AN INNOVATIVE MARKETING CAMPAIGN
In 1992 my partner, Nichola Bruce, and I heard that Peter Gabriel was looking for someone to co-ordinate the visual material for his new album, "US". It seemed he wanted to retain control on the visuals just like he did with the music and he needed someone to help him do so. We had worked on a couple of projects with him previously - directing some sequences with Hart Perry for a documentary about recording week at his studio, and producing a video about a theme park Peter was trying to create in Barcelona with Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno. Peter didn't want to rely on his record company to come up with marketing ideas for his record, he wanted to find a way to work with artists. There was a recession, our latest film project had collapsed and so it seemed a good idea to put ourselves forward for the job.
Peter would drive us down to his studio in Wiltshire or we'd travel with him by train and we would brain- storm ideas together. Eventually we devised a working method whereby we covered the upper floor of his office with images of selected artists' work and gradually tried to pair the picture with a song from the album. We would go to his studio and he would play us tracks and then we would fire off ideas about what the music seemed to evoke pictorially. It was a lot of fun.
Tamar Arnon, who had extensive knowledge of the art scene joined our sessions and we slowly drew up a short list of artists Peter wanted to commission. The idea was that each artist would be asked to come up with an image for a particular song and that Peter would be given the option to buy it for a negotiated fee if he liked it. In the end he bought all the artworks. The criteria for the choices was fourfold - that the work should have a relationship to the feelings and content of the music, that the artists should come from different parts of the world, that both sexes should be well represented and that less well known work should be given equal prominence.
It was decide that Rebecca Horn, who was the artist from our selection with the most credibility amongst other artists would be the first person we would approach. If she said yes, we felt others would agree also. This is exactly how it turned out. Rebecca Horn was given the song "Secret World" and she created an image which reminded her of a dream - she felt the song was about a dream - and she wanted to make something that evoked that feeling. The image of a suitcase with a strange butterfly like bird inside it became an icon that was repeated and developed throughout the whole marketing campaign for "US" and the subsequent "Secret World Tour."
As well as Rebecca Horn, we commissioned artists, Yayoi Kusama, David Mach, Finbar Kelly, Zadok Ben-David, Ian Hughes, Mickael Beth-Selassie, Andy Goldsworthy, Zush, Jordan Baseman and Bili Bidjoka, to create original artwork for each of the 11 songs on the CD. I documented the artists' working process on video and with photography. Steven Lovell-Davis who had taken photographs of the Turner Prize winners came with me on location and made portraits of each artist.
The artworks were all photographed and used as icons for their related song - appearing as single covers and on posters and as part of the the CD sleeve. They were initially installed at the Art Fair in Islington London, then later in the studios at Real World for the official "playback" of the new record for Virgin records. A year later the later the Mitsubishi Company in Japan asked to exhibit the artworks in their new building in Yokohama at an exhibition. Owen Leech, the studio manager and I had a design created for the exhibition space of a central egg-shaped room with other smaller spaces extending from it. The artist Jordan Baseman had made an image of a white ostrich egg surrounded by black rose thorns for the song "Fourteen Black Paintings" which gave us the inspiration for the design. The installation allowed gallery visitors to listen to the music for each artwork via specailly created headphones which changed as they moved from room to room, and to watch videos of the artworks being created.
Later I was asked to direct a long form video, All About Us, which I based on the documentary footage of the artists making their artworks and behind-the-scenes footage of the album production shot by Nichola Bruce and myself. The video included the music videos for the album and director interviews.
The thing I particularly liked about working on the campaign was that we were able to expand on the ideas and feelings evoked by the artists' work and incorporate the imagery into other areas of Peter Gabriel's world. Nichola and I had commissioned photographs of Peter, wearing a natty crombie overcoat and holding the Rebecca Horn suitcase as publicity stills for his forthcoming tour.
Steve Lovell davis was commissioned to take photographs of Peter's band with the things they were going to pack with them on tour.
Robert Le Page took up the idea of the suitcase and made it a central theme of the stage show, "Secret World Live", creating a scene where dozens of old cases are sent along a conveyor belt linking a one world on the round stage to another on square stage. The cases are collected by the road crew, at the climax of the show as Peter is singing the song Secret World. he takes his leave of the audience by opening the last suitcase and magically disappearing into it, just as he did in the Xplora CD Rom.