For their new album, ‘Amen & Goodbye’, Yeasayer approached David Altmejd to work on the artwork of the album. The result is a fantastic image with meticulous detail, like in Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Triptych of Garden of Earthly Delights’ or Mark Ryden’s painting ‘The Creatix’. Your eyes wander over the surfaces as there is so much to take in.
On YouTube the band posted the instrumental track ‘Prophecy Gun’ in which a camera is panning over the artwork. There is a similar tension in Altmejd’s ‘Giants’ between gruesome and beauty at the same time.
When I interviewed Altmejd on his show ‘Giants’ at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, I also spoke with him about the Yeasayer album artwork.
200%: You spent around two months building the sculptures and objects in your studio in Queens. What was it like working on the project?
David Altmejd: It was new territory for me. I had never been asked to work on the album artwork of a music band. I had to determine, though, how can I participate in this project. At first, they asked me if I could define the visual identity of the album. For me that sounded very broad and that required me to think in two dimensions, like a graphic designer choosing the fonts, images etc. That is not, though, what I do. I make sculptures, objects and I set them up in a space. I decided that was what I was going to do for them: create a set with objects. Then they could come and photograph or film anything they wanted in the environment.
200%: Was the creative process similar to your sculptures and things were not planned in detail beforehand, but happened while you worked on the artwork?
DA: Yes, when you work on something that is so complex and complicated with so many elements, it means that there are going to be many mistakes that find their way. These mistakes for me are just really exciting because they might potentially become new ideas. There are tons of things in the picture that I never planned, it just all happened once I brought everything together.
For instance, I had one of the singers of the band hold a watermelon and then I thought maybe it could be dripping juice on the floor that was covered with sand. Then I thought is the juice going to accumulate just on the floor or wouldn’t it be really interesting if I dug out a trench in the sand and let the liquid flows like a river to the front of the image. These are all ideas that happened during the photo shoot. I think what is exciting about my process is trying to create opportunities for new things to arise. That’s what I did during the two day photo shoot; just move objects around and create new things.David Altmejd: An object needs to contain contrasting elements in order to feel like it exists.
200%: Just like in your other work, you play with the contrast between decay and regeneration.
DA: I always try to put a tension in the object so it generates a certain energy. An object needs two sides, it needs a ying and a yang. It needs to contain contrasting elements in order to feel like it exists. Contrast provokes tension which creates potential energy. Like in a battery where you have a positive and a negative side. You need those two sides in order for electricity to run through the circuit. I think that an object that contains two opposing poles, is vibrating and is much more alive.
Written by Thierry Somers
Yeasayer, Amen and Goodbye, Mute Records