The Tri Angle artist explores the parameters of what makes us comfortable in new video for “Red Sex”
It’s a pretty happy accident that this new film from Tri Angle artist Vessel is dropping in same week we learned about the UK government’s strange new porn censorship laws. While Cameron and co are revealing prehistoric attitudes to consensual acts, Vessel and video director Harry Wright are out here exploring the parameters of what makes us comfortable - while technically never breaking the censorship laws, or even your SafeSearch filter. To the leering, lusty tune of “Red Sex”, two naked men roll around in some empty police cells, toes curl and limbs twitch, some appliances get involved, and things get generally messy. Watch below at your own risk (probably bookmark it for later if you’re at work) and read on to find out about the amateur porn and wayward thoughts about hoovers that inspired the shoot.
This track has a really off-kilter sexy vibe, but the video is... kinda not sexy at all. What was the initial idea for the film? How do you feel the visuals relate to the track?
Seb Gainsborough/Vessel: Harry and I spent a long time discussing the visual themes for the record long before it was even finished, so many of the ideas we used had been in gestation for a year or so. We knew it had to communicate the same anxious, uncomfortable sexuality which the track revolves around. Alluding to parts of our sexual natures which perhaps aren't talked about that much, and the stuff we don't even like to admit thinking about. That was a big part of the concept. We wanted to place this within a nightmarish environment – more in the Lynchian sense than in the Grimm tales sense though. The kind of dream that is horrifying because it's mundane.
Harry Wright: After working so closely with Seb on the album artwork, the idea for the video seemed to come quite naturally, really. We knew we wanted to create something brutal and raw, and for this to continue the tone that the album sets. The track itself is so honest and maddening. It doesn't fuck about and we didn't want the video to hold back either. The last thing we wanted was loads of faceless time-lapse shots of the sea, or East London at night or something – none of that shit! We wanted you to feel right up close to the situation, as if you're in the room with them, intruding on something intimate.
This feels like it walks a line between being disturbing and very light-hearted and funny. Is that what you were going for? What was the influence for that?
Seb Gainsborough/Vessel: Absolutely. We were keen not to be po-faced about it, and luckily Harry and I both share a sense of humour that oscillates between camp and sadistic. It was an attempt to challenge notions of sex as this clinical, 3D, Dolby surround experience that we often see disseminated by media. Plus sex isn't always disturbing, it can be occasionally be hilarious as well.
Harry Wright: Yes that's exactly what we were going for... establishing relationships between beauty, humour and the grotesque. We wanted to highlight ideas to do with sex that don't often get addressed in mainstream media... feelings of frustration, awkwardness, nervousness, and how it can all end up being funny yet disturbing in equal measure.
I wasn't influenced by any specific films or directors but more the aesthetic of the “home movie” and seedy, amateur porn films. I like how the lack of censorship and disregard for mass approval allows for the mundanity and honesty to come through.
What's the relationship between bodies and appliances/machinery going on here?
Seb Gainsborough/Vessel: You know when you haven't been laid in a while, and suddenly you catch sight of the hoover out of the corner of your eye? Maybe that's more symptomatic of male sexual frustration though.
Harry Wright: It's about taking these appliances into a a situation outside of their normal domestic use. I wanted these objects to be characters in their own right, and for the actors to relate to them as if they're human. It's about juxtaposing mundanity and insanity, and playing with the idea of “objectification” in a very literal sense.