Partizan Animation Director James Curran recently had an exhibition at Beach London. The exhibition was a tribute to Beastie Boys co-founder Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, who passed away May 4, 2012. It featured 35 framed prints each showcasing three graphic representations of the bands lyrics, tracks or singles.
We caught up with James and asked him some questions about the exhibition.
PZ: When did you decide to do this project?
JC: When I heard the news about MCA’s death last year I knew that I wanted to do something as a tribute to him, but it took me a few months to decide on what it would be. Around November last year a came up with the idea of creating three icons to represent each Beastie Boys single, and thought it would be a good opportunity to organise an exhibition around it where I could raise money for charity. I’d never organised an exhibition before or even done much print work, but I thought it was a good idea worth pursuing. I knew I’d want to create an animation to promote the project too and once I’d decided on using the track ‘A Year and a Day’ as the soundtrack to it, it seemed perfect to aim for the anniversary of Adam’s death as a date for the exhibition.
PZ: How do the Beastie Boys and MCA inspire you?
JC: I’ve always admired how they could almost completely change their style but still stay relevant, and took their time releasing any new material. They never seemed too concerned about fitting in with current trends and didn’t (or don’t) take themselves too seriously. Through Beastie Boys I also became a big fan of Spike Jonze and making music videos in general, which eventually led me to be doing what I do now.
PZ: Tell me how you came up with each image in the series of stills?
JC: The icons in each image represent lyrics, music videos, artwork, or other influences related to each track. I wanted it to be a mix of easily recognisable imagery from their more popular music videos and also more obscure references to lyrics which only obsessive fans (like myself) would understand.
PZ: Favourite images from the series?
JC: I see the whole thing as one image really so it’s difficult to pick any out. When I created them I knew they’d be shown in the 7 x 5 grid so I was constantly referring back to that layout to make sure everything worked well together, as well as working well in sequence for the animation.
PZ: Hardest track to convert to 3 images?
JC: I didn’t have much trouble picking three icons for each track, but for some of them I had trouble narrowing it down to just three. Sabotage is probably the most recognisable Beastie Boys video so it was a bit of challenge to figure out how to represent that and do it justice. I designed and even animated quite a few icons that I later replaced. I even swapped out some whole tracks too…
PZ: What software did you use to make the video?
JC: It was all made in After Effects.
PZ: Did you create the prints from the video?
JC: Everything was created using vectors so could be scaled to any size, including printable resolutions. The prints don’t come directly from the video though as there generally aren’t many clean frames in the animation with everything moving so fast, so I created a custom still version of each image for printing.
PZ: Has anyone decoded each single / track from the video/exhibition?
JC: A few blogs / forums managed to decode most of the images shortly after I initially released the video, but it took them a few attempts and even then there were still a few mistakes. They were 99% there though.
PZ: Did you label which track was on each print or did you leave it for the owner to work out?
JC: I didn’t mention anything about each print representing a different track originally because I wanted to see if people would realise that on their own, but once I started to sell them I released a list to show what it all meant.
PZ: You used this exhibition to raise money for MacMillan Cancer, can you tell us more about that?
JC: A cancer charity was obviously suitable for the theme, but I’ve also had a number of family members and friends with cancer over the years and Macmillan were a big help to people in those situations.
PZ: Favourite MCA lyric?
JC: I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.