The other four letter word – LOVE!

Björk is one of my all time favorites. For this analysis I have chosen the video of her song “All is full of love”. The video and the technique used to produce it are obviously genius and the awards and attention it has recieved confirm it. This is what happens when two geniuses, Chris Cunnigham and Björk, meet! Enough with the extolments!! Here is the video!!!

I intend to present my analysis in two sections. Both hermeneutical, the first one is the form of the humanoid and the set while the second one is about the sequence in which the video progresses.

Part 1: The actors and the set
Contrary to popular belief, I think that the humanoid is not a female. I think ze (gender neutral pronoun) is androgynous to say the least. This is not to say that ze is both male and female but to hint that ze exhibits gender-role transcendence. One may argue that both the humanoids exhibit female anatomy. Here’s my answer. In almost all utopian or higher states of existence, beings exhibit androgyny and gender transcendence. The ideal is almost always portrayed this way. Look at the paintings of angels and Gods. The overall theme of this video (IMHO) is to strip all the earthly conditionings and view love in it’s purest form. This ofcourse is not the case in real world. We all love with our set of constraints. My argument here is that the video portrays an ideal state – love in it’s purest form. Björk comments on this song of hers as follows:
“Love isn’t just about two persons. It’s everywhere around you”. [1]

I understand if you still feel dubious about it. Let’s investigate further.

Eyelashes

Eyelashes

Did you notice that the humanoids do not have hair (on their scalp)? Was this an accident? If you watch closely at 1:23 of the video, you will see that they have eye lashes. If they can put in eye lashes, why not hair?

“Hair is never a straight-forward biological fact, because it is almost always groomed, prepared, cut, concealed and generally worked upon by human hands. Such practices socialize hair, making it the medium of significant statements about self and society and the codes of values that bind them, or do not. In this way hair is merely a raw material, constantly processed by cultural practices which thus invest it with meanings and value.”[2]

Shaving of the head in slavery, tonsuring, balding, long flowing hair, bikers’ ponytail, skinheads, blondes, crowns that conceal hair of royalty and Gods, Jeff’s seasonal change of hair color – irrespective of how your hair is or how you treat it, there is always some sort of worldly association with it. So the easier way to portray the ideal is no hair. Free from this-worldly interpretations. Not to mention the gender-neutrality of no-hair.

No external genitals in humanoid 1

No external genitals in humanoid 1

Both the humanoids do not have well defined external genitals. Their breasts are just secondary sexual characteristics. The first humanoid (in order of appearance) has no external genitals whereas the second humanoid’s genital area is not shown.

The point I am driving home here is not an anti-gender, misogynistic, homophobic, heteronormative agenda. When I say that the humanoids are not women, I simply mean they are gender-transcendent!

Part 2: The style and the scene
It’s important to note that the beat used in the video is not the original mix from the album, but more mechanical, industrial and driving to match the visuals. The style of the video seems to have been directed with the technical precision of a machine which is merely observing and not speculating or judging.

The video begins with a tangled mess of wires and pipes shown in dark and grim light. The gaze moves slowly upwards towards light. The camera stops on an industrial, construction plane outlined in bright black and white.
“Banks of fluorescent lights, behind Plexiglas flicker to life at random, illuminating an elegant, pristine white environment.”[3]
Needless to point out that the white pristine environment refers to a higher state of being.

Foetal position at 0:20

Foetal position at 0:20

The humanoid lies in a foetal position. The machines on either side start building hir (gender neutral pronoun).

Amniotic fluid at 0:59

Amniotic fluid at 0:59

A clear liquid-like serum flows out the humanoid as the machines continue to “build” hir (gender neutral pronoun). This represents the amniotic fluid a foetus is immersed in while in the womb.

Introduction of humanoid 2 at 1:22

Introduction of humanoid 2 at 1:22

As soon as the lines “May be not from directions, you’re staring at!” are sung, humanoid 2 is introduced into the frame.

Milk flows back at 1:40

Milk is fed at 1:40

When the lyric goes “All is full of love” for the first time in the song, two things happen. First, instead of the clear amniotic serum, a white milk like liquid is used. This could be construed as the mother’s milk for an infant denoting that the humanoid is now born. Second, note the direction of the flow. It’s against gravity. It’s being fed instead of flowing into. Again a metaphor that denotes that the humanoid is born now and is feeding on milk.

Brain fed at 1:42

Brain fed at 1:42

Here you can clearly see that the milk is being sucked in through the “brain” of the humanoid. An allegory that constructed knowledge starts immediately after birth.

Machines retract at 1:44

Machines retract at 1:44

This is a very crucial part. Till this point humanoid 1 doesn’t make any kind of contact with humanoid 2 nor ackowledge hir existence. Once ze looks at humanoid 2, the machines retract. Ze is unsupported. This event marks the emergence of self and it happens only when ze acknowledges the Other. In the words of Heidegger, “enowning” happens. What this means is that a sense of self (identity) changes when the Other comes in the picture. It is in this precise moment, the self rebuilds itself in appropriation to the Other.

Red and blue at 1:48

Red and blue at 1:48

Note that humanoid 1 has a blue “brain” and humanoid 2 has red “brain”. Depending on the culture you come from, red and blue are associated with masculine or feminine tendencies. For example, Hindu culture views red as the divine feminine since red represents energy. In christian tradition blue is associated with the feminine since it represents passivity (passivity here does not mean the opposite of active). This is evident from the old paintings where the Virgin Mary is always clad in blue. Later feminists appropriate shades of red (pink) as a statement to show the world that women had power too. The point is, irrespective of what color you associate with what force, the colors red and blue represent opposing forces. Either of them need not be necessarily associated with masculinity or feminity.

The giver and the reciever at 2:12

The giver and the reciever at 2:12

This shot shows that one of the humanoids presumes the role of the giver and the other the reciever. Note the spot of blue at the back of the reciever. Also now the machines are working on both the humanoids. Construction of a relationship???

The hidden kiss at 2:33

The hidden kiss at 2:33

Contrary to what we see in the movies where the genitals are dimmed out and the focus is on the faces, here we see the vice versa happening. Also if you have noticed, other than the kiss every other movement of the humanoid seems artificial. Only the kiss looks human. Is this an attempt to highlight the hips of the humanoids or a message to hide the kiss for us to find it?

The phallus at 2:37

The phallus at 2:37

Shown here is a phallus like object with white semen like fluid flowing in it. Note that it is not shown where this object is located or which humanoid possess it. (This again fortifies my argument about the humanoids being androgynous) I would like to point out the fact that I am not using the word “phallus” as an indicator of male genitalia but rather as used by Jacques-Marie Émile Lacan. According to this definition the phallus is a signifier of lack in the Other. In other words, that which is not there in the Other. This shift in thinking helps us to see not it terms of superficial differences but rather how does one see hirself with respect to the Other.

Stroking the other at 2:44

Stroking the other at 2:44

Here’s the proof that I didn’t just imagine the phallus. Here one humanoid is found to performing stroking motions on the other humanoid. Suggestive?

Amniotic again at 2:55

Amniotic again at 2:55

Here we see the amniotic serum again. This time it flows into the humanoid. Baby humanoid? Birth of new relation or meaning?

The Dome of Heaven at 3:15

The Dome of Heaven at 3:15

This is my favorite allegory in this video. The two opposing forces join under what looks like the Dome of Heaven of the Hagia Sophia. Not anywhere else in the video this dome is shown. Infact when the two humanoids kiss at 2:12, the dome is still not visible. Only after they “unite”, the dome of heaven is shown.

Epilogue:
Considering the fact that both the humanoids are androgynous and gender-transcendent, I believe that the apt term to describe their attraction to the other would be androgynophilia. I have derived this term from androphilia and gynophilia. The reason I don’t use terms like homosexual or pansexual is that with these terms the definition of their attraction is with respect to their own gender identity as well. In simpler terms, a homosexual is a man who is attracted to another man whereas an androphile is “anyone” who is attracted to a man. Self identity is not involved.

References:
1) Bjork: Wow and Flutter by Mark Pytlik (2003)
2) The black hair/style politics by Kobena Mercer (1987)
3) The work of director Chris Cunningham (DVD – http://www.director-file.com/cunningham/dlabel.html) (2003)

I know it’s a long post but coudln’t help it. If you read it till here, then a big thank you from me 🙂

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