Wolfgang Tillmans released a visual album on YouTube yesterday, in anticipation of the Friday release of his EP That’s Desire/Here We Are with his band, Fragile. The half-hour video features six songs—five written by the artist himself, and the sixth taking its words from “Anderes Osterleid,” a poem by Kurt Marti. Tillmans put it together over the summer, during what he calls the “post-Brexit/pre-Trump” era.
“I wanted the overall feel of the EP to be reflecting the desire to carry on and live our lives in a quest for personal happiness, whatever the circumstances are,” he writes in the album’s description on YouTube. “We need to protest and campaign, but this shouldn’t stop us from reaffirming love and life, here and now.”
Musically, That’s Desire/Here We Are is like a roll-call of obvious tropes of new wave, industrial, and electronic body music from the 1980s, while visually, it features the headline-making model Hari Nef, and “Transparent” actor Bashir Daviid Naim—among Tillmans himself, his bandmates, and collaborators—dancing, pouting, posing, and hoola-hooping in a windowless white cube illuminated by various colors of pale neon light, shot with odd camera angles and abstract close-ups.
At one point, we see an orange color-field shot of an empty corner, then Tillmans balancing on one leg, bathed in contrasting red and green light. His voice questions, “How did we get into this shit?” Then, a bare, hairy leg from foot to knee in deep purple light, and Nef stretching in pink. “How did we end up in this shit?”
In comes the pumped-up rock ‘n roll intro of “Warm Star,” during which we are reassured, “This is music. This is music. This is music. This is music.”
Music it is, and it’s not the photographer’s first foray into the aural medium.
In July, Tillmans released his first EP, 2016/1986, on his own new record label, also called Fragile. It was a series of songs he began working on in 1986, and finally finished this year. Previously, he created the “Playback Room,” a project where visitors could listen to CDs on high-quality equipment, paying them the same level of attention one does to fine art.
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