Video Art on YouTube: The Name is Equivocal
October 27, 2009
” VIDEO ART. The name is equivocal. A good name. It leaves open all the questions and asks them anyway. Is this an art form, a new genre? An anthology of valued activity conducted in a particular arena defined by display on a cathode ray tube? The kind of video made by a special class of people–artists–whose works are exhibited primarily in what is called ‘the art world’—ARTISTS’ VIDEO?” –David Antin, “Video: The Distinctive Features of the Medium,” Video Art, 1976
Searching for things on YouTube is never the best way to find them (random happy surprise loosely calculating the flow all the while inventing terms by channeling the zany half-baked logic of a teenager is the only method I know that gets you anything near like what you want). I’ll attest that you can’t find much “video art” there by using that or any other term, like the other common one, “art video,” at least, that is, if one is looking for the practices already heralded as such by the authorities of the art world, academia, or independent media.
As proves typical of the site, what you do find gives some indication of regular people’s understanding of both things and the words that define them, mixed up, of course, with corporate and individual’s shenanigans as terms are gamed hoping to achieve higher hits.
“Video art” finds videos about “art”–little of it high, most very low–as well as things with the word “art” in their titles: whether that be the man’s name, the antiquated use of “to be,” or industrial crafts re-packaged for better sales.
As ever, the populist ways of YouTube dominate. The everyday practices (and crafts) of everyday people–making coffee and doing nails, skateboarding and pole dancing, painting with sand or pixels–snatch the term from the realm and things of experts, professionals, and artists re-attaching it to products and activities understood, and loved, because they are ready to buy and consume.