At first glance, IN THE AIR TONIGHT is a work about Phil Collins and the urban legends that surround the musician and media personality. However, a closer look reveals that the video uses the song and the rumors about the singer as an entry point to examine the myth-making power of Hollywood and the oftentimes contrary reality that unfolds when the cameras are not rolling. This discrepancy is intertwined with reflections about the way artists attempt to find meaning and answers through their practice, only to discover more questions that cannot be answered.
The work was inspired by a night drive the artist took on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway during the pandemic in 2021, when Phil Collins’ renowned song In the Air Tonight was in heavy rotation on the radio. During one of these iterations, he noticed that the woman driving the car next to his was obviously listening to the same radio frequency — in fact, she was lip-syncing to the song, and even threw her arms along to the notorious drum break. IN THE AIR TONIGHT emerged from the uncanny synchronicity of two lonely drivers’ separate existences overlapping for a brief moment, being linked by parallel strings of sound, and finally parting ways forever. Andrew Norman Wilson’s work often originates from such eerie situations and grows out of images, sounds, and events that return to visit — or to haunt him. From these, he creates enveloping audiovisual experiences that exert a haunting power over the audience.
IN THE AIR TONIGHT explicitly addresses the viewersʼ vulnerability by employing some of the strategies that Hollywood and Television use in order to generate an emotional response in the spectators. The well-known Phil Collins song is sampled and looped into a climax whose progression and culmination are mirrored by a skillful editing of images, and by the intense — even lyrical — narrative. Fame, love, glitter, death, pain, the Pacific Ocean with its violent waves and looping tides, the Sunset Boulevard, the invention of earthly paradises of penthouses and swimming pools, and the collective hallucination of a glamorous, surreal Hollywood existence are all interwoven and epitomized to the point of becoming almost unsustainable. In this sense, IN THE AIR TONIGHT offers a depiction of the American dream (»because you have to be asleep to believe it«) and unpacks the reality that lies behind the surface of the images and dreams we consume. (Vanina Saracino)
Images: Andrew Norman Wilson, In the Air Tonight, 2020 © Andrew Norman Wilson