Choreography: "Planets"

Musician Emily Haines multiplies herself in the music video for “Planets,” directed by Justin Broadbent. Perceived as one “continuous” shot, the rigid architecture of the space frames an evolving narrative that reflects on the role of chance, choice, and change in our lives.

As Art Director of Emily Haines + the Soft Skeleton’s album Choir of the Mind, Broadbent curated the visual artwork and music videos for the album’s four singles. His work on the project explores themes of feminism, fame, false idolization, and rebellion through different characterizations of Haines. Broadbent expands on the contemplative lyrics of “Planets,” with multiple versions of Haines echoing the “multiple dimensions of one’s internal monologue.” A raw and clinical background provides a stark contrast to her blue dress and bright orange hoodie.

Plan Diagram of Entry/Exit points, turns, and stops relative to the grid over the course of the Music Video.

Plan Diagram of Entry/Exit points, turns, and stops relative to the grid over the course of the Music Video.

“Planets” consists of seven versions of Haines entering and exiting a fixed frame. Broadbent notes that the video was filmed serendipitously; the simple structure and staging of the video involved minimal guidance, intervention, or scripting. Broadbent’s simple instructions—enter the frame, cross the center of the frame, turn five or six times, and exit the opposite side—yielded a complex field of paths and processions. Haines intuitively responds to the architecture of the space: she guides her movements by reacting to the gridded tile floor, her proximity to the room’s walls, and her relation to the camera.

Broadbent’s graphic design interests influence his organization of the video, exploring how things overlap and come together through spatial formations. His improvisational filming was organized in the editing process: he curated the processions so that “Haines did not intersect with herself,” never wanting “more than two images of Haines on screen at the same time.” She enters and exits the frame “faster than humanly possible.” The resulting seven versions of Haines do not respond to each other—they float and orbit across the frame in a meditative, isolated manner.

Frequency and overlap of the steps taken, Entry/Exit points, and the baseball bat as it is dragged across the grid.

The layered structure of Broadbent’s video is hierarchical, growing in complexity as time passes. The viewer’s anticipation similarly grows when two versions of Haines appear at once, when she pauses at the wall, and when she nearly crashes into another version of herself. Haines passively drags a black baseball bat throughout the video, implying, as Broadbent says, "a nonchalant potential to use force." Overall, her movements are inconclusive, with no clear climax or resolution. Starting and ending in the same location, the video could be viewed as an infinite loop, reflective of each of our own meditations and inner monologues.

Screen Captures of the same path stopping/turning points at various points of the Music Video.

Screen Captures of the same path stopping/turning points at various points of the Music Video.

Whether by chance or by choice, there is an organization of patterns and repetition to Haines’ paths and stopping points. Mapping each path illustrates that there are two pairs of repeated paths, with five stops and turns on the same location of the grid. In one case, Broadbent used the same shot twice; in the other, Broadbent chose two similar shots. Overlayed together, Broadbent establishes an undercurrent of orbits and seasonality, much as the song’s lyrics allude to how a person grapples with the cosmic and cyclical way people enter and exit our lives. These moments of intersection and overlap reveal our conscious and subconscious tendencies—in Haines’ choice of routes, Broadbent’s choice of edits, and our awareness of the choices we make as we experience change.

Each procession is isolated and notated to indicate duration, change in direction, and Entry/Exit relative to other paths.

More drawings inspired by “Planets” can be found below. Gabriela O’Connor is a designer in Boston. Justin Broadbent (Keith Dungeon) is an artist in Toronto, Canada. Choir of the Mind by Emily Haines + The Soft Skeleton is out September 15th, 2017.