By Chloé Harper Gold
The year is 2011. The place is California’s Colorado Desert during the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Manhattan-based band Interpol takes the stage and, playing live with the visuals projected around them, debuts their collaboration with iconic writer, filmmaker, artist, and musician David Lynch: a roughly five-and-a-half minute-long film titled “I Touch A Red Button Man.”
Directed by Lynch and set to Interpol’s single “Lights,” “I Touch A Red Button Man” features grainy animated black and white illustrations of a humanoid figure repeatedly hitting a red button. Watching the film is a strange experience. It’s eerie, frenetic, and unsettling. It’s also captivating in its manic energy and punk surrealist vibes.
Now, a decade after the premiere, Interpol and Lynch have resurrected, repurposed, and repackaged “I Touch A Red Button Man.” Working closely with the arts and tech organization HiFi Labs, Lynch and Interpol broke the film down into eight clips with a newly recorded and stripped-down version of “Lights,” which they then minted as NFTs.
“We first connected with Interpol’s team about eight months ago. They were interested in trying to revisit this creation that was collaborative and hardly seen by anyone,” co-founder and CEO of HiFi Labs Joe Barham says. “Really take a moment to revisit the value of art and how this was something that came from a beautiful connection between two incredibly creative entities. We were really excited to start brainstorming ways in which we could honor the original film that we all thought was so beautiful while emphasizing the collaborative components.”
Barham notes that in making the NFTs, a priority for both Lynch and Interpol was environmental consciousness. He said that they’re working with Aerial to offset their carbon footprint. Additionally, Barham says that there will be a large donation to various environmental organizations.
The NFTs, which are being released every other day on SuperRare, feature clips of the original animation paired with the re-recording of “Lights.” The clips are shown to be playing on dilapidated analog TVs in settings ranging from industrial to natural. For example, in “Don’t Turn Away” and “Won’t You Take Me” (released October 30th and November 1st, respectively) the TVs look like they’re floating in a marsh. As the NFTs play, the TVs rhythmically move toward and away from the screen.
The series is apocalyptic, dizzying, a bit nausea-inducing, but also beautiful and dreamy in its sheer creepiness. Each NFT in the series is vaguely reminiscent of the weird and nightmarish things you’d catch a glimpse of on late-night television as a child; the kind of things that persist into adulthood as fuzzy memories, leaving you wondering if it was really something you watched or just some childhood fever dream.
The overall aesthetic of the series seems to be a visual representation of nostalgia for the pre-digital era, so it’s particularly interesting that the series’ medium is on the blockchain.
“I think [the decision to mint these NFTs] comes from rethinking the value of art and how to utilize new technology,” Barham says. For him, NFTs and the democratization of art is deeply personal. “My mom was an art teacher and from a very young age, I remember art not being valued in our society. I won’t say [NFTs] give a new meaning [to art] because the meaning was always there. But it gives it a new spotlight and really emphasizes the value. This is [also] a new opportunity for the relationship between [artists] and fans. The entire space is the beginning of a whole new potential world.”
In a press release about the NFT drops, Jack Spallone, Head of Crypto & Product at HIFI Labs, noted that due to the nature of NFTs, the collaboration between Lynch and Interpol is being memorialized.
“Using Ethereum, these NFTs can live in eternity as artifacts of cinematic and musical history,” Spallone said in the statement. “Just as David Lynch’s career helped push the boundaries of film and even fiction, it is now extending into the permanent universe of blockchain.”
“Here’s this film that exists and here’s Interpol creating new audio for [it and] other new creations. [The question was] ‘how can we utilize this amazing new technology?’ As Paul [Banks] put it, it’s the preservation of these digital artifacts and the infinite digital realm,” Barham said. “From the early days, [we realized that this is] a beautiful new technology [we can] take advantage of to really honor beautiful art.”