There is no doubt that YouTube is the brave new world. It accepts and brings together all manner of production into an unrestrained archive of virtual culture. Video production and films, experiments and documentaries, random acts and everyday performances, catalogues of stories, tastes and personal obsessions are all cinched together under the single broad banner of YouTube. By certainly changed the way we access, consult and broadcast, YouTube has fast become the inventory of sources and information.
What happens when artistic events are reappropriated by a generation that has witnessed the overturning (and has contributed to overturning) equipment, media, times, distances and representations?
Andrea Lissoni, excerpted from “In Search of the Imaginary,” Check-Architecture Magazine #1
We’re going to take a few minutes to do some navel-gazing on YouTube. A big part of our project is making user generated content, meaning you, making research-driven video documentaries, and not for us necessarily but for the free open market of YouTube where we post all the videos. Our project at heart is creating a channel and tools to promote investigations into living and travelling low-cost in today's cities, and through your travels using new media platforms to revolutionize where we get our information and entertainment. But Youtube as a marginal space is ripe for all kinds of pretty awesome creative innovation, which mosts artists, in the mainsteam art world, it would appear simply aren't using.
So right now in New York, the curator Rachel Greene has put together an exhibition called “Artists Using YouTube” at The Kitchen. The different artists were invited to cull from YouTube whatever they liked, approaching it in whatever poetic and unpoetic manner they saw fit. The participants, Sue De Beer, Matthew Higgs, and Matthew Ronay.
Based on the excellent descriptions in Virginia Heffernan’s mixed review of the exhibition in the New York Times, I can’t help but feel that the way the artists ended up using YouTube kind of missed the point a little bit about how an artist could use YouTube. Matthew Higgs was the guiltiest by simply playing hipster music videos from the ashcan of 80s nostalgia to make his point. Sue De Beer did better but still merely wrote an essay using smart videos from cult and pop culture icons in a way that really reaches to make it’s point (Fassbender and Columbine, you connect the dots). Matthew Ronay seems to be the only one who really used the archive that is Youtube aesthetically by bombarding the viewer with a set of frenetic images relating to practical uses of the supernatural from voodoo to hypnotizing an alligator.
In the end of course, artists, like everything else relating to the mercurial breed, will do whatever the fuck they want, regardless of some critic’s dictums, but our critique relates more to the limitations of their use rather than the fact that they’re using it. A playlist of your favourite songs seems a rather weak way to utilize Youtube when Youtube’s greatest strengths aren’t that it simply reposts mainstream media since discarded, but that it’s an untamed wilderness of images, posted by whomever feels like it, whenever they feel like it. Rather than the set paths and roads that traditional media set out for us (like the moribund and largely irrelevant MTV), with commercial breaks at regular intervals, Youtube has expanded through the multitudes in a manner nearly completely liberated (copyright issues like a bad traffic cop still hangs over our roadless travellers, handing out tickets to violators). Ronay gets the closest, but these artists aren’t using Youtube as artists but as users. A hip teenage girl could’ve come up with a better playlist than Higgs, and besides why aren’t artists posting their content on Youtube,. From here, it appears that most artists seem to be missing the boat on this one.
A quick search on Youtube yielded zero hits for any of the artists participating. I think it’s a bit of an indictment that none of the artists in this exhibition have any thing they’ve done posted on the site that the exhibition claims they’re using.
The question that “Artists Using YouTube” should be answering is not “How are artists using Youtube?” but rather “When are they going to start using it?”
Nevertheless at the top is one of Sue de Beer’s choices (So Much Tenderness - Guenther Kaufmann from Fassebender's "The American Soldier)," and below a few others from the exhibition, recreated here for your enjoyment.
CHANEL: Coco Chanel parle de la mode, chosen by de Beer
New Order: Confusion, chosen by Higgs
Guy hypnotize alligator, chosen (we think) by Ronay