Fluorescent is a 3-screen synchronized SD video with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales' Contemporary Art Projects in 2004. Taking the hyperbolic performative aspects of the narcissistic music-video, this gallery presentation creates a mega-widescreen stage from which the audience is centred and bombarded. Imagery and music swirl and rotate according to the clip’s performer emblazoned across a central screen in hyper-saturated neon colouring.
This ‘mock’ music-video pays homage to the androgynous, multi-sexual Glam aesthetic which has typified much of Brophy’s musical interests and critical writing (such as Hope You Die Before I Get Old - catalogue essay for the exhibition Hype, 1988, & Pale Glitter – Fat Sound - catalogue essay for the exhibition None More Blacker, 2001). In Philip’s thesis, Glam is the shining black hole of Rock’n’Roll’s grotesque theatricality, just as it is the sharp momentary glint of Pop’s processing. Glam has naught to do with the rarified aversions to classicism which birthed the intelligentsia’s best-known smears – ‘camp’ and ‘kitsch’. Glam works well beyond those stale binaries of pure/impure, high/low, original/copy, etc. In the Fluorescent realm, everything is presented as tensile, self-invented, volatile, restless.
In the video, Philip invents himself as a luridly reconstituted being vibrating with Glam’s essential fakeness and plasticity. His performance portrays a transmogrified sexual monster, roaming and strutting a videosonic platform, energized by a pulsating ‘fat’ sound, and seething with a hunger for the bright, the shiny and the loud.
Concept & direction: Philip Brophy
Costume: Sophie Poole
Make-up: Emma Simon
Camera: Cassandra Tytler
Production assistance: David Haberfeld, Engel Schmidl
Stills photography: Robin Lea
Music production & performance: Philip Brophy
Recorded & mixed @ Gelatin
Thanks to RMIT Media Arts
“Fluorescent” © Philip Brophy - published by Rubber Music & Sony/ATM Music Publishing.
Special thanks to Natasha Bullock & Wayne Tunnicliffe @ Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Stereo CD of audio only presented as part of 21:21:21, Salamanca Art Centre, Hobart
Stereo CD of audio only presented as part of 21:100:100, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne
Institute of Modern Art,Brisbane
SINGAPORE BIENNALE, Singapore
Art Gallery of New South Wales, SydneyCatalogue - AGNSW, Sydney © 2004
Fluorescent was initially developed as a suite of 'post-glam' music tracks. There was no clear purpose for the project until the invitation to submit for the Contemporary Art Projects space at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The idea then expanded into a 'music-video' project - but one specifically in opposition to the commonplace notion that 'video clips are art'.
Fluorescent's image veneer comes from the first 'neo-image' phase of rock music - Glam. Glam rock - as ocularly debauched and texturally grotesque as it was - was a pre-punk statement of the perverse primacy of image in music. Its most fascinating aspect is how roughly hewn and motley its visual surface was: the make-up was always dotted with sweat; hair was never perfect; and bodies were far from the poMo-classical form they became in late 90s video iconography.
Fluorescent's video production was thus inspired by UK-TV's "Top of the Pops" shows where performers were alienated within the moldy yet garishly lit environs of British TV studios and their already-antiquated effects machinery. It is from these tacky yet delirious commitments to 'son-image' in the 70s that the MTV-effect of first wave music videos are birthed. The Fluorescent project is an excavation of these origins of pop audiovisuality, from which a deconstructed staging is rigged and upon which a thoroughly 'plastique' persona is paraded.
Tracing Glam's incendiary arc, the vulgar collapse of gender and identity form another major aspect of Fluorescent. In keeping with Philip's ongoing dissolution of anything to do with bodily constructs and forms, Fluorescent presents him as a pancaked amoeba of polysexuality: somewhere between a Takarazuka rock god (as only the infamous Japanese all-women theatre troupe can do) and and an inverted drag-aroke of Plastic Bertrand (the bizarre ground zero nexus of Punk, Glam and Synth Pop).Installation - AGNSW, Sydney © 2004
The music for the Fluorescent song was done after a lyric sheet had been written. The lyrics took about 15 minutes to write and were initially done in mid 1998. The music was composed later that same year, but no vocals were recorded. The music was configured from a series of discrete samples from 70s music. An attempt was made to not process or distort these fragments as Philip had previously done in a number of soundscape-oriented projects, but instead to assemble them in a quasi-analogue multi-track mode so as to retain the peculiar 'fat' sound typical of mid-70s pop-rock production. Fragments were assembled from tracks by The Rubettes, Lou Reed, The Ramones and lesser known BBC Radio one-hit wonders. Additional keyboards, bass and effects were blended in with these pop-rock fragments. The approach was envisaged as if one was applying make-up to a sonic corpus in the spirit of Glam.
Once the Art Gallery of New South Wales commission came into effect toward the end of 2003, the lyrics were then recorded. Multiple mic placements and variated singing techniques were incorporated again in keeping with the quasi-analogue multi-track mode of record production. Influences here range from Sweet to Queen to David Bowie - all of whom employed mock-operatic bi-drag vocalizations before it became the terrain of Hollywoodesque heavy metal.
The music and vocals were then mixed in an appropriately unnaturalistic and spatially sensational 5.1 configuration. It was at this stage that the idea to split the video clip into 2 halves arose. The first half is a complete mix of the music and vocals. The second half is an identical repeat of the video but synched to an accapella version of the song, so that there are extended passages of dead silence while the video performance continues. The vocals then erupt as soon as the onscreen performer's lips open, surrounding the listener with multiple harmonized vocals in 5.1 spatialization.Installation - AGNSW, Sydney © 2004
I'm an uptight, crosstown, metal monkey doing brown
Thinking loud, dressing swell; hunting down some caramel
Wannabe something cool - 50 million kilo joules
Bargain basement - I'm for rent at 10%
Fuck a dog, kill a cat; turn my T-shirt inside-out
Tell mum where it's at; watching TV, getting fat
Got an itch up in my arse; gotta run I'm late for class
Bubble gum came and went; radio ain't worth a cent
Call me - fluorescent
I'm a space-whoring, satin kid; mufflers running strong and big
Tripping bad, rocking sweet, tonguing anything on heat
Best band in the world - twenty boys and twenty girls
Rock'n Roll is heaven-sent; Gary Glitter's innocent
Jennifer Jason Leigh - just the girl I'd like to be
Sell my records, crash a car; forty dollars - I'm a star
Put a mirror on the floor; lots of blood, lots of gore
Generation excellent; kiss my lips - I'm peppermint
Call me - fluorescent
I'm a punk rock superguy; cut my hair before I die
Gonna surf the internet - ejaculate until I'm spent
Love to ride Dana Scully - take some photos - make some money
Disco is magnificent; Barry White for president
Electric boogaloo; zapping everything I do
Ping Pong - Donkey Kong; in my brain there's nothing wrong
Make some sound - make some noise; smashing everybody's toys
Last will and testament: what I said is what I meant
Call me - fluorescent
Call me - fluorescent