Film: Cosmic Drug (Bruce Conner vs NIN)

by Beauchamp Art

Cosmic Drug

A/V Appropriation:

Video: Bruce Conner (1961) Cosmic Ray
Audio: Nine Inch Nails (1997) The Perfect Drug

For this piece I performed a small amount of live appropriation. Upon noticing that Bruce Conner’s Cosmic Ray featured rapidly shifting images of lights, explosions and erotic, I quickly found NIN’s The Perfect Drug, a song which I though would match the video due to the rapid rhythms and lyrical content of the video.
After it became apparent that the video and audio went well together, it then became apparent that the visual coincidences between the A/V content was so strong it almost amounted to synesthesia.
The only editing I did was putting the opening and closing credits on the film, with a subtly overlaid version of the video playing in the background as the song comes in.
The correlation between the two seemed quite astounding, considering the initial juxtaposition was mostly based on a previous knowledge of the song, and the similarities in both material’s length. Moreover, the sound that accompanied the video was very much of its time, and to me seemed to clash with the idea content, rather than supporting it, as the NIN song did. However, Conner’s use of pop music in his video was of fair significance, and undoubtably had an effect on musk videos for years to come.

The piece is dependent on the false correlation between the visual and audio which are created by the user as a means of establishing order in the chaos, triggering the pattern finding instinct, creating continuum where there is only coincidence.

For example, as the second half of the first begins, with the line “I come along, but I don’t know where you’re taking me”, the image of street lights appear. At the end of the first chorus, upon a lively drum fill, the video cuts to a topless woman dancing quickly, as if in time to the music. Similarly, the line “and I want you” is offset by the image of the women moving erotically. Both the video and song build to a manic climax around 2:36, as the instrumental section starts; when this ends, it cuts to footage of the woman and soldiers walking along, scenes of destruction, whilst the line “without you everything falls apart is being sung”. When a figure rapidly flicks through hats, around 3:46, Trent Reznor sings “without you its not as much fun to pick up the pieces”, before the film disintegrates and runs of its reel.

Much as the video is a fairly straight-forward amalgamation of the two sources (though the video was re-scaled to fit a 16:9 aspect ration, and the contrast was adjusted, as the particular version of the video file online that I had access to was not very high quality), the title is a combination of Cosmic Ray and The Perfect Drug.
Although only a very basic piece, I believe its simplicity is key to its success, though it mostly an observation of coincidence.

Cosmic Drug [Stills]

Cosmic Drug [Stills] - 01

Cosmic Drug [Stills] - 02

Cosmic Drug [Stills] - 06

Bruce Conner vs NIN; Video Mash-Up

Start simultaneous for perfect synchronicity.

Nine Inch Nails: The Perfect Drug (1997) from Nine Inch Nails on Vimeo.