The Johnny Cash Project
The Johnny Cash Project is a collaborative and interactive music video made to bring together fan interpretations and memories of Johnny Cash. The project is a music video paying homage to the man in black and is made up of single frames, all of which are submitted by fans, that are randomly selected and pieced together to create a moving collaborative portrait of the immortal singer. Upon entering The Johnny Cash Project website users are introduced to the project and asked to contribute a frame. This is done in site where the users are given a frame and tasked to redraw it how ever they please, adding their love, appreciation, and understanding of the music and legacy of Johnny Cash to the project. Then the project give the option to experience the video in several ways, either by watching the director’s selections of the frames or filtering for different aspects such as the most popular frames or similar art styles.
The project sets out to give those who have a great appreciation for Johnny Cash the opportunity to contribute a frame that shows their connection and passion for Cash’s music. Then using these frames submitted by users from all around the world the project takes collaboration into the music video, making a beautiful tribute to the music as well as making an amazing collaborative work of art that will forever live on along with the legend of the man in black. The fact that the music video is being contributed to more everyday means that the project will not only live on to forever document the fans love, but it will evolve and change as more users discover the project and contribute their portrait of Johnny Cash.
Brenna Ehrlich from Mashable interviewed Chris Milk about the video when it was nominated for a Grammy in 2011. The short documentary that plays before the director's cut of the music video shows a few of the people who contributed frames to the project, and speaking to this fact Ehrlich states
“And that's what's so singular about The Johnny Cash Project — behind every frame is a real person, a fan.”Ehrlich, Brenna (2010, Dec 23)Crowd-Sourced Johnny Cash Video Scores Grammy Nomination
In the same interview with Mashable, Chris Milk talked about the song “Ain't’ No Grave” being used for the project and the perfect match between the lyrics and concepts of the song and the ideas he had for the project saying
“Johnny is really singing about his own mortality, and resurrection and eternal life. And this is a concept where Johnny's fans, through their own love and creativity, are giving him that eternal life that he's singing about. The video is really a visual manifestation of all of that love for Johnny coming together into something tangible and permanent.”Milk, Chris( 2010, Dec 23)Crowd-Sourced Johnny Cash Video Scores Grammy Nomination
The Johnny Cash Project stands out as an imaginative and collaborative approach to storytelling, the interaction between the thousands of interpretations and memories of Johnny Cash are an excellent homage to his music and craft a story of the everlasting love that exists for him around the world. The music and legacy of Johnny Cash will forever live on in time and the idea in the project was to enrich this by creating a video that would live on as well, evolving and shaping in the years to come by those who contribute to the project. The project has a lot of different aspects that all contribute to creating the incredible experience of The Johnny Cash Project. “Ain’t No Grave” was the last studio recorded song by Mr. Cash before his passing in 2003 and the lyrics and themes of the music are reflective of Cash’s legacy and life and how he viewed mortality in the days before his passing. As the artist of the project states, the song is Johnny’s reflection on life and the match with the concepts of the project so well that it’s a wonder that the project wasn't always attached to the song. The love and passion we all have for artists and musicians are always in our hearts, but The Johnny Cash Project allows everyone to share their love and passion with others and contribute to a greater expression of appreciation, one that stands to pay homage to the past even into the future.
Chris Milk worked with artist Aaron Koblin when conceptualizing The Johnny Cash Project and another project by Koblin The Sheep Market takes a different approach to the use of collaboration in project. Wanting to explore the idea of creativity in modern workers and how some people can work on projects that they have no understanding or connection to, Koblin asked 10,000 workers to “draw a sheep facing left” for which they are payed $0.02 per sheep. The collective drawings are gathered in a sheep market where they were available for sale, and the process of how the sheep was drawn can be viewed. Although the project mainly explored people's tendencies to follow instructions with minimal creativity it does so in a manner that is similar to the collaboration present in The Johnny Cash Project.
Another project exploring collaborative and community interpretations through art is The Million Masterpiece . The idea of this project is to get a snapshot of society as a whole, by piecing together art from one million different artists. Although different from The Johnny Cash Project with a more open ended submissions of picture, it is similar in creating a unique view into society and art through collaboration from the people who live in it.
Chris Milk has made several other projects that take traditional music videos into new territory and other work of his that does this is Three Dreams of Black which is the interactive music video Milk directed for the song "Black" by Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, and Norah Jones. The project was created to expand music videos and create a new experience, where interaction with the video shaped the experience and viewing. Using a combination of live action, cell animated, and user controlled interactive 3d space the project breaks into new ground with how we experience music and think about the video and stories that are told with them. Although this project explores further into the new possibilities of music videos than The Johnny Cash Project both still explore collaboration in music videos and how it shapes the shared experience of listening to music. Three Dreams of Black approaches the collaboration in music videos by creating a space that can be contributed to and shaped by users as they explore the land. Sharing in the concept of The Johnny Cash Project of enjoying the collaborations of those who came before you and then leaving your own collaboration for those who come after.