Quarantine Jukebox: The World Is Flat With Jamie xx’s “Gosh”

Posted on May 02, 2020, 8:00 am
4 mins

Slide

Jamie xx’s “Gosh” actually got two music videos: one that zooms out on the globe, and another that seemingly puts one between continents. The first premiered in late April 2015, directed by Erik Verquist. Pieced together using footage from the Goddard Space Flight Center, it sets one afloat over earth. And indeed, the majesty of it all ought to inspire at least a “Gosh.” You can check that one out below.

It’s a rare song that is brought to life with two music videos, but Romain Gavras couldn’t resist making his own take on Jamie xx’s “Gosh.” Gavras’ vision stays out of the exosphere, but is nonetheless a wild trip of its own. Shot in 2016, it features a cast of hundreds amid the surreal faux-Paris of Tianducheng, China.

Gavras captures the surreality of making “Gosh” in a short documentary, which I suggest you watch after seeing the actual video. Tianducheng was built complete with a replica of the Eiffel Tower at the end of a main road, with buildings mimicking the Champs-Élysées. In Paris, one would not typically see the original Champs-Élysées so barren, but under a Coronavirus quarantine…likely so.

And certainly, one would not expect to see 400 martial arts students moving in hypnotic synchrony around a lone person with albinism.

In Quarantine With Jamie xx’s “Gosh”

Familiar places defamiliarized. Check.

Large gatherings of people to remind us what that is like. Check.

A persistent sense of isolation and ennui from our main character. Check.

Cosmopolitanism and globalism manifesting in a quondam “ghost city.” Check and check.

I say quondam because Tianducheng was slow to be populated, at one time referred to as a Ghost City—a planned city that failed to attract projected populations after being constructed. But in fact, by the time that Gavras filmed “Gosh,” the city had far surpassed the initial 10,000-person mark. The city has since expanded, with triple the initial population proposed, but you wouldn’t know it from the video.

Given that anti-Chinese rhetoric continues to be fomented, it’s worth checking out both Gavras’ “Gosh,” and the making-of documentary. It is warmly charming in its own right just to see the puzzlement of older Tianducheng residents and the restive excitement of the dancers as they get their hair copped and bleached into a uniform cut for the video.

Also, we’re in the midst of so much panic, it’s almost easy to forget that some folks are still killing themselves trying to prove that the world is flat. Well, the world may be flat to the extent that fundamental cultural icons and landmarks have full-size simulacra half a world away, but the planet certainly isn’t. Not that evidence does much good these days, but see Erik Verquist’s video for “Gosh” below for reminder that we ll share the same, weird rock, just over the horizon.

 

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.