The Arcade Fire toed reluctantly into those waters this week with www.beonlineb.com, an interactive video for their song "Neon Bible."
An inscrutable marching dirge -- short, image-filled and repetitious -- it's the kind of song you could write a term paper about. The video, though, featuring singer Winn Butler's disembodied head and hands, manipulable with mouse clicks, defies comment.
A quick run-through and haphazard clicking -- making Butler's hands spout rain; making his head disappear -- yields a unique insight into the song. A second time, though -- now the click's manipulating tarot cards and grabbing for balls of light -- conjures totally different perceptions.
By allowing the viewer to interact in a non-linear way, the video subtly changes -- or rather, focuses on different -- narrative and image patterns in the song itself. It's freaky, and enthralling for about 10 minutes.
It's less a new form of art than a new, more personal way to interact with existing art. There are flaws, of course. The video isn't immersive, and it's confusing at first. The thing as a whole, though, feels like a wild stab at newness. A brazen, disturbing stab.