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The Art Teacher’s Definitive Guide to OK Go Videos

 
Ok Go Collage
 
In 2006, four guys and eight treadmills made one of the most unique, silly, simple and oddly captivating videos in recent memory. The guys make up the band OK Go, and the video, Here It Goes Again, was named by Time Magazine as one of “The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos”. Since then, they’ve been chasing crazy ideas with each subsequent video, incorporating stop motion, Rube Goldberg machines, paint cannons, thousands of people with umbrellas, and most importantly, dozens of different artistic and visual concepts–usually being shot with a single take.

The videos fascinate my students when they see them, and we’re to the point that each new video debut has become an event in my art room. The trick to making this worthwhile? Use each video as part of how you teach different lessons. The videos are great hooks to get kids interested in what they are about to learn, or to show them how the ideas you are teaching can be utilized. Some of the videos are nothing short of amazing.
 

Allow me to share with you, then, the definitive guide to using OK Go videos in your art classes.

 

Three Primary Colors (from Sesame Street)

Concepts: Color Wheel, Mixing Colors, Primary and Secondary Colors, Stop Motion Animation

Yes, I teach high school. Yes, I show Sesame Street videos. Yes, they’re about mixing primary colors. This video is obviously perfect for the little ones, but for some reason, my high schoolers are enthralled when this one is on the screen. Don’t be afraid to give it a try with your middle and high school intro classes.
 

End Love

Concepts: Stop Motion Animation, Video Speed, and Slow Motion

This one starts out a little slow, but it’s just quirky enough to keep the kids’ interest. It gets especially interesting at the end: chasing ducks, mixing stop motion and yoga class, speeding up video to incredible speeds while certain people remain completely still. I love having my kids think (and write) about how they think the video is created, and it usually leads to a great discussion.
 

Skyscrapers

Concepts: Value Scales, Color Theory, Color Matching

I use this one when I teach color theory and value scales. It’s great to demonstrate different values, and how all colors are not created equally. Kelly green, for example, is not the same as sage green, and this video is great for visually demonstrating this concept.
 

This Too Shall Pass

Concepts: Sculpture, Kinetic Sculpture, Splatter Painting, Rube Goldberg Machines

If you’re into Rube Goldberg Machines, and especially if your students make them, this video is a 3 1/2 minute masterpiece that needs to be seen immediately: thousands of objects, dozens of people collaborating, and a machine that takes up an entire warehouse just to shoot paint cannons in the faces of the band members. It’s something to see.

I also use this video when I introduce Jean Tinguely’s “Homage to New York”, the kinetic sculpture which had the sole purpose of destroying itself. With the dropping of an entire piano and sledgehammers crashing into old televisions, there’s a good amount of destruction happening here as well.

Things to Notice #1: Mistake at 2:13! There is no blue paint flowing into the tube, which slows down the entire machine.

Things to Notice #2: At the 2:35 mark, check out the video the TV is playing. Look familiar?
 

The Writing’s on the Wall

Concepts: Forced Perspective, Localized Perspective, Op Art and Optical Illusions, Assemblage, and Anamorphic Sculpture

For my money, this is the best of OK Go’s videos; it was even good enough to make Ian’s list of the Top 5 Art-Inspired Music Videos. It’s maybe their catchiest song, and the video has the most elaborate visual effects and the fastest moves from scene to scene, giving it an undeniable amount of energy for the entire 4 minutes of the song. The tricks played on your eyes seem to be neverending, and it is a fascinating video from beginning to end. I have used it when teaching all different types of perspective, when starting optical illusions, and when introducing the art of Bernard Pras.

Teacher Warning: This song has a line in the chorus that goes “I just want to get you high tonight/I just want to see some pleasure in your eyes”. Use your professional judgment as to whether or not this is appropriate for your own classroom.
 

I Won’t Let You Down

Concepts: Symmetry, Balance, Radial Design, Mandalas, How to Wear Awesome Socks and Teach Thousands of People to Dance In Sync While Opening and Closing Umbrellas

This is the latest of OK Go’s videos, and we’re to the point now where the videos have choreography for thousands of dancers and these are filmed by aerial drones. Some of the overhead shots are great opportunities to show symmetry and balance, but by the time they have literally thousands of umbrellas opening and closing in unison, it’s best just to sit back and watch. The ideas for this video are ambitious to say the least, but the results are awe-inspiring. Give it a watch, because it is incredible.
 
I love trying to guess what they are going to do next, and I love sharing these ideas with my kids at school. If you’ve got some time, check them out; be careful, though, because a couple hours can fly by as you watch all their videos. And lastly, if you’re interested, this behind the scenes video for The Writing’s on the Wall is really good, and you can read a great interview with the band discussing their video-making process.
 
 

Which OK Go video is your favorite?

Do you ever share music videos in order to teach art concepts? Which ones?

 
 
 

Timothy Bogatz

Learning Team

Tim is a high school teacher from Omaha, NE. His teaching and writing focus on the development of creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills.

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