More Songs of Innocence and of Experience (video still), 2013

Thomson & Craighead
More Songs of Innocence and of Experience (video still), 2013
Single-channel video projection, flat screen, media player, Unicol stand, microphone, amplifier; 15 minutes 11 seconds
Installation view: Art in the Age of Anxiety, Sharjah Art Foundation, 2020
Courtesy of the artists
Photo: Danko Stjepanovic


Artist duo Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead have been working together since 1993. They produce art across video, sound, sculpture and installation as well as the virtual sphere. Much of their work explores and questions the effect of technology on daily life, including modern communication and societal fragmentation. They often unveil hidden political currents through critical analysis and, at times, humour. Described as both playful and serious, their work is programmed to allow for chance and spontaneity. It often involves the audience, whether virtually or in reality.

In More Songs of Innocence and Experience, the artists present a series of spam emails that represent examples of the contemporary affliction of mounting junk and take their place in the long and inglorious history of scams and schemes. They prey on the naivety of the receiver yet often induce a feeling of indifference or sarcasm. In this work, the emails are represented as karaoke videos with music similar in style to that found in supermarkets or shopping centres—the numbing drone of elevator music or out-of-tune recordings. Thomson & Craighead’s reworking of these emails into what they once called a ‘Dickensian fairytale’ makes us reconsider these lurking presences in our day-to-day lives and their wider significance. By transforming this work into a karaoke stand, where viewers are invited to sing along to the spam and scams, a sense of dark comedy emerges. Who is the progenitor of this content? Are these narratives true, or do they represent a cry for help? What does it mean for the audience to become complicit in the making of the work through their interaction as performers, as karaoke singers? Is there a way out?

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