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Screenshot from Ok Go's new video for 'Obsession.'
OK Go
Paper trail.
PAPER JAM

OK Go’s latest video is brilliant but OMG all that wasted paper

By Anne Quito

Of the myriad small trials you might face in the office every day, there’s nothing like a printer jam to foil your groove. In their newest video, indie band OK Go, living up to their reputation for elaborately detailed and choreographed scenes, presents a productivity expert’s dream with a wall of 567 ink jet printers spewing out a gentle waterfall of printouts on cue. But was it worth it?

OK Go’s meticulously planned four-minute opus for their single Obsession is visually stunning. Using no post-production CGI magic, the video depends on perfect synchronicity—and no printer jams. It’s the world’s first high profile demonstration of “paper mapping,” a technique that involves programming printers to produce pixels of color to create a large image on cue. Conceived with the renowned Tokyo-based creative agency Six Tokyo, Obsession—an apt title—took two and a half years to plan and five days to film.

“The art projects we like the best involves finding a new sandbox. It’s like someone says ‘here’s a new area to play in. What would you do if we give you access to blank,” explained OK Go frontman Damien Kulash in a behind-the-scenes segment. A former graphic designer, Damien has directed several the band’s, videos including their original viral hit Here It Goes Again. OK Go’s “sandbox” this time was a room full of A4 office paper. Sponsored by the Thai paper company Double A, the video is as much a testament to OK Go’s deep fount of ingenuity as to their sponsor’s “extra smooth” paper stock.

“I wasn’t sure it was possible to get tens of thousands of prints through these printers with no errors,” says Kulash.

Obsessions is another artistic triumph for OK Go—and would be an original production, if not for the clichéd disclaimer in the beginning. The opening sequence reads: “By the time you see this, all this paper will have been recycled and proceeds give to Greenpeace,” a lapse into a familiar sustainability punch line.

OK Go
Green cliché

A behind-the-scenes clip shows printed paper being collated in neat stacks, presumably to be sold by weight. “Because we’re in Japan, when you recycle, you can actually make money and we will give that money to environmental causes,” says Kulash in the video.

Producing great art requires a lot of resources. OK Go can’t be faulted for requiring tons of paper and ink for their experimentation. What’s bothersome is the vague, unsubstantiated—perhaps unnecessary—feel-good statement about recycling. Like the Target designers who wasted 16,000 edible chicken eggs to decorate a dinner party, the statement perpetuates the myth of zero-waste cycles. Just because something is recycled doesn’t guarantee that resources were not wasted and that there was no harm to the environment.

OK Go
Post-production

OK Go didn’t reply to our request for additional details about their recycling efforts, including how much ink jet toner was used in production (toner cartridges are considered electronic equipment and contribute to the global e-waste problem.) Greenpeace declined to confirm their donation and comment on this story, out of respect for the privacy of their donors, it said.