The experience of young, gear-poor artists showing deliberate vulnerability is nothing to glamorize. Walling off completely from production-obsessed aesthetics can nurture intuition to be reckoned with, though. Dallas artists Jake Elliott and Pierre Krause slipped that message to a large audience Tuesday with the release of Nelly Furtado’s video for “Pipe Dreams.” It was Elliott’s first visual to shoot and direct, and Krause’s first time editing a music video. Furtado paid tribute to the artists and described her “love affair” with Dallas ahead of her forthcoming album The Ride, produced by John Congleton at his Elmwood Studios in Oak Cliff and due in March.
Elliott says the pop artist came through his show at Art Basel in Miami and bought some work after artist and stylist Samantha McCurdy introduced them. What you see in “Pipe Dreams,” as Furtado wanders the rooms of a woman’s estate near the Lake Highlands neighborhood, is a listening session: Elliott was getting a feel for the song as he was shooting the video. Production required just a couple hours, an ease of mutual trust and $300, according to Elliott.
“I used the only camera I had, a Sony Handycam I stole from my mom’s closet,” Elliott wrote to me. “There was no initial concept, she txt [sic] me and told me she was in Dallas for a day and wanted to shoot some visuals like the Instagram content I had previously been posting with the same camera. I only had one Hi-8 tape that I had just been recording and re-recording over, so I just used that one tape.”
Flecks from a jewel-toned necklace projected on the wall, a zoom on a painted flower’s pistil, Furtado’s slow, sober glances in a bathroom mirror; there is a feeling of this-is-all-there-is. The act of exploring the past in a domestic space as a way of assessing, then inheriting, the present moment whispers at Chantal Akerman’s final film, No Home Movie, in its visual style and thematics. (Elliott credits Ashley Narcisse and her film reference bank for showing him the work he loves, like La Haine by by Mathieu Kassovitz.)
It was obvious to Elliott who should edit the footage. Pierre Krause is an artist who can create emotional build through a text-only, photo-copied ‘zine; after flipping the pages of their WISHES FOR BB on a friend’s shelf I was unable to speak for a moment. Krause’s sense of pacing and love of text is clear in “Pipe Dreams.”
“When [Elliott] showed me the scene with her and the wrought iron, I lost it,” Krause says, relishing the colors and zooms they were able to sample with complete creative freedom. “I feel like from the jump there’s this solitude to it, a melancholy to it, a sense of loss but still the ability to try. It gets confidence on that build-up, and I wanted to end on kind of like a hopeful note.”
Krause refers to the a-little-off moments as “bottlecaps,” a piece of the language Elliott and Krause share as collaborators now poised for more collaborations as After Deth Productions.
“Pipe Dreams” enters a trend of pre-HD visual format choices in pop, which aren’t just about nostalgia or catching up with sonic lo-fi trends. One example: Sky Ferriera introduced her forthcoming record on October covers of Playboy as art director and subject of the shoot. The first version is a VHS still, no retouches. Process is itself texture: Ferriera’s best friend was the photographer and the images were captured at her house. The low budget and natural look don’t just communicate images of apartness, they are celebrations of self-possession within a commercial framework — especially for women. The new crew is no crew (more specifically, a very small and holistically assembled one.)
Yet the vision of Furtado in “Pipe Dreams” is still a vision no matter the video’s transparency. Who are we looking at? A grown woman, sure yet tender, decorated only with natural light. “Fantasy is what people want, but reality is what they need, and I just retired from the fantasy part,” Lauryn Hill once told a crowd as she introduced “Adam Lives In Theory.” It was a fleeting promise to an MTV Unplugged audience, but that moment was true, and it’s the most she could have given from that stage.