Ciara Ennis, the curator of Pitzer College Art Galleries, interviewed Pato Hebert and I about our upcoming YouTube art show, PerpiTube. One of her questions was about the differences between our show and two recent attempts, at the Guggenheim and Irvine University Art Gallery, respectively.

Pato keeps reminding me that art galleries can and have held most anything. But there’s something critically different for me when I think of the chaotic, open, uncurated, and in large part unschooled body of work that is YouTube, and whatever ends up in a white room because someone connected to the art world put it there. Our show raises these questions, by design, by placing itself in and across both kinds of spaces, and I hope you’ll watch it unroll on YouTube!


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:

Cathy Opie

September 30, 2008

I had the amazing honor and all around good-time of getting to attend my friend Cathy’s opening at the Guggenheim last Thursday. Yes, that’s right. The Guggenheim. I could gush about how amazing it was seeing her work on four floors (sharing the museum with no less than Louise Bourgeoise. [it would be interesting to know how many women total have had solo shows there]), and how beautifully she handled this intense life moment: having fun, being smart, looking great. I could go on and ramble about how wild and wonderful it was to see so many queers (lesbians, drag queens, gay men, transgendered humans of various degrees and persuasions), roaming the halls of this hallowed institution: invited, respected, central.

But this blog is about Media Praxis, and I tend not to get either too gushy or personal. So, what was so moving to me then, in this context, was to see Cathy as an exquisite renderer of the ideas I follow here: putting ideology, lived experience, and a theoretical stance into a queer feminist media practice.

I am a friend, a fan, and not an art historian. But looking at Cathy’s work, and listening to her speak about it, allowed me to reflect upon her skilled and rare abilities to bring aesthetic complexity to personal and political sophistication.