Ok Go and the Whimsical Moment

As performance artists, Ok Go are masters of the whimsical moment.

This eclectic band has a bunch of cool videos that are simultaneously playful, silly, chaotic and amazing – and very carefully choreographed. Even so, part of their charm is how off-handed and spontaneous they appear. More like, “hey, let’s all make a movie” than “oh, lets spend months carefully planning and shaping our next Ok Go video/art project.” With OK Go, it’s all about performance art – and sharing a bit of fun.

okgo photo

OK Go photo

My nephew Brendan introduced me to the band a few years ago with this video, Here It Goes Again, which has over 50 million views on YouTube and a 2007 Grammy award for Best Short-Form Music Video. It was created and choreographed by Trish Sie, sister of OK Go’s lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash:

I’d like to share a few more with you. Their latest is an Internet sensation, but I’m saving the best for last.

Here’s a wonderfully goofy one called White Knuckles, combining kooky choreography from Trish Sie with a little help from some four-legged friends:

White Knuckles was shot in a single take with a stationary camera, the next one is also one take with the camera following the action. It brings me back to my high school days playing drums in the marching band. This video, called This Too Shall Pass, has the same deadpan, whimsical qualities that personify OK Go – plus it sends us to new heights:

Also in one take, with split second timing, is The Writing’s On the Wall. It’s full of optical illusions, watch to the end and you’ll see all the people behind the scenes that made it come together.

And finally, the one you’ve been waiting for, an amazing tour de force that raises the bar to a new level. You can see elements of all the previous videos in this one, called I Won’t Let You Down, shot in Japan with a drone-powered video camera.

As Matt Kamen describes it in Wired:

The brainchild of creative director Morihiro Harano, the video was shot on location in Chiba, Japan and serves as a showcase for the country’s technological and pop culture strengths. The unicycles are the beta version of Honda’s new UNI-CUB, a “personal transportation device” that features an omni-directional driving wheel and looks altogether too much fun to not want one. Japanese girl group Perfume also cameo in the vid, no strangers to interesting music videos themselves.

I Won’t Let You Down took over 50 takes with 2300 extras riding Honda’s Uni-CUBs.

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OK Go photo

Damian Kulash describes his approach to making a video, from the site digital trends:

“Making videos is a lot like writing a song,” Kulash says. “But when you get a riff, you can’t just ride that for three minutes. You want to be able to turn a corner and have different emotional experiences, to really follow an arc of emotions. One of the challenges of making a video is keeping it simple and having very clear boundaries, but in a way that also allows you to keep on having moments of surprise and wonder. And for us, the videos are just fun.”

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OK Go photo

Here’s a behind the scenes video about the process of making I Won’t Let You Down:

From Japan Times:

A special unit was responsible for the drone: one person to fly it like a remote-controlled plane, another to program GPS sequences and complicated moves, someone to manually operate those sequences, plus someone else to control the drone’s camera, which is able to spin a full 360 degrees.

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The drone, camera stabilizer and video camera

You can read about the gear and cinematography here.

Photo by Zen Sekizawa

Photo by Zen Sekizawa

Another Japan Times article by Mio Yamada offers great insight into where OK Go is headed – more as an evolving art project that’s redefining what it means to band together. Damian:

“Pretend for a second we’re not a rock band and what we make are not music videos. If you look at them as just art projects, they’re free to the whole universe. Everyone gets to watch it, everyone gets to enjoy it the same way. There’s no way to collect it. There’s no way to make any money off it. It’s bad for the art world, but I think it’s good for art. People get a sense of joy from it, or inspiration. It makes your day better, or makes you think a different way. It gives you faith in humans that we can do something.”

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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

It’s cool OK Go has an abundance of creative energy and the means to realize it. Plus they still have that little kid quality of adventure and derring do that makes their work fun. They’re not afraid to look silly, or even be silly and they let us in on the joke. We can all learn something from that – their ability to “go for it” full out and still see it all as a big goof. They just don’t take themselves too seriously. Now that’s refreshing.

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About Dan Bailes

As a writer and storyteller I explore the creative process and how we understand ourselves and our place in the world. For my blog, The Vision Thing, I write on creativity, innovation and vision – with a focus on pathfinders and the inspirational moment. I also consult and write for clients, play drums in a blues band, practice yoga and enjoy photography.
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