The Chris Knox Collection

Low-tech legend Chris Knox is an accomplished musician, cartoonist, critic, filmmaker, and jandal wearer. His particular genius takes flight in the DIY aesthetic of his music videos. “This is a unique and important collection of work perfectly illustrating what is possible with the barest of resources and a free-wheeling imagination”, Flying Nun founder, Roger Shepherd.

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The Face of Fashion

Chris Knox, 1990

Indie legend Chris Knox puts the posturing of Movember to shame in this animated single-frame clip. Knox goes from long hair to no hair, hairless to hirsute, bald to bearded, and every style in between. Has there ever been a more effective choreographing of one’s own personal style and grooming? A DIY high concept masterclass of Knox's directing talents. Brilliant!

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Not Given Lightly

Chris Knox, 1989

Chris Knox directs his own face in this video for his classic Kiwi love song. The camera gradually pulls out from an extreme close up of Knox's face to a living room full of family and friends. Jump-cutting on the beat, Knox, with trademark simple-but-effective style, effectively fuses lyrics, song and an impassioned performance. Interestingly, in his ScreenTalk interview, Knox says he now regrets using a solarising video effect in the later part of the clip.  

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Half Man, Half Mole

Chris Knox, 1995

A plasticine masterpiece by Chris and sculptor Barbara Ward (with whom he shares two children) comes in the twisted style we have come to know and love. High/low-lights include a gruesome impaling and spit roasting, self mutilation on a grand scale (including extreme acupuncture) and general addled paranoia. God bless CK.

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The Joy of Sex

Chris Knox, 1999

Wild bright colours, manic animation, and a “where do babies come from?” message makes this clip seem like a freaky, grungy version of a health education video. But being Knox it’s not going to be a message seen in a classroom anytime soon!

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One Fell Swoop

Chris Knox, 1995

More DIY ingenuity from the man who has made an art form out of simplicity. Who would have thought such a basic idea as type-written words flashed on the palm of an opening and closing hand could make such a mesmerising music video?

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My Dumb Luck

Chris Knox, 1990

Chris Knox's partner, artist Barbara Ward, directed this promo for 'My Dumb Luck' (from the LP Seizure) - a fun black and white animation featuring a troupe of crazy skeletons. Dem bones disperse, disintegrate and do their discombobulating thing in this delightful dance clip set to the manic beat of Knox's song.

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Inside Story

Chris Knox, 1993

Scenes of ordinary domestic activities such as cooking, knitting and doing the washing feature with the pixelated face video effect usually reserved for criminals and the like. Knox doesn't appear in the video, but directs in his usual simple but slyly clever way.

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Get A Life

Chris Knox, 1993

Chris Knox wears a Madonna head-set mic and John Lennon sunglasses, with a t-shirt and bright yellow shorts, as he walks along Auckland's Ponsonby Rd singing and playing guitar. In background inserts Knox himself plays a mad air-guitar-playing chorus and censor. Very simple, but full of cheek and characteristic CK energy. 

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My Only Friend

Chris Knox, 2000

Chris Knox has described this love song as being “about as naked as I get” and “utterly heartfelt in a way that ‘Not Given Lightly’ only hints at”. So it’s no surprise the video is perhaps his most personal, with striking images of his long-time partner Barbara Ward’s face, sometimes projected on and merged with Knox’s own image. Mix in some classic low-tech Knox animation and the simple big red heart image of the Beat album cover - and it’s a poignant little gem.

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Nothing's Going To Happen

Tall Dwarfs, 1981

Chris Knox mines his 1981 surroundings for this stop-motion clip, including setting fire to his lounge. On the telly are the Springboks and protests, newsreader Tom Bradley and a Stars on 45 countdown. A full two decades before Final Cut Pro made homespun hip, and when directors like Michel Gondry started popularising the craft aesthetic. Legend.

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Radio with Pictures - A Pointless Exercise

Television, 1981

The title belies this profile (made for TV rock show Radio with Pictures) of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate in their early days as the Tall Dwarfs. They traverse their past in legendary punk band The Enemy — with compelling performance footage — and the influential but ill-fated Toy Love. Knox’s seething disillusionment with the music industry is rapidly evolving into the DIY ethos that will reshape NZ alternative music. He is also typically confrontational as they busk in The Octagon while the closing acoustic performance is worth the price of admission on its own.

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Stumpy

Tall Dwarfs, 1997

In 1994 Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate decided they needed more dwarfs. Having released dozens of songs as duo Tall Dwarfs, they asked fans to send in rhythm tracks, then used selected results as creative fuel for their 1997 album Stumpy. This short film brings the Dwarfs' gleefully low-fi approach to the world of album promotion. Knox and Bathgate alternate performances of various tracks from the album (including some naked keyboarding from Knox) with appearances by various offspring, mates and musicians, free-associating on the word stumpy.

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Gluey Gluey

Tall Dwarfs, 1998

Gluey Gluey is an ode to snot and other gross bodily functions - and the clip illustrates this theme with disgusting relish. Like a Roald Dahl story imagined with song: giant nose-picking shots, snot eating, underpants itching, and more. Not for hygiene freaks or the generally faint-hearted.

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Fragile

Tall Dwarfs, 1998

NZ On Air funding gave director Chris Knox a little more budget than usual and it looks like he enjoyed the experience. Knox and Alec Bathgate perform with bandaged balaclava-like heads and weird painted face masks - English Patient meets a K-Road flower cult - while an upside down world flickers in the background. Mad but great.

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Turning Brown and Torn in Two

Tall Dwarfs, 1987

Chris Knox's grungy but gorgeous single frame animation suits this mournful song perfectly. the sequence offering multifarious images of what “turning brown” might mean - from a deep tan to race-swapping - is a particular delight. The shot of Knox's daughter Leisha as a toddler, with the scratched in message "there is always hope" gives the clip a surprisingly poignant ending. In his ScreenTalk interview, Knox says it was a technical problem that led to him scratching the film in the style of his hero Len Lye.

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Fork Songs

Tall Dwarfs, 1991

A compilation of four short ditties from the Tall Dwarfs’ Fork Songs album - ‘Wings’, ‘Lowlands’, ‘Oatmeal’, and ‘Two Humans’. The linked clips all feature assorted forms of stop frame animation and film scratching - Wings has a hand-drawn animated border; Lowlands uses the phone book as a background for a range of animated doodles; Oatmeal does unspeakable things with two raw chickens and other meat products; and Two Humans flickers through what seems like hundreds of different human faces. Simple but clever, as is the Chris Knox way.

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Phil's Disease Day 1

Tall Dwarfs, 1984

A simple line drawing animation for this little ditty from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP. The video features smoking sharks, animated versions of the Slugbucket character, Alec Bathgate, and Chris Knox himself. It’s fitfully low-tech as usual, but the clip still manages to use correct apostrophes throughout!

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Phil's Disease Day 4

Tall Dwarfs, 1984

More doodle-tastic animated craziness for another short track from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP. This one is slightly more complex and Len Lye-ish than its partner Phil’s Disease Day 1.

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The Slide

Tall Dwarfs, 1988

This is one of Chris Knox's earlier video making efforts, and, like many Knox clips, was shot on location in his own Grey Lynn backyard. Knox and fellow Tall Dwarf Alec Bathgate feature in flickering TV screen images, as do scenes of ordinary domestic life. The strange comedy and tragedy face masks look like they're carved out of mouldy orange peel: a very Chris Knox attempt at making composting fun!

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The Brain that Wouldn't Die

Tall Dwarfs, 1984

The video for this track from the Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster EP features expressionist shadows, odd science experiments in the basement, Frankenstein-like freaks, a flickering TV set, and an amateur brain transplant — demonstrating clearly that grunge-master Chris Knox is a major horror fan.

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Tally Ho

The Clean, 1981

This video marked the directing debut of Chris Knox. Capturing the energy of the classic Clean song, the clip memorably broke with NZ promo standards (in-studio lip-synching etc), and set the template for Knox’s cheap-but-effective DIY method. Knox shot the band walking up the street, with a borrowed 16mm camera set at a slow frame rate. He also played around with negative reversal film to obtain some of the video's more distinctive images.

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Caroline's Dream

Children's Hour, 1983

Directed by Chris Knox, this performance-based video features assorted strange props including a doll, a mannequin and half a pig's head. The song title is Caroline's Dream, and the video has a dreamlike quality, or should that be nightmare? And what is Chris Matthews doing writhing about on stage with his pants undone?

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Bride of Frankenstein

Toy Love, 1980

This Joe Wylie animation is a veritable treat: the melodramatic grotesqueries, gay colours, surgery porn and tomato sauce all contribute to produce one of this country's most iconic music videos. The band apparently kept their break up a secret until Wylie finished work for the clip so he could get paid! The Auckland-produced video was the second made for 'Bride of Frankenstein'. The first promo was shot in Sydney, and featured band members playing surgeons who construct a bride (played by Jane Walker); shot in distinct B movie horror style. 

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Haunting Douglas

Television, 2003 (Excerpts)

This moving documentary portrait of dancer and choreographer Douglas Wright weaves current encounters with footage of past theatrical performances and extracts from his autobiography; from drug addiction and illness, to determination and triumph on the New York stage with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Director Leanne Pooley's skilful documentary captures Wright's resilience, "I need to make things to feel that I can cope with whatever reality is. For me, dancing, performing for people, is the ultimate mystery and the ultimate joy."