Califone’s new Tumblr-generated music video, “Stitches,” created in collaboration with filmmaker Braden King and programmer Jeff Garneau and housed on Tumblr, is a computer-generated flow of selected photos and GIFs, different each time you watch it. It’s remarkably appropriate that “Stitches,” repeats, “Just stitch it together again, again, again,” given that the project forces the viewers to make connections between the images that seem to relate to neither each other nor the song.
I might consider this leave-it-to-you attitude lazy if there weren’t aspects of the platform that work well. With the black-and-white images (fading to color as you hover over them) depicting many old photographs, quirky illustrations, and propaganda-charged symbols, associations flow naturally. As King says in the press release, “A good Tumblr can make an emotional stream of consciousness visible in a very visceral way,” and this video certainly has that effect.
That said, while half of the images are powerful, half of them just weakly echo hipster and other commercial aesthetics.
Though its creators are marketing this project as some “new way of ordering, synthesizing and making sense of our lives and experiences,” the different-every-time flow of emotionally charged images in a music video has, in fact, been done before. Arcade Fire’s “The Wilderness Downtown” video, which inserted its character into images of a user-inputted childhood home, inspired a similar effect. And while that video lacked the image diversity of “Stitches,” it played more literally and perhaps more powerfully to nostalgia.
Still, though not especially revolutionary, “Stitches” offers a creative take on the Tumblr format, and there’s something almost guileless about it. When you click on an item as it floats by, the image turns around for you to write a message on its back, to be posted to the “Stitches” Tumblr. It’s an opportunity for viewers to be heard, and that attempt feels sincere—not necessarily effective, but sincere. I think, with a certain level of suspension of disbelief, I could be touched.