I wrote down some thoughts before the first night of YouTube: Archive & Anarchy, the art-on-YouTube retrospective I’ve pulled together for #TheSocialGraph. I’ll be posting the links for Thursday and Friday the day after the presentations. There probably won’t be as much commentary though. Wednesday night, I realized that I didn’t need to talk this much. The videos talk just fine.
For a fan of art like me, YouTube is a gold mine. I remember when I was in college about the only access I had to the art and music scene in New York City was pouring over the New York Times in the library. The rest was imagination. YouTube brings art and music closer, no matter where you are or when you are. It’s a crazy archive that holds art, new and old. Sometimes its been sanctioned by the artist. Sometimes, not so much. The best thing about art on YouTube is the access that it allows for the viewer and also because of the exposure for artists. Some artists and gallerists might have an issue with that last point. But quite frankly, that’s their problem. Not YouTube’s.
Tonight we’re going to be starting with some artists’ videos, and then move to what happens when other people get hold of them. By the end we’ll circle back to more artists’ videos.
The first thing I’m going to show you isn’t really art. More than anything, I just wanted to show this first clip as an example of the weird shit you can find on YouTube. Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men was a BBC kid’s show that started airing in the late 50’s. Besides an intro that is trippier than the Teletubbies, I like it as an example of how YouTube lets us reach back across time, and this case an ocean, and pull something out of the acid-tinged magician’s hat. Plus, I totally blame the careers of all the Young British Artists on it.
[Ed. Video not embedding for some reason, but click the title to go to the video]
You get the idea. Now that you’re in the mood… actually, this will probably seem timid. A couple years ago, on a visit to the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh and I came across this great David Ellis piece that he had made for them. Ten years ago, like, Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men, this would have been lost to time and space, maybe shown in a couple group shows here and there. But with YouTube it’s always there.
I go back and forth with Paper Rad, because the music they use can be so grating. There are a million artists who do the cheap-fi drum-n-bass better. But their videos are fun and on YouTube so we’re gonna watch it. Actually, watching it a second time, I thought, this shit is great. Plus, my head is not on my body any more.
I remember when Ryan Trecartin first became an official breaking/emerging/HOT artist. He started posting full versions of his videos on YouTube. People were really confused by that. Like, how do you sell that? The “value” of art isn’t very interesting to me, but what I DO love about this is the access that I have to it.
So, the other thing that I love finding on YouTube is what the non-professionals do. Here’s Ryan Trecartin at the New Museum. What I like about these types of videos is that this IS how we see videos in the galleries. Talking all around us. Heads in our view. And again I think of access. Especially for people who don’t live in New York or for New Yorkers who don’t live in whatever town they’re showing great art. Because it’s not just the artwork. It’s also the vibe around it. I remember what it was like to live somewhere else and look at New York from a distance. Illicit YouTube videos don’t leave anything to the imagination.
Generally, I loathe .gif art. Michael Bell-Smith is one of the few exceptions though. Here are some vids from a gallery show and then after that and then from the Amory show. On one hand, this is kind of boring. To me, that’s what’s thrilling about it.
So, the other utterly non-pro thing that happens is that fans get to use their heros as their own raw material. Here are two examples of that. One better than the other. The first is from Matthew Barney’s Cremaster mixed up with what sounds like a Tuxedomoon cover of Vanessa Paradis. Really wrong. As a side note, Matthew Barney is definitely one of the stongest meme presences on YouTube as far as artists go.
Then this, one. Another Barney rip, but this one works pretty well matched with John Zorn’s Naked City project. Keeps it downtown, NYC Hardcore is replaced by Zorn. It’s pretty much the same attitude.
Another thing I came across was this comparative video of stills from Drawing Restraint 9 and an old Madonna video. Sometimes it’s a bit of a stretch, BUT it’s oddly comforting to know that somebody out there is thinking about this. I can’t believe Madonna didn’t get the lawyers out on this one.
Was running short on time, so we didn’t get to play this one.
And since we are talking about the filthy rich… I was looking up Nick Zedd on YouTube and came across this wacky gem. Nick Zedd will make a return to the series on Friday night with what’s probably one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever found on YouTube. He started out in the 80’s with Richard Kern, Lydia Lunch and a bunch of rag tag punks making music and films they called the Cinema of Transgression. He’s still producing work. He has a rad show up at Pendu Gallry in Williamsburg right now. An apartment show that includes posters from his archive, paintings of Harlequin babies, and a taxidermy accident that unfortunately happened to his old dead cat. Seriously.
The public arts group Creative Time gave Danish artist Jakob Boeskov some money to go to Nigeria to make a film. They call it Nollywood. It’s the second largest film industry in the world, right behind India and ahead of the U.S. in the number of films. Lots of down and dirty productions and straight-to-video releases but the fans eat it up. In collaboration with the Nigerian crew Boeskov made an 8-minute film. I saw the premiere at a bar in the East Village. Before YouTube this would have been shown at obscure film festivals and the occassional art gallery. But here it is on YouTube in all its nutty glory for all to see whenever and wherever they like.
Stay tuned for part 2 (Friday) & 3 (Saturday).