Poppin’ Off: An Interview With the “Bubbleologist” Behind Grimes’ “Venus Fly” Video
text: by Ryan Dombal
interview with Teena Lemieux
“Oh my gosh, you can see all my bubbles!”
Teena Lemieux is watching Grimes and Janelle Monáe’s “Venus Fly” video for the first time. She is very psyched. Because, along with some cyberpunk regalia and flame-tinged swords, it’s Lemieux’s bubbles that make this epic video really, you know, pop. Her bubbles are not normal bubbles—in the clip released via Tidal last week, Lemieux’s creations fill with smoke, burst into flames, and envelope Grimes’ entire body. And Lemieux is not a normal bubble lover—she is a self-proclaimed “bubbleologist” who has studied her unique craft for nearly a decade.
Known professionally as Miss T the Bubble Queen, the Ontario-based artist has brought her trademark Bubbleology Show to Canadian TV, festivals, schools, children’s cancer camps, along with plenty of birthdays and weddings. So when Grimes’ team reached out to her a few months ago, she was ready.
Pitchfork: What did you think when you got the offer to do this Grimes video?
Teena Lemieux: I was honored to demonstrate my art with someone else who appreciated it. Bubbles are special—they’re like smiles. I’m the only one in Canada who does this. There’s no book out there, it’s all practice. I heard Grimes loves bubbles and she saw all these scientific marvels that I do with them—I could do everything she wanted. She was excited to have a bubbleologist in her video.
Were you nervous on set?
Not really, but everything relied on the bubbles working—every scene had bubbles in it. Bubbles only last a second, so I had to get this one massive bubble—or millions of floating things—in the right position at the right time.
There’s one scene where Grimes sets fire to a bubble in her hand. It looks dangerous.
[laughs] It’s not dangerous at all, you don’t even feel it. It only ignites the gas for a second.
How do you make a bubble like that one?
It’s top secret! It’s based on my own scientific studies!
How did you teach Grimes to work with your bubbles?
If you wet your hand you can hold a bubble. That’s it. If your hand is dry, you’ll pop the bubble. Everyone knows that.
Are your bubbles more durable than normal bubbles?
Mine are totally different—do you want to be a bubbleologist?
I am curious about it. When I saw your name listed under that title in the credits, I was like, What the hell is a bubbleologist?!
It sounds scientific! What are you?
I’m a writer.
So you’re a writerologist!
How do you think the bubbles factor into the video conceptually?
Bubbles represent moments, or other worlds, or ideas or thoughts floating around, so you gotta go get ’em, otherwise they’ll float away or pop. So those bubbles were all Grimes’ moments.
Would you want to do more Grimes videos?
Of course, I could see bubbles in all of her videos! And I’d like to be onstage during a Grimes concert. Do you think the people who love her music would like to see the bubbles?
With the old apparel revamps, I’m noticing a trend with making things… sleeker and shinier, if you know what I mean.
The old Highnoon Brimmers, while definitely wonky, were a lot more tattered and worn; these look like brand-new hats, and kinda flat as well. It’s just… a lot less interesting. The Horns, too, are much smaller, less rugged, and not as textured.
This is kinda… unfortunate. I feel like there’s already not a whole lot of rugged, tatty apparel on FR. It’s hard to make a really grungy-looking dragon, y’know? What about my scavengers, mercenaries, wasteland survivors? I’m not talking about gross Plague(though that’s also cool); I’m just talking about… aged apparel. There isn’t a lot, and most of it’s old. All the new sets have been very clean-looking: lace, shiny rose stuff, even the archer and mountaineer stuff looks like it’s fresh off the shelf. NotN we went from witchy rags to sparkly flame regalia. Which is nice and all, but I also want apparel that’s aged and weather-beaten. I want dragons who look like they’ve been through crap.
These revamps are kinda disappointing in that… well, so far they’ve taken old apparels that, albeit looking funky, are some of the more rugged and weathered apparels on-site and made them sleeker, shinier, and newer.
Please, please, PLEASE, staff, let us have rugged wear. Let us have tatters and rags. Let us have even a regular coat that looks worn and battered. As a proud Glitterati and supporter of all things sparkly… I want something that’s not.