Hi-Ways and Low-Roads: PerpiTube Reflections
July 25, 2011
We’re two weeks and eight videos into PerpiTube. The distractions have been largely technical—email problems, DVD drives, compression rates—and easily fixed. The depth has been humbling and surprising: demonstrated in the generous and thoughtful participation of our invited presenters and many gallery guests. Of course there has been distraction exhibited in the form and content of the work presented: the competing and multiple screens and voices, so definitive of online experience, manifested in the offerings of Bookchin, Gregory, Klonarides, Khlar, Ford and Ennis. (Then, the quiet or focus of Cheang and Keeley spoke volumes in counter-distinction.) And this does not begin to account for the many distractions foregrounded when placing any of this work on YouTube, a site impossible to organize and control, particularly in distinction to the cool and quiet contours of the gallery where each piece first manifests for this show. James and I have spent a lot of time figuring and reconfiguring the organization of the site to just allow the work and structure of the show to be legible in YouTube’s hall of distractions.
Thus, the purposeful curating of the show insured real legibility in relation to the first section’s theme of Distraction/Depth. However, our show is built upon commissioned work that we often don’t see until the day it goes live. So, in this respect, even the tame gallery presents distractions (in the sense of interruptions to ready-made lines of inquiry), and the most prominent of these, for me, from the first two weeks, were the questions of High Art and Low, raised by many of the works in themselves and then compounded because of their structured placement first in an art gallery and then, many hours later, on YouTube. Now, a good majority of artists that Pato Hebert and I placed in the first section are “real artists,” with gallery, museum, or high cultural institution-based practices, blue-chip resumes, and impressive arts training (and this is not as definitive in sections to follow, were activists and academics start to play a larger role). What this proved to engender was that the forms and even the concerns of many of their works seemed alien to the vernaculars of YouTube: pressing in a hi-way against the low-road. For me, this was exciting, reminding us that anything, including “real art” can be live in this humble (or corporate) home. And yet, this press also raised critical questions about participation online, in the sense that while anything and everything CAN be on YouTube, the question this raises is: should it be and who will watch it and how? The discussions of the complex “high” art that occurred afterwards in the gallery discussions seemed to exhibit, by design, that places and modes of reception are equally important to what is being received. Which is to say that galleries are perhaps better homes for art than social networking sites because they expect attention, thoughtful consideration, interaction, and commitment. Any online responses?