Curating Play, Part II

By Gregory Zinman
October 18, 2010

With the theoretical issues I raised in my previous post in mind, I’m going to present some suggestions that might begin to address the practical concerns that they raise. To wit: one way of offering insight while enhancing the visitor’s experience (both online and at the various Guggenheim museums) would be to have YouTube Play’s jurors, curators, and artists provide commentary tracks for the pieces, which could be selected or ignored, much in the manner of more conventional exhibition audio-guides or DVD extras. Another way would be to invite both Play participants and viewers to remix or re-curate each other’s work. This would not only speak to the user-generated capacities of the material’s origins, but also provide new associations with—and provocative juxtapositions of—the works on display.

It’s also worth considering how the production and reception of YouTube have become new facets of the moving image. The decision to stage a biennial is curious—online moving image production and dissemination functions at a much faster pace than does film and video art of even the recent past. For that matter, I’m guessing that people do not experience online video as a historical progression. It seems to me more of a flow or flux, constantly changing, unstable and ahistorical in the extreme. Think of the biennial’s parameters—the last two years of YouTube videos. Now ask yourself: what was your favorite YouTube clip of 2008? Clearly this is not the same frame of reference as the one employed by a media historian to tell you that Dan Graham’s Helix/Spiral dates from 1973, or that Bill Viola’s Going Forth By Day (2002) was installed at the museum in 2002.

Truth be told, a biennial—a mode of terrestrial art presentation—probably isn’t the best temporal framework through which to explore and explain this new work. YouTube is a sphere of artistic practice where new work is birthed by the day, even by the hour. So what if there was a spot on the Play site for rolling entries? Or, perhaps, a constantly changing (or rotating) roster of jurors who sign on to participate for a brief period of time?

New media presents new possibilities for rethinking the history of the moving image, so let us seize upon the title of the presentation in its most active sense. Let’s encourage scholars, curators, artists, and viewers alike to play in these developing fields.

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