Play with Form

September 02, 2010

Thumbs up or down, share, replay, save to playlist, recommend—these actions are the building blocks of YouTube’s functionality. While YouTube Play focuses on YouTube as a means of presentation and distribution, there are a number of artists whose work engages the form of the site itself. Functional elements such as the frame, the underlying structure, and the overall aesthetics of YouTube are the subject of a critical and growing body of work, highlighted in the following examples.

In Bootyclipse (2007), Dennis Knopf exploits the YouTube playlist by exploring the common YouTube trope of the “booty shake.” Rather than presenting footage of the promised subject, he shows us instead the moment between when an aspiring dancer turns on the camera and takes her place in front of it. What amounts is a series of empty rooms. As evidenced by user comments such as “wtf???? i dont see no girl," Bootyclipse very simply disrupts YouTube conventions of both form and content.

The artist Matthew Williamson takes the ubiquitous YouTube frame as his subject and breaks it with an appreciative nod to a dominant group of YouTube users, the sci-fi fan. In his descriptively named Death Star YouTube (2010) Williamson adds an image of the Death Star—Darth Vader’s ultimate weapon—to a standard YouTube page. By allowing one to view a dog ride a skateboard or teenagers singing Lady Gaga through this frame, Williamson shatters the assumed neutrality of YouTube as a platform.

Self-portraits are as important a genre in the world of YouTube as they are in visual art, and Petra Cortright combines conventions of both in her work vvebcam (2007). As she takes a customary position in front of the webcam, the glow of the monitor shining on her unexpressive face, Cortright’s pose is indistinguishable from millions of others. By utilizing YouTube presets and found graphics like pizza slices, tennis balls, and lightning bolts, Cortright’s portrait illustrates the potential, as well as the limits, of personal expression on YouTube.

Alexsandra Dominovik’s Biennale (Dictum Ac Factum) (2009) represents the process of discovery that YouTube enables, taking as its starting point the stripped down set of Lars von Trier’s film Dogville. By mapping a path of inspiration from Von Trier to the Threepenny Opera to Bertold Brecht and beyond, Dominovik creates a critical portrait of process, inspiration, and research on the Web.

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1.Dexter Smith
September 07, 2010 1:28 PM
Bootyclipse (2007), in my humble opinion, is one of the most exciting examples of Modern ART, using content found on YOUTUBE as it's medium.
September 02, 2010 3:06 PM
It's also worth pointing out the range of Youtube art that investigates the formal aspects of the database but relies on features exploited by external embeds, since that is a huge part of Youtube's functionality.

For example, what I wanted to enter in the contest but couldn't:


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