“THE CHAOTIC DIVERSITY of ‘PerpiTube’ is perhaps best encapsulated by the contribution of Sue Bell Yank, whose video, An Icarian Fall, explores seemingly contradictory images of Los Angeles as seen from a distance in a panoramic view, which belies the complexity of the city below, and the fragmented, street level discontinuity. Together they produce a rich, if also overwhelming experience. In her mediation of these paradoxical portrayals, Yank refers to Michel de Certeau’s essay “Walking in the City” and economist Jeffrey Goldstein’s theory of emergence. Calling the totalizing vision encapsulated by the panoramic view a fiction, De Certeau contended that the Icarian fall into chaos is necessary to comprehend the intricacy of the city. In presenting Goldstein’s idea of emergence, defined as “the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self-organization in complex systems,” Yank suggests a resolution to the antipodes of totality and fracture…”

see the rest at Christopher Michno, Artillery Mag

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Afterthoughts PerpiTube

October 25, 2011

On Friday we spent a fruitful day discussing some of the ideas raised by, work made for, and communities engaged within PerpiTube. The day’s structure moved us from a panel about curating on/about YouTube, to artists talks about making work for this show (and its varied gallery and YouTube iterations), to small group discussions that looked closely at a few of the (many) videos in the show, to a closing conversation about the lived and practical effects of moving voice via YouTube to communities (like former prisoners and recovering drug addicts, and others deemed marginal or unauthorized) who were once outside media discourse but always part of this show, and now can (more) easily access these tools and their audiences.

Given that they day was so packed with intelligent, complex, and competing dialogue, this post does not serve as a recap, but rather a highlight of four concepts that stuck with me.

  • Quality and authorization: How does the white box of the art gallery bestow authority, and how does YouTube erase it? How are the qualities we might want from “art video” seen in a gallery related to what we need from YouTube videos watched at home? In this, the comments at the symposium from some of the female participants from Prototypes seem quite critical: the stature of Pitzer, and the assumed prominence of PerpiTube, contributed to a perception of quality or authority, validity, and purpose connected to their participation that would have otherwise been deemed inconsequential (perhaps to themselves and certainly to perceived outsiders). In other words, if many of our participants had been able to speak on YouTube on their own already, outside the frame of the show, would anyone have listened or cared or does the connection to Pitzer and PerpiTube’s other artists raise the value (if not the quality) of the work?
  • Reception and production: In what ways are the consumption of YouTube videos productive or purposeful? In what ways are making videos unproductive? What happens in a room, with an audience, within a rarified discourse that can not happen when watching work alone on YouTube? How does private contemplation, close viewing, and individual control better and build our perception? Ineffectual and unstudied making (like most of what we see on YouTube) is not in itself a higher form of media interaction than careful reception, but how does one build a studied and purposeful reception?
  • Montage and re-contextualization: Is a YouTube practice best-suited by self-referentiality and appropriation? What is lost as we move media objects willy-nilly? Is the (best) work of a YouTube artist to provide context and meaning (or purpose) to other YouTube video through the act of montage or through the practices of curation, discussion, or framing?
  • YouTube literacy: Given that our show is about and now on YouTube (and no longer in a gallery), and questions YouTube’s possible uses for expression and interaction, how much sophistication do we demand of our viewers about YouTube’s architecture? Our show is viewed through playlists (the only way to organize things on YouTube unless one has larger institutional privileges), but many of our viewers are not familiar with playlists (or channels) given that their only experience with YouTube is to watch one video at a time, often found somewhere else. Furthermore, YouTube literacy improves the quality of work and reception, and the possibility for connection. What does it mean to smack a traditional “art video” into the YouTube space, and what makes a work best-suited for YouTube (humor, summary, self-reflexivity, montage, etc)?

Soon, the videos that recorded this day will be added to the unruly chaos that is already the YouTube show. If you’re interested, I hope you’ll take some time on your own to watch the conversation as it unfolded, and decide how you can purposefully engage as Dr. Strangelove did here, through a video:

PerpiTube Symposium

October 18, 2011

11_NIC_Perpitube_Flyer (please feel free to distribute, or better yet come… Panels will be taped and put on YouTube, of course.)

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?

The third day of my show PerpiTube: Repurposing Social Media Spaces brought this remarkable and unexpected video by Shu Lea Cheang.

Unexpected in two senses. First, I had thought my old friend Shu Lea would push the limits of this show by presenting some aspect of her vast and cutting edge cyber/porn/viral/performance oeuvre. I was prepared to gently remind her that we were showing the work to young people, and an YouTube. No such conversation needed to ensue because instead she allowed us to see les cles. And here’s the second unforeseen experience. I write and think about almost too many media objects that sit on YouTube and smugly mark the line between documentary and fiction in ways that have become ever more predictable, benign, and expected. I have conjectured  this saturation may not be good for queer artists. And yet, Shu Lea’s quiet meditation on family love, intimacy, and the profound in the mundane is ever more interesting as an unstated exploration of the relationship between these themes and technology and visibility. Who is shooting these seemingly real people? If it is Shu Lea, how ever could this radical gender-queer new media pioneer be close enough to these seemingly working-class French people  that she could capture a moment of such intimacy and quiet? If it’s not Shu Lea, how is this her film? Did she chance upon the footage? Find it online, to then edit it with such grace? What ever could it mean to remake moments of others daily familiarity? And if they are actors, how could she script such a delicate and strange interaction, the kind that life produces in a way that fiction seemingly can not? And what does such complex and tranquil artistry mean when made visible in the frantic frenzy of YouTube? The mystery of the Mother’s angels meets the unfamiliar of Shu Lea’s forms in an elegant coupling that reminds me that the internet, and YouTube, has the capacity for depth, in the making strange of its own consolidating norms of volume, speed, over-sharing, spectacle, and irony.

Share Your Depth

July 12, 2011

We opened PerpiTube with Natalie Bookchin‘s brilliant piece about isolation within community and the public nature of private pain:

Pitzer Galleries curator, Ciara Ennis, noted how the depth of this pain was best articulated through the video’s formal distractions. Then, twelve gallery visitors from Italy responded:

Darling of the art world, Christian Marclay’s The Clock, like so many pieces of conceptual art, was for me as giving in the reading and anticipatory thinking about it as it was in experiencing it.

Now granted, the 24-hour film had a lot of buzz surrounding it, generated first in NY and then here in LA. So, I went primed for the viewing itself to reveal exciting thoughts and feelings about time and cinema: a kind of dance between form and affect, structure and concept, that I have often enjoyed via structuralist and other avant-garde films that are committed to practices and theories of duration.

But as was true of my experience of 127 hours, this contemporary time-project also delivered, instead, a meditation on time compression, cutting so frantically and gimmicky that one couldn’t catch a breath to think or ponder, or just be alive and aware in (movie) time. While that just may be the point–in our ADD, multi-tasking, world of cut-up screens we seek to ever fly away from boredom and contemplation–I got that point in just a few minutes. So why 24 hours?

Sure, the film was impressive as an indexing project, what Lev Manovich has called database cinema. And this was especially apparent to me, given that I was watching it with my friend, Carina, an early-modern historian, frantically trying to complete the index for her codex. But the cutsey cutting–montages of running in the rain, L-cuts carrying sound from one scene into the next, shot-reverse across time (thanks Maya Deren)–are pretty much Editing 101. Which leads me to the larger (and perhaps more controversial) reflection upon the growing craze for video and cinema in the art world. While I’m glad it’s there, there has been over a hundred years of production, teaching, and criticism about this medium, needless to say, much of it amazingly remarkable and astute, that hasn’t seemed to have moved as readily into the moving image’s new and fancy palaces. Not to say that avant-garde cinema and video haven’t had a precarious place in the art world since it’s birth, but the reception of present-day meditations on and celebrations of editing would be well framed by the huge body and long history of well-thunk missives on this very topic: itself a time project worthy of deep contemplation and careful consideration.