Opinion

Kara Walker’s Puppets Dance in a New Music Video for Santigold

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Clip from “Banshee,” by Santigold (2016) (GIFs by the author)

Even if you’re familiar with artist Kara Walker’s signature shadow puppets, you’ve probably never seen them looking as cheerful as they do in electro-pop artist Santigold’s new music video. (In the last video Walker made, a puppet gets tortured and set on fire.) Here, silhouetted paper figures dance around to the bubbly track “Banshee,” off Santigold’s newest album 99¢, against disco-lit walls. 

The collaboration was born in the front row of a Gucci show — also the birthplace of the Jared Leto green coat meme — when electro-pop musician Santigold was seated next to Walker, as well as her old friend, the photographer Ari Marcopoulos. “We hung out all night, and at the end of the evening, they said, ‘Let’s do a video together!’” Santigold told T. Walker took a snapshot of Santigold silhouetted in the dark, getting into a taxi, which set the aesthetic tone for the video.

Directed by Marcopoulos, the video features the singer playing with a miniature shadow puppet version of herself, with a ‘60s bouffant, casting bouncy shadows against orange and pink walls. The video was loosely storyboarded, but mostly improvised and low-budget. “I pulled out all the low-tech tools I have in the studio, spotlights, and overhead projectors,” Walker said. She, too, makes a cameo as a puppeteer.

Poppy and lighthearted, it’s a dramatic shift in tone for an artist often deemed “controversial,” one who tends to focus on the harrowing history of racism in the US. Even Walker’s staunchest critics will have a hard time finding controversy in the video — they might even enjoy it.

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Clip from “Banshee,” by Santigold (2016)
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Clip from “Banshee,” by Santigold (2016)
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Clip from “Banshee,” by Santigold (2016)
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