The Wexner Center for the Arts will welcome documentarian Eileen Yaghoobian tonight with her documentary entitled “Died Young, Stayed Pretty.” Yaghoobian has traveled the country visiting rock venues. But she wasn’t following around the musicians, she was interested in the artists behind the scenes.
“Died Young, Stayed Pretty” is a documentary about rock posters and the artists that create them.
These rock posters are the work of underground artists in cities across the country. The artists are not commissioned by the bands or the venues; they simply love music and want to promote the shows that are coming to their cities.
Their posters can be seen all over, on telephone polls, store windows and alleyway walls. They can range from colorful and loud to dark and mysterious, but they all have one thing in common: cryptic imagery that speaks to the music.
“I have always been a fan of music, indie music, but I didn’t know that much about posters and I instantly connected with the imagery that I saw in the posters to represent rock ‘n roll,” Yaghoobian said. “I really loved the way that they used imagery to represent the show for a band.”
Yaghoobian first heard about the rock poster culture shortly after the death of her brother, when a friend sent her to a Web site that sells posters, hoping that it would cheer her up.
“I saw things like a polar bear with its arms cut off in a crib for babies to represent a rock show,” Yaghoobian said. “And I just connected to it, I connected to the dark humor, the twisted humor in the imagery and just went for it and made a feature film.”
The thing that Yaghoobian loved most about creating the documentary was getting a view into a culture that is really small and close-knit.
“I traveled for three years, from Austin to Seattle, from Minneapolis to Providence and Chicago and the only way that I could do that was if they (the artists) put me up,” Yaghoobian said. “I was with them the whole time and filming the whole time. There is an intimacy with making a film like that instead of going to a studio and talking to them for like three hours.”
Yaghoobian described the posters as being temporal, because they are made for only one night and after the show is done they no longer serve a purpose. She said that she was amazed at the work and thought goes into something that lasts for such a short period of time.
“I love the way that they appropriate from this kind of golden era of Americana, this golden time and space of imagery and industrial magazines. They take from that and create a poster for a contemporary band and it gives them a voice outside of the commercialized world.”
Yaghoobian found posters for many of today’s popular and underground bands. Some of the more common were bands like Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, Pearl Jam and Wilco, with some more subculture bands like DMBQ and Andrew Bird.
Yaghoobian has been screening her documentary since the end of August at theaters and universities across the country. She said that the response to the film has been overwhelming.
“I had one student e-mail me after a screening and tell me these guys were his heroes now and he was going to pursue his art because of them,” Yaghoobian said. “Which is great because I really tried to let the people in my film speak for themselves and tell their own story.”
“Died Young, Stayed Pretty” is playing today at 7 p.m. in the Film/Video Theater at the Wexner Center and Yaghoobian, along with poster artists Mike Martin and Clint Reno, will be present to discuss their work.