Since its inception in 2012, MOCAtv continues to come up with quirky ideas for its channel ranging from artist interviews by Arrested Development star Alia Shawkat (who plays darling Maeby) to Bjork's dazzling, trippy music video “Mutual Core.” What could possibly be next?
Enter Gary Baseman, the prolific and multi-talented artist whose show “The Door is Always Open” opened recently at the Skirball Cultural Center. Baseman previously appeared in “YouTube Curated by Gary Baseman” in which he shared some of the clips that sparked his artistic energy.
Now, the artist pairs up with the ever-eclectic South African rave-rap group Die Antwoord for an animated video based on Baseman's character the Buckingham Warrior. Baseman's own father, who fought in the woods of Poland as a partisan fighter, inspired the cute green figure with tree parts for limbs. In the story included on the back of each figure's box, the Buckingham Warrior faces the wrath of a land baron who wants him dead but when the axe chops off the warrior's head, two sprout in its place. When the axe swipes those two away, three appear pop up until the figure becomes a multi-headed victor that kills the land baron. Though cartoonish, the character comes from very real origins, namely the “amazing will of survival” Baseman discovered from stories of his dad's past.
A short teaser shows the figure backing away with fear from an impending attack by three evil, wolf-looking figures armed with axes. The animated characters show a distinct Baseman aesthetic like oval eyes and the mysterious woods in the background. The first few notes will sound familiar to Die Antwoord fans as they come from the track “Never Le Nkemise 1,” a track where Ninja raps about his invincibility and overall gangster cred.
Baseman first met the duo at Coachella — their first performance in the US — through a mutual friend who told him Ninja and Yolandi admired his art. They kept in touch and when Die Antwoord officially released its debut album “$O$” Ninja sported a Baseman-designed costume. While it might seem like a strange pairing, the artist admires their unique storytelling.
“The thing I love about them is that in some ways you can't tell what's real and what's make believe and they do that in such an amazing way you know?” says Baseman. “One thing I love is that they embrace their culture but at the same time they can tell stories of South African cultures in a way that is also playful and humorous that isn't necessarily, you know, like, just fact-based.”
That's what Baseman searched for with the Buckingham Warrior story, a way to “tell a real truth through metaphor.” Fans of both Baseman and Die Antwoord might notice another striking similarity: the way neither party likes to create within the boundaries.
“For example, with my own art the whole idea that you can walk through walls,” says Baseman, referring to a theme in his works and also his past show “Walking Through Walls” at Jonathan LeVine Gallery. “They're not gonna stay within the normal structure. Even when they were with [record label] Interscope. They can't stay within the confines of a corporate structure, the way they wanna tell a story. The way they wanna put together their music and their videos challenges people.”
A semi silent-film with written lines for dialogue instead of spoken words, the MOCAtv short stays true to the Buckingham Warrior story except with a more badass soundtrack than buyers of the toy might envision. Though an ode to Baseman's father, it conveys a relatable message to all about not letting anyone defeat you. No matter how much the bad guys might try to destroy all you have, you should just listen to some Die Antwoord and show those fuckers you will carry on.
Check out the full video here: