Andy, Nam June, and Me at the Zoo

November 19, 2010

“Some people would never be considered, were it not that some excellent adversaries had mentioned them. There is no greater vengeance than oblivion, as it buries such people in the dust of their nothingness.” —Baltazar Gracian, as quoted in “Open Creation and Its Enemies,”Internationale Situationniste #5 (December 1960)

For over 45 years the art world has seen many challenges to the discourse of expanded cinema, video art, and now digital new media.

Are videos on sites like YouTube to be considered the new Anti-Art?

Today, it’s funny to look back only five years at the first YouTube video, “Me at the Zoo” by Google co-founder Jawed Karim, and consider Andy Warhol’s cliched “15 minutes” in light of the Internet, YouTube and 21st century video art. As misguided as the concept unfortunately may be, fame is no longer relative to time and has rooted itself in the act of participation, sharing, and community. It is obvious today that Nam June Paik was correct in his prediction that something would happen to not only offer us access to millions of channels but to allow us to create, curate, and critique for a global critical mass that is interacting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Billions of ephemeral stars looking to connect with others with the slight, almost random chance of reaching a “too real to be true” state of popular acclaim.

“This is a glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow when you will be able to switch on any TV station on the earth and TV Guides will be as fat as the Manhattan telephone book.” —Nam June Paik, from the introduction to Global Groove 1973

The fact that, according to YouTube,“people are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundred thousands more daily” is not as important as the new kind of relationships that have been formed between the creator and the world at large, forming a dynamic abstracted identity that artist Miroslaw Rogala coined in the neologism of the viewer-user or (v)user, which allows for the facilitation of open creation and a much more participatory culture than there has been in the past with cinema, television, and art through the development of participant relationships on a global level.

To me, this seems to conceptually fulfill a number of the major objectives in line with the historical 20th century avant garde (Dada, Situationist, Fluxus, and Neoist) agendas in regards to art, politics, and society.

". . . purge the world of bourgeois sickness, ‘intellectual,’ professional & commercialized culture . . . PROMOTE A REVOLUTIONARY FLOOD AND TIDE IN ART . . . promote NON ART REALITY to be grasped by all peoples, not only critics, dilettantes and professionals . . . FUSE the cadres of cultural, social & political revolutionaries into united front & action." —George Maciunas, from the first Fluxus Manifesto

The current problem is that the mainstream commercial art world takes this thought as a threat and an act of subversion against the institution of contemporary art by denying it of its previous privilege to control access to points of entry and in turn its dissemination to the masses. Digital media’s objectlessness and ability to bypass state and institutional controls adds renewed momentum to Asger Jorn’s demand that “the Avant-Garde doesn’t give up.

Online research can be found in my favorites on my YouTube profile.

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1.G.H. Hovagimyan
November 19, 2010 10:29 PM
The judgement criteria for web information is most popular, amount of visitors, hits etc.. The question is does that apply to art? I think not. Going back to high school, the most popular people were not the artists, they were the jocks and the cheerleaders. The artists were the outsiders, always at odds with high school society. Popularity is nice but it has little to do with the passion for making art nor the reason one engages in the act of art making.

People making and presenting videos on youTube are engaged in an art like activity. When Lee asks if youTube is anti-art he's referring to art dialectic. That is a mechanism by which artist enlarge the scope of what is considered art by including forms that negate the existing art system in some manner. The classic is Duchamp's readymades.

Recently Artists Meeting (an art collaborative in New York) created a series of events where they curated youTube videos. These are presented in an art context. In some instances the group used Jeff Krouse's tool to create youTube triptych's. The shift of these videos into an art context by the artists make the event art. It must be noted that Jeff Krouse is a digital artist. He writes code (in this case javascript), to make art. The youTube videos are the material and the subject of the art. The choice is in the aesthetic decisions.

New Media and the digital realm are funded by a global capitalist communication enterprise. YouTube's funding mechanism is the IPO and advertising. The most popular videos generate advertising dollars. New Media artists tend to subvert these mechanisms. They create code and hacks that make the digital realm move the way they want. The artists hijack, appropriate, subvert and disrupt the communication flow. In the new media popularity contest the artist will always be the least popular, the outsider, the lone voice in the wilderness.

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