Guggenheim Got the Highs & Missed Wonderfully Defintive YouTube Lows
October 27, 2010
The Guggenheim Museum just released its list of the twenty-five best videos on YouTube, selected from 23,000 entries, and now the celebrated objects off-line and on, of YouTube Play, a screening site on YouTube and at the Museum.
This is an exciting moment for YouTube, video art, new media, and the like, and I want to start by applauding the Guggenheim for taking this bold move whereby the highest pinnacles of the Art World encompass the living art practices of our moment. While I want to commend the panelists and the Museum for the truly splendid, diverse, and masterful videos selected—an inspiring bunch—their selections also prove to counter-productively re-entrench the very hi/low distinctions that the show seemed to be interested in unmaking. The vast majority of the work looks and feels like traditional art video: carefully crafted, beautifully rendered, masterful work that displays an aesthetically coherent view as executed by an artist.
But I’ve written already here that “everything on YouTube is video art…nah,” by which I mean not only the traditional “art video” objects that are put there by their artists and fans, but also the carefully crafted, self-expressive, communicative, connected, cheap, user-made “bad video” of real people, who while not “artists” in the sense of art school, art world, or academy awards, are “artists” in the sense that they these use newly available tools to join the conversation by putting videos on YouTube, all the while using styles, motifs, vernaculars, paradigms, and communities that actually look and feel quite different from the more acceptable “artist” made stuff selected for this show. Where are YouTube’s finest, artiest cat videos, YouTube poops, video-blogs, wedding dances, fan or haul vids? As these uniquely YouTube forms refine, they reach artistic highs even (or especially) while maintaining their glorious user-generated los. In another post I wrote that defintively YouTube “art video” comes there “through a logic of everyday practice, home-production, and consumer-fun.” Granted, there were several videos on the Guggenheim list that point towards these more DIY “art” practices:
But it is the high production values of “Wonderland Mafia” (a really fan-cy version of a fan-vid) that seem to elevate it to Guggenheim highs, rather than the more typically YouTube,”Bed Intruder Song,” where the boys that made it show their hands (and faces) so to be authorized in the low-ways of YouTube by holding on to a hand-made vernacular (often, I grant, faked) that is itself a form of high currency in that lowly place.
I’d like to suggest dialectical curating as a way out of the Guggenheim’s predictable race to the top. Hows about pairing their truly deserving but predictably high objects (like “Words”) with some more YouTubian lows (and norms) like HotForWord’s “Boobs,” a word and so much more. My fun little “word” pair below reveals the “art” in both, while demonstrating that mixing is not just the style of YouTube’s “best” videos but also what might also be a more advantageous way to show the many, competing arts of YouTube: