Wicked Wax - Simply Wicked
I like art of all kinds. Paintings, movies, sculpture, music, literature, I’m one of those people that thinks art for art’s sake is money well spent. While we all need the necessities in life, such as food, water, clothing, it’s art that provides the spice and makes life worth living. However, I’ve always been a separatist when it comes to art. Pictures that move me do so in silence, while I’ve never needed a video to help me appreciate music. I always remember the 90s, when techno music was all the rage and nightclubs were full of screens with computerized imagery flashing in time with the music beats. It did nothing for me. I always felt detached. While I could appreciate the message in the music and the emotion it was trying to bring out, there seemed little relevance in the psychedelic imagery projected in time to the music.
Contemporary art has never really moved me in the same way as the masters have, either. The messages are often left far too open to interpretation that I’m never really sure what it is I should be experiencing. So, with this in mind, I approached the work of Wicked Wax with extreme scepticism, but the experience proved revelatory. Reading the promotional material for their events, such as the Victoria and Albert Friday Night Transvision or any of the other exhibitions Wicked Wax have taken part in, probably won’t elaborate exactly what Wicked Wax does. The wording of moving image exploration, short films and music designed to extract new meanings and experiences, is intriguing, but fails to prepare you for what to expect from the experience. However, what you do experience is the unexpected.
Use of light and colour seems to be what Wicked Wax does best. While I’m well used to colour being welded masterfully on canvas, to see the way WickedWax use it in animation and video when accompanied to music is quite breathtaking. This is no electronically produced accompaniment to 90s techno, this is well thought out use of imagery, colour, light and even familiar images such as the noise of a TV tuned to a dead channel, which complements the emotion of the music perfectly.
In collaboration with the musicians, WickedWax are able to take you on an emotional journey by combining the senses. I was unfamiliar with the music being played from Norwegian band TIM & Nordmarka, but that didn’t matter. When confronted with images of sunset, I found myself feeling serene. As the ballad progressed I realised it was a false sense of security. When the drumbeat coincided rhythmically with the eruption on screen of an atom bomb, the contrast in images had a startling effect. No longer was this a slow, soft ballad making me want to raise my lighter in the air, now I was in another place, where the music was providing hope to the despair witnessed on screen.
The hypnotic nature of the imagery I think is key. As you are mesmerized at the flashing screen and starting to feel comfortable, the sudden changes in tempo, matched by an almost violent clash of colour, awakens you to the vibrancy of the music and the passion the musicians are trying to relay. The imagery provides a strong emotive response, not just in, dare I say, clichéd use of mushroom clouds, but in the more mesmerizing and zombie inducing use of dead screen, which captures you in its hypnotic spell, forcing you to interact with unfamiliar music that may otherwise be only providing background accompaniment.
Perhaps what WickedWax is doing is not solely unique. As I mentioned, the use of musical effects has been around since the time of techno, and even further back in time than that to the psychedelic era, but they weld their craft well, and obviously take pains to provide imagery that suits the medium they are accompanying. While contemporary art has always left me wanting, with its too open form of interpretation, experiencing the work of WickedWax has been revelatory. I now realize it is this freedom of interpretation that is at the basis of WickedWax’s work, and perhaps the basis of all contemporary art. Experiencing this freedom in accompaniment to another medium is an entertaining and engaging way of doing it, which is what sets Wicked Wax and others like them apart from the rest of the contemporary art scene.
Olivia Lennox is a London-based freelance writer. She's an art fanatic, and spends many an evening researching the very latest in art.