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Music Video in a Day: HEN's "Bubblegum Purse"
Posted February 11, 2015 by Sesseka Dunn
WRITTEN BY
Sesseka Dunn
ON
February 11, 2015

 

Ed. note: MFT's latest Music Video in a Day comes from the combined forces of the music of HEN (who are Aimee Brown and Lisa Berlin Jackson), the cinematography of Lisa Fett, and the direction of Sesseka Dunn (whose work you might've already seen in the MVIAD series as one half of BrainTwins for tracks like Chicago Bulls Hat's "Criticize" and Ben Traub's "lets make a dial tone"). If you were at the screening party at General Public Collective on Monday, February 9, you know that the video's got a pretty wild visual scheme, and is one of the most ambitious videos in the series so far. As a result, we figured it would be interesting to go a little more in depth and take a look at a conversation between all four of the women involved in making the video.

 

Be sure to check out all the past installments in our MVIAD series over on the MFT Youtube channel.

 

HEN on working with Sesseka Dunn (a.k.a. Jessica Dunn of BrainTwins) and Lisa K. Fett on making the "Bubblegum Purse" video:
Lisa Berlin Jackson: Sess & Fett are colorful ladies and notorious see-it-throughers. They understand playtime too, and that's sort of the Hen operating system. We go, "let's be this," and then we want to get it on as quickly as possible and tape together what's around to bring it to life. We're like kids with a dollar store gift card.

Aimee Brown: Sess & Fett are a bunch of Henulators, they mount up. We share one brain so it was like working with your best hang buds... but instead of just having great ideas, they execute like no one's biz.

 


Listen to HEN's 2013 release Galbum via the MFT player above.

 

Sesseka and Fett on deciding to work with HEN:
Lisa K. Fett: I really appreciate the work HEN does, both on a musical and performance level. Every time I've seen and heard a live performance, I feel like it's a very novel experience. It's transportive in a whimsical, comedic, and sentimental way. It feels more like watching a play, or having someone read their diary aloud to you rather than attending what one would call or picture a standard show to be. They slap a smile on my face. Sesseka mentioned the idea of doing a musical video in a day with HEN and instantly, I was interested. I like HEN as a band and Aimee and Lisa are great friends and people with very inventive and alluring ideas for the work that they do.

Sesseka: I had been wanting to work with HEN for a while now after seeing them perform at various events. I absolutely love their aesthetic, songs, and performances. When I watch them perform, I can't stop smiling because they are so funny, clever, and fearless. For the MFT 10th Anniversary party last summer, HEN performed, so I made them a really abstract visualizer sampling footage of colorful drag queens, marbling paint, and liquid latex oozing over Styrofoam heads. Making the visualizer was so fun that I knew I wanted to make a music video for them some day.

 

On HEN's "look" for the "Bubblegum Purse" video:
LKF: I feel like the look we utilized in this video is representative of HEN as a band; glitter, lurid colors, and humorous props that are frugal yet feminine. We tried to use their same aesthetic. The lyrics of "Bubblegum Purse" are very tactile. It becomes easy to imagine all of what Aimee and Lisa sing about piling up inside of a purse. Purses seem like these very personal and private things that women carry with them, only they're allowing everyone a look inside. We went with these lyrics and allowed them to guide us.

SESS: When I listen to HEN and watch them perform, there is a nostalgic part of me which reminisces of childhood sleepovers with my girlfriends. I wasn't the typical "girly girl" so amongst Barbies, ribbon dancer, and playing with makeup, my friends and I would put on silly "chin head" productions, make slime, write songs, and make videos. These memories were a huge inspiration for the direction of the video. When all of us got together and picked "Bubblegum Purse" for the track, we brainstormed about how we could visually represent the lyrics and concepts in the song and everything just naturally came together.

LBJ: Bubblegum is disgusting and so are purses! They're full of receipts and colored grease and things with applicators for different parts of your body, tools and blades and trinkets you pick up. We just thought it'd be hilarious to have a purse that you made of a gum bubble you blew since there's hair stuck to everything anyway, so that's where the song came from. I feel like there was some older woman we all knew as kids, with whom we were intimate enough to know what her purse smelled like, and it smelled like cold gum and face powder and metallic money. Anyway these purses you see walking around here are just glamorous messes and I think that's what we were going for in our look for this one.

AB: The look for this video was Nickelodeon meets "Music Video Ladies." The song is nonsense and so are purses.

 

On the ways in which this video is about girls and is not about girls:
LKF: The video is about women/girls in that its main theme revolves around a purse and its contents, which are typically thought of as being a feminine accessory. Also, it was an all-female based project, which inherently links it with a feminine perspective. I feel as though the humor and playfulness of the song instill it with the potential to be attractive to anyone willing to take it in. It's catchy and unique and that can get stuck inside of anyone's head. It's a rambling list that carries you along at a jogging pace. It takes you on a tour of the playground and everyone wants to be there at least some of the time. We all need some fun and escape. I'm reminded of this Matchbox 20 lyric, "I wish the real world would just stop hassling me" :(

SESS: A lot of the imagery and concepts from the song and video are often associated with femininity, and the fact that the video was produced solely by women inherently represents women, but I don't think it is only for/about girls. I think of gender as fluid--for me, gender doesn't necessarily correlate with our genitalia OR sexuality, and I find myself and others around me fluctuating between "masculine" and "feminine" identities. I'm inspired by performers who both challenge and celebrate concepts of gender from drag queens and kings, to faux queens, pop stars, etc. For "Bubblegum Purse," I wanted to give a nod to this by pairing "hyper-feminine" motifs like glitter, gems, pink, dolls, and makeup with some more "un-ladylike" imagery like oozing slime, taco meat, juicy chili, disturbing chin head faces, etc.

LBJ: My stepdaughter was applying the SHIT out of some "Space Gloss" sparkly lip product and I asked her what she thought make up was for. She said, "You know when your eyes look puffy in the morning or your skin doesn't look so good.." essentially the need-creating-negative marketing slogan of the cosmetics industry. But there she was dipping and circling, dipping and circling her lips with her finger and "popping" them in the mirror serenely watching strands of the goo stretch out between them, and I thought, "nah,"--you love sparkles so much you kinda want to eat them. And that's just universal and all-ages passion, whether it's adornment or stimulus, just GLUT. It's hilarious. On the fact that this was the first all-female Music Video in a Day--we're trying to catch the numbers up, mm-kay?

AB: This video is about women, by women, for everyone. LBJ said it right my grandma's purse always matched her shoes and and smelled like leather, lipstick and hard candy. We snuck candy and drinks into the movie theatre in there. It's all relatable. Men.

 

On the 24-hour time limit of the project:
LKF: I think that is something that Sesseka dealt with most. The shoot itself took about 7 or 8 hours, but I know from experience that shooting is less than half the battle of working with photo and video. On the other hand, we knew our time limit and so we limited our footage and shooting because of that. If we didn't have the time constraints to deal with, I'm sure we could have/would have wanted to shoot more ideas to add to the mix.

SESS: I really love doing MVIAD projects because having a tight 24-hour deadline keeps me from overthinking and over-polishing. In some ways, the time limit pushes you to focus and work efficiently but at the same time you're not afraid to play and really have fun with it.

LBJ: Shooting it in one day was perfect for us. This was our first video we didn't shoot ourselves (the only other 2 Hen vids in existence are on our Youtube page). We've wrangled Hen out of very sparse moments of spare time, so everything has a raw shine to it. For this video we had to be spontaneous AND organized, so I think it was a great first project for us as a team. And yeah, if we had more time we'd find ways to use it. Bless that Sess for taking home the hard part with her!

AB: Hen are working ladies, 9-5ers, so this was ideal. Plus we could immerse ourselves completely in the aesthetics and fun without having to take a break to do chores.


On explaining feminism when your mom asks if you're a feminist:
LKF: Dear Mom, Feminism is like bringing a bowl of Chex Party Mix to the party and the world is like bringing a bowl of pretzels with no dipping sauce. Isn't it better to have Chex Party Mix because it has something for everyone? It just makes the party better all around. Thats what feminism is like: Chex Party Mix.

SESS: Mom, of course I'm a feminist! There is a vast diversity of ideologies, theories, and movements regarding feminism, so it gets really complex to define feminism succinctly. In my case, you raised me as a feminist since you always empowered me to make my own choices, express my individuality freely, and stand up for what I believe in. Thank you for that!

LBJ: Fett nailed it. I'd tell her that. Then add this so she knows it's me: Dear Mom, Feminism is about opening doors, not closing them. You can't shut anyone up anyway, you just hone your voice and make sure you're telling the truth, which, as we all should know by now, means you listen sometimes too.

AB: Mom you taught me feminism. (we'd probably just nod at each other) It's being human. Be yourself and letting others be themselves too. It's pretty easy to do.


 

On explaining feminism to a little kid:
LKF: See above answer.

SESS: How would you feel if you did the same work as another person but you were paid less? Or if you were told that you couldn't do something because your gender? That you could never be as good at math/science? Feminism fights against women being unfairly prevented from succeeding and making their own choices. Feminism isn't just for girls - it's for everyone. No one should be denied opportunity or freedom because of gender, race, status, or religion (or lack therof).

LBJ: Dear kid, work hard at what you love, think about love, love. Love love love it. Try to remember everyone is lovin' stuff. Let 'em and let you too!

AB: Hey little kid, Let everyone be themselves and you do the same, that's feminism. Make fart noise to throw them off.

 

Check out some outtakes from the video below!

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