Sound And Vision: The Wachowski Sisters

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: The Wachowski Sisters

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we discuss ANOHNI's' Epilepsy is Dancing, directed by The Wachowski Sisters.

A small caveat before we begin to discuss this week's entry: the song and music video in question were originally released under an earlier moniker of singer ANOHNI which includes her deadname. A deadname is a term commonly used in queer circles to the name that was used before the trans or queer person in question settled on their preferred name. Given that the music video was also made before the Wachowski Sisters publicly came out as trans women a lot of the press around the time uses the deadnames of the artists involved. I won't add to this, but instead refer to all of them by their stated preferred name and pronouns as used at the time of writing.

The Wachowski Sisters have made a few overtly queer films themselves, but the music video for Epilepsy is Dancing might be the queerest thing they ever made. Splitting the difference between the game-changing 'green screen split screen'-techniques they already used in Speed Racer, and the more celebratory queer celebrations of films and series like Cloud Atlas and Sense8, the piece feels like a transitory key point in their oeuvre. The orgies in Sense8 and the experimental editing techniques in them find an early origin in this video. The splashes of color and vibrant editing feel also of sorts with overtly campy scifi-pieces like Jupiter Ascending, while also paying homage to queer classics like the films of Derek Jarman and the film Pink Narcissus (and off course Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a piece that is not necessarily that queer). Given that the Wachowski's weren't out as either queer or trans at the time, it feels like a daring and personal piece, bursting the door to the closet open.

It also was the first time the Wachowski's showed an interest in moving beyond their own auteur status, and celebrating film as a collaborative effort. The sisters did this by way of asking painters Tino Rodriquez and Virgo Paraiso, known for their colorful skull painting, to make the set and costume design. The trans choreographer Sean Dorsey was asked to contribute a choreography with his dance group. On his website he states that his work and teachings "centers and celebrates gender non-conforming and trans bodies, voices and aesthetics." Together this group was credited as AFAS, for the video, instead of it being credited solely to the Wachowski's. This kind of collaborative effort became the norm for films like Cloud Atlas, series like Sense8 and later solo-pieces like Lily Wachowski's contributions to the severely underrated comedy series Work in Progress. But here is where that started. The music video is a statement piece that is not only hard to ignore, but should be thought of as a linchpin and turning point in the oeuvre of the Wachowski's.

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