Twelve Visual Artists Interpret Radiohead’s OK Computer

Pitchfork asked a dozen artists to take a song from OK Computer and translate it through illustration. Here’s what they created, along with commentary from each artist:

1. Airbag – by Mario Hugo
“I wanted to create something that references both life and death, and almost feels like Munch’s ‘The Scream.’ There is something pervasive here—a little enigmatic and dark—but then the portrait itself is slightly wondrous and innocent, like a naive, self-reflective effigy. Swirling stardust etches both the environment and the face equally, almost like they are consuming one another.”

2. Paranoid Android – by Erik Carter
“While researching this song, I came across a story about how the lyrics were inspired by an incident where Thom Yorke saw someone spill a drink on a woman at a bar, and she turned violent. ‘There was a look in this woman’s eyes that I’d never seen before anywhere,’ the singer once said. ‘Couldn’t sleep that night because of it.’ I tried to imagine that look.”

3. Subterranean Homesick Alien – by Sally Thurer
“The narrator in the song paints terrestrial life as synthetic and space travel as enlightening, because seeing Earth from a distance puts his anxieties in perspective, so I wanted my illustration to focus on the boundary between manufactured and metaphysical space. The cracked pavement is the material world giving way to spiritual truth, to the sky.”

4. Exit Music (for a Film) – by Lala Abaddon
“To me, ‘Exit Music (for a Film)’ is the darkest track on OK Computer, but it also has this suffocating lust and wet longing to it.  That dichotomy is represented in the fluidity and distortion of my composition, which straddles the subconscious divide of a surrealist landscape and an abstract, reclining nude.”

5. Let Down – by Doug John Miller
“As a commentary on globalization and the eerie loneliness of modern life, ‘Let Down’ has a particularly spatial feel to it, so I chose to explore the ethereal but mundane cityscapes that I find fascinating. I illustrated the song through the lens of an ‘architectural lobotomy,’ a thematic term coined by architect Rem Koolhaas. I wanted to look out at a scene that you can’t quite touch.”

6. Karma Police – by Maren Karlson
“This piece presents the idea of an immortal, powerful, omniscient entity that haunts us, that sees every wrong direction we take on our journey through our own labyrinth of error and ignorance. While we are eternally transforming, we are never flawless. We are always just one second away from being caught.”

7. Fitter Happier – by Max Guther
“‘Improve yourself’ is the slogan of today’s society, but if we don’t allow ourselves to rest and make mistakes, we will always only mark time.”

8. Electioneering – by Camilo Medina
“‘Electioneering’ makes me think of a politician who’s touring the country, saying what people want to hear—but those same people will be screwed by these individuals who are only driven by greed and a thirst for power. It’s a feeling that hits especially close to home right now. ”

9. Climbing Up The Walls – by Jesse Draxler
“The idiom ‘climbing up the walls’ means self-agitation through fear, anxiety, stress—being stalked by inner demons. The monster and its victim. The haunting of yourself, by yourself.”

10. No Surprises – by Sonnenzimmer
“‘No Surprises’ has always struck us as an eerie lullaby for the archaic human. We wanted our interpretation of the song to pick up on the lush sound that teeters between warmth and despair–a nearly impossible balance of saccharine tragedy.”

11. Lucky – by Geriko (Hélène Jeudy & Antoine Caëcke)
“We listened to ‘Lucky’ as a warning from the ’90s, a premonitory dream of the coming decades. By reusing the symbols of the song, we drew the outcome of this dream: It is a rain of plane. The victims have their eyes wide open, the survivors are blind.”

12. The Tourist – by Wang & Söderström
“This song tells a metaphoric story about a journey that no longer knows its goal—the point disappeared deep down in a frenetic search. It’s about going too fast and missing the most important parts. Slow down, and the way will reveal itself.”


[F.O. – adapted from Pitchfork]
Featured image by Noelle Roth (see here)

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