Thursday 20 June 2019

Niall Byrne: Best ever viral project?

The iamamiwhoami video sparked a flurry of rumours on the web about whose work it was. It has finally been revealed to be by Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee
The iamamiwhoami video sparked a flurry of rumours on the web about whose work it was. It has finally been revealed to be by Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee

Niall Byrne

In December last year, a mysterious video appeared on YouTube from iamamiwhoami that sparked rumours of an exciting new musical project. Featuring foreboding electronica and lots of curious symbolism, the video and its proceeding series of clips, which appeared at irregular intervals over the course of the past 11 months, led wishful pop fans to believe it was the work of an established act.

Christina Aguilera, Goldfrapp, Fever Ray, Lady Gaga and Little Boots were mentioned by fans as hopeful guesses as to the creator of the viral videos. As those artists' own releases came and went, only the name of Jonna Lee, a singer-songwriter from Sweden and a co-operative of unknown multimedia artists, remained.

On Monday night, a promised live concert was streamed for six hours only via the website and intrigued fans got their most ambitious viewing yet of the project. The resulting 63-minute film may just be the most elaborate production from a little-known artist in the past five years.

It went down like this. Leading up to the date of the concert, iamamiwhoami posted short clips following a chosen YouTuber making his way to the concert site at the invitation of the group. He is picked up at his hotel and, after a 10-minute drive, the performance begins.

At first, Jonna Lee sings and plays instruments strapped on to the car. Then, playing the siren, Lee summons our protagonist into a forest where increasingly more elaborate sets and lighting provide the backdrop for the performance of the iamamiwhoami songs.

There are synchronised flashing lights, a huge cardboard structure at the base of a gothic tree, freaky costume changes, forest dances, men in balaclavas and white underpants outside their clothes, cardboard-box funeral pyres and our protagonist meets a nasty end.

Not only is the video beautifully shot, but the songs -- which have a Kate Bush goes electronic 21st-century feel -- are outstanding. It's delightful to discover that iamamiwhoami had very grand ambitions from the beginning, and that the group's big plan has been fully realised in glorious fashion.

Message boards, blogs, Twitter and Facebook profiles were hopping with excitement post-stream about how amazing it all was and if viewers had grown impatient, their interest was suddenly renewed.

Nothing about iamamiwhoami has been ordinary and we can only hope it continues this way. While songs were posted on iTunes to sate the appetite of fans, it would make sense for the project to never be released in a traditional fashion, for Jonna Lee and friends to never give exposé interviews, and for the next chapter, if any, to continue in this mysterious path they have set themselves.

After all, it was the viewers of the original videos who dubbed it a viral campaign, but the makers had planned this prolonged reveal from the start.

Wouldn't it be much more interesting for iamamiwhoami to randomly appear with their sophisticated productions only to disappear again at a later date? That prospect is much more appealing that a regular CD or DVD release, now, isn't it?

Watch the videos:

Watch the concert (uploaded by a fan):

Irish Independent

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