Laid Back Avant-Garde: Lars von Trier's Bakerman

Johansson, T. D. (Oplægsholder)

    Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentation Foredrag og mundtlige bidrag


    This paper seeks to discuss in serious terms a statement made in the late 1980ies by Danish film director Lars von Trier—that Danish pop-duo Laid Back for him, at the time, should be considered a prominent example of contemporary avant-garde art. At the time, von Triers’ statement was deliberately controversial. Whereas Laid Back has been one of the largest commercial successes of the Danish music industry due to the success of a handful of pop hits (in Germany, mainly), the duo has never been recognized for its artistic contribution. A few years after his public statement, von Trier directed the official music video for Laid Back’s Bakerman single, where the duo and a backing group dressed up as bakers is seen performing while skydiving. Rather than approaching this video as an illustration of the song, the paper suggests that the Bakerman video should be seen as the result of a curatorial act where Lars von Trier seeks to elaborate on his particular fondness of the values that this pop duo seems to represent for him; simplicity, popularity (in Danish “folkelighed”), and irony. In this sense, by promoting the Laid Back single by means of a music video, von Trier’s contribution leads us rather to develop our understanding of--von Trier; apparently not of Laid Back. The paper thus seeks to approach von Trier as a conceptual artist with a special interest in the notion of developing society (the avant-garde position) and being a popular figure (“folkelig”, appreciated by the people) at the same time; an interest which historically both evokes ideas of pop music and pop culture, the role of the artist in a national, social-democratic context, and the role of the avant-garde artist after the completion of such projects as situationism and the American neo-avant-garde. In this manner, the paper finally seeks to discuss Lars von Trier’s contribution to the current debate on the status of the avant-garde. Should the avant-garde qualify as such by being revolutionary or at least systemically subversive (Mikkel Bolt) or does it suffice to let laid back artists (or just bodies) undergo a free fall through the lower parts of the atmosphere. Supposedly, the length of the standard skydiving experience (the parachute part exclusive) could be compared with that of the standard pop song and thus with that of the music video. Could sky diving constitute a critical potential of the music video? References to other skydiving music videos (e.g. Boards of Canada) and to von Trier’s work (e.g. Element of Crime) will be discussed by means of a perspective.
    The paper will draw on a collection of press material concerning von Triers life and work collected by the author until ca. the mid1990ies.
    Periode28 mar. 2010
    BegivenhedstitelThe Music Video: Critical Potential and Aesthetic Innovation: null
    PlaceringCopenhagen, Danmark