Any exhibition which greets me with a wall sized video of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”, is A-OK by me.

ACMI Spectacle: The Music Video Exhibition, you do a good opening number.


Did you know this? I sure didn’t – learning is fun. To be honest, I’ve never given much thought to music videos. Growing up with (parental moderated) Rage and MTV I would obsessively watch every Spice Girls and No Doubt video (I had mixed tastes as an eight year old) and Top of the Pops countdown. But since then I’ve given little thought to music videos, other than as another avenue for artists to flaunt around near-topless, wander down streets looking sad, run around fields holding hands and make money. I certainly never considered their history and full potential as a form of artistic expression.

How very wrong I was.

The exhibition weaves you through the history of music videos, from 1920s jazz and Betty Boop, to the Beatles and introduction of the music video narrative before breaking into contemporary styles and trends.  Epic motion-picture quality productions are featured alongside arthouse and videos out to shock with their political and social statements.


Gotye “Somebody That I Used To Know (feat Kimbra)”.

Most impressive is the sheer number of videos to watch and listen to. With over 300 clips from 90 years of music you could spend all day here watching video after video after video after video.


I returned here more than once.

Did you know that all of the visual effects in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody were created in the camera during the recording process? Impressive then, impressive now.

The exhibition also displays costumes, set pieces and props as well as interactive videos including Arcade Fire’s creepy, ‘video noir’ “Neon Bible”.

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From the OK GO “This too shall pass” video.

I can't remember where this was from - I was too creeped out.

I can’t remember where this was from – I was too creeped out.

Despite spending countless Saturday mornings glued to MTV, I had no idea they nearly went bust in the 80s. MTV, then only on a small network, had to call on their musician pals (INXS, Bowie – impressive pals) to help with their ‘I want my MTV’ campaign to encourage other networks to pick up the show. And look at the MTV Awards today.

The Residents vs MTV.

The Residents vs MTV.

As expected every genre of music and style music video is featured – The White Stripes (with accompanying giant lego blocks), Bowie, MIA, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, Missy Elliott, Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Jay-Z, Eminem, Madonna as well as smaller Australian acts.

Fans get a shout-out too with compilations of fan-made versions of artists videos, such as Beyonce’s Single Ladies and the ongoing Johnny Cash Project.

Mr  West makes an appearance.

Mr West makes an appearance.

Despite my expectations I’d just be wandering around watching a bunch of music videos, I can honestly say I left with a whole new appreciation of music videos as an art form.

This isn’t an exhibit I’d bring little kiddies too, although the highly graphic and violent videos are in an ‘adults section’, most of the content is PG+.

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Go visit now:
Spectacle: The Music Video Exhibition
Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Federation Square
Showing until Sunday, February 23rd (better get in quick!).


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