Culture Is a Weird Online Video

Sometimes a single product can so epitomize a segment of popular culture that it simultaneously requires and rebuffs explanation. Die Antwoord at Creators Project is one such instance. It’s probably better if you have no idea what that previous sentence means.

Let’s break down the constituent parts:

Die Antwoord is a group from South Africa created as an avowed high-concept art parody. Their videos are YouTube phenoms, with viewcounts validating how precisely well they twine so many strands of pop, rap, fashion and criticism together. One part Edward Saïd, one part Andy Kaufman, one part John Galliano, and one part Vanilla Ice. (They played Coachella this year.)

Creators Project is a joint venture by Intel and Vice, two entities that have about as much in common with one another as well, Andy Kaufman and Edward Saïd. Corporate sponsorship of youth culture is of course nothing new. A computer chip manufacturer paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to market to les blogeurs (my translation) with all the latest blips on the tastemaker radar is what you kind of expect living in NYC. (I can’t even tabulate how many free concerts I’ve attended thanks to vodka brands desperate for market share.) It’s not new, it’s the norm. It’s representative of the “scene,” however you define it. That Bushwick loft party you went to last weekend where that skate punk band played the basement at 2am? Brought to you by ALIFE’s new sneaker collab with Jeff Koons.

The show itself was held at Milk Studios, a multifunctional space west of Chelsea and north of Meatpacking. I’ve only been there for fashion week shows; I didn’t know until recently it doubled/tripled as a concert venue. But then these days, why not? Rent’s expensive. You have to be creative. No longer do you have to hang out in Brooklyn to see underground music – don’t you feel silly for moving out there/here? I’m sure the concerts are a lark for Milk Studios, with Intel plowing through the necessary permits with their marketing budget. Which in itself carries all sorts of disturbing capitalist implications.

Lastly: know where I heard about this? Pitchfork. If you want a quick lesson in the modern music landscape, work backwards from the band’s perspective. Say you’re Die Antwoord. You’re in Cape Town, you want some shows and some fans. Easy!

  • Make a music video equally batshit and tonally ambiguous.
  • Video goes viral.
  • Give interviews to the American and British music blogs.
  • Accept whatever festival invites come your way.
  • Act equally batshit and tonally ambiguous in concert.
  • Accept whatever corporate gigs come your way. (This usually comes in the form of licensing to commercials or playing a fashion runway.)
  • Try like hell to pass off your corporate gigs as batshit and tonally ambiguous.
  • Congrats, you’ve made it. (And Intel’s getting loads of free press on the music blogs.)
  • Notice at no point did I bring up a record label. Or an actual record.

Now, before you pass off all of this as ranting – well, only ranting – I invite you to watch the weirdness for yourself.

I apologize if I’m not entirely articulate here. There’s just something fascinating about this, like it’s the locus of music, the web, New York, and marketing in summer 2010.

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