Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Obscuring the Sky: Lyapis Trubetskoy "Capital"

Intentionally gluttonous visuals accompany a seething attack on the excesses of modern society...straight outta Belarus...
NOTE: We strongly recommend watching this video in the higher quality format



Lyapis Trubetskoy "Capital" (Higher Quality)

dir. by Alexey Terekhov


The opening shot of Alexey Terekhov's "Capital" features a wealthy couple under a sparkling chandelier enjoying their new remote-controlled television. It doesn't just look like a magazine ad from the 50's, in extremely fine-print under the picture there is actually a paragraph espousing the "French provincial" styling and $575 price tag of the set. Like every frame of this hyper-active video, it's intricately constructed and full of meaning.

Through some static on screen we watch men pour money into a piggy bank, illuminated by bright lights from behind. We'll soon see where all that money is going, but above the TV, on the wall of the living room, there is also a strategically placed painting. It's Napoleon Bonaparte sitting on his high-horse after a conquering battle - the ultimate symbol of pride, greed and lust for power. The combination of the bank and Napoleon forms a central argument in the video, but the target here is something more than just capitalism or imperialism.

The singer rides a constantly morphing animal, looking like Shiva while delivering lines like "I eat gold bricks for lunch" (translated). The imagery is dense, but there is astonishing attention to continuity and relevancy in the details. The necklace of Shiva - which protects from death - is here made of oil wells and nuclear symbols. The "all-seeing" eye is a clock with roman numerals. There are 7 heads on the singer, 7 animals which he rides and 7 types of guitars he plays. There are also 7 world leaders implicated in the video's satirical rant.


Six of them are clearly identified with pseudo-religious iconic posters (with the two Kims bunched together), but the elephant in the room is George W. - here disguised as the singer himself parading around the world in his blue suit and red tie. His heart is a piggy bank which can never be filled, and his guitar features images of the Madonna. These are men who have become gods in their own minds (though the singer calls them "Beelzebub"). From the top of this monster spews black oil, Cuban cigars and atomic bombs - not to mention the Tower of Babel.

In a way each of the world leaders mentioned seek to build their own babel (which also means "confusion"), as they hoard the world's resources to fulfill individual illusions of grandeur. They do so under the guise of economic freedom and global unity, but in reality all they really want is to own more. At one point Pieter Brueghal's famous 1563 painting of Babel is juxtaposed against skyscrapers in New York. Like that Biblical story, our modern monuments to power and "capital" have been destroyed by our own negligence.

The video clearly connects problems in one part of the world with problems everywhere else. A crazy dictator in Iraq doesn't rise to power completely on his own, and thus just as one hand of the singer strums a guitar, one promises freedom and yet another holds up Saddam's rifle. When we finally do arrive at "Babelon" (or Babylon), it's a chaotic mess filled with leftovers of war, environmental ignorance and social depravity. But is there just one person, country or ideology to blame for all of it? "Moscow" is written on an American dollar and Bush seems to be leading this brigade around the world, but each of these world leaders have their own harmful philosophies motivated by their own personal egos.


In 1867 Karl Marx wrote a powerful critique of capitalism called "Capital," in which he criticized the economic system for alienating and exploiting the working class. But most of the men implicated in this video aren't actually running capitalist societies - though all of them are subject to Marx's attack. Instead they hide behind big words like "democracy" to in fact pursue dreams of Napoleonic fame.

The video seems to suggest an aversion towards globalism with its crazy 7-headed conglomerate shilling horrible products and ideas from every corner of the earth. But the real problem is any one person, or group of people, attempting to force a single ideology on the billions of unique humans that live on this planet. In the finale the piggy bank-heart is destroyed and put back in the hands of the television viewer - the consumer. Having individual choice and spending money is OK - as long as we make educated decisions.

10 comments:

Qew. said...

Is this guy related to Prince Yukka Trubetskoi?

obtusity said...

i have no idea, but i do know that the lead singer is married to a member of another popular Belarus pop group called Merry Poppins, if that helps...

Anonymous said...

What are you both talkinf abou?! Liapis Trubetskoy is the name of the band! And the singer is called Siarhey Mikhalok!

Aliaksei said...

dir. by Alexey Terekhov
... name in passport ALIAKSEI TSERAKHAU (Алексей Терехов)

Flash Teh Ripper said...

This piece of art became really popular among the Russian speakers.

Nice video and you posted very good analysis of its story.

As soon as I'll get a bit of spare time, I'll translate your post to Russian.

Ali said...

Fantastic. I really dig the horns on this song.

However, I think the lyrics and the chorus itself is the most meaningful part.

Anonymous said...

"Having individual choice and spending money is OK - as long as we make educated decisions."

Ah, so capitalism with a human face, aka Modern Capitalism. Kool, of course this video is in direct opposition to that, but whatever. Blame the world's problems on Republicans and third world countries that aren't slavishly tools of Capital (do I see you denouncing Thailand? The utter hell of Dubai? No, you are going after Venezuela, a small, imperialist-ravaged nation that is finally making strides against poverty and hopelessness)

Just realize your own biases. Which are okay, everyone has them. But what do your biases serve? How are you going to affect change and make "educated decisions" if the crazed elites are extracting all their wealth and power from the third world?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting analysis but I was bothered by your assertion that not all of these men run capitalist countries. On the contrary, the economic model of all of these countries is (more or less) state capitalism.

Anonymous said...

I think you have to look at the video a little differently...

See the piggy bank... see the "bad men" who fight against the piggy bank however they do... see the piggy bank smashed at the end...

Now, the most important part... you need to understand something about the USSR. When there were serious problems at a state level, like a death of a leader, emergency, or collapse, the tv programs would all cut to the clip of "Swan Lake" that appears on the end.

krazychemist78 said...

I don't buy the George W. angle. The suit is the same as that worn by Hugo, down to the pink and white striped tie. In fact each of the leaders' clothes make some appearance. Look at the strumming arm, it turns into Castro's camouflage on the upswing. There also seems to be some element of selling out maybe? For each leader there are objects that show where their power and wealth comes from, or things they sell - Castro with cigars and rum, Hugo with flowers, Ak47s and oil, Mahmud with oil, nuclear energy and opiate poppies, etc.There may also be some commentary here on Belarus being caught between two rival powers - US and Russia, and that leading to confusion (Babel). Extremely cool video!

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