Ulmer writes beautifully about loss and creativity in the face of tragedy. Of the title track of his album, and the song behind the video, Ulmer explains he wrote it while “jetlagged...in a hotel room in San Francisco at 3:00 AM, locked out of [his] apartment.” This desolate setting is captured subtly but powerfully both in the video and the song. Ulmer thought he was done writing about this part of his life, but then “several more songs began to flow out of [him]” and he went on to record the rest of the EP, which will be released September 30th. Check out the video for “Great Headless Blank” below.

“Great Headless Blank” is the title track of Makeunder’s forthcoming EP, out on September 30th on Good Eye Records. Click here to preorder it on vinyl. Click here to visit the director’s website.

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