The Artistic Limitations of Youtube Mash-Ups

by Art Fag City on May 26, 2010 · 52 comments Events

POST BY PADDY JOHNSON

Full video available on Rashaad Newsome's website here.

For those readers who don’t scour AFC’s comment boards, pbd fleshed out the limitations of video mash-ups as art and Rashaad Newsome’s The Conductor (fortuna imperatix mundi) & The Conductor (primo vere, omnia sol temperat), on Monday’s post. This is valuable stuff, so I’ve posted the meat of it below:

pbd: i was watching Conductor thinking “rapper hand gestures don”t match basic conductor patterns (hands always go up on the last beat of a bar). is that a minus? all his cuts are right on beat without fail, is that a plus? cuts on beat aren't hard to do, is that a minus? focus on mid 90s bad boy records in the first movement suggests artist favors east coast over west coast, is that a plus? and where are bone thugs?”

If all the artistic gestures within the piece reduce to the one line statements above, the piece isn’t saying that much. But what about the dialogue between the two pieces? Howard Halle points out later the lyrics of the Carmina Burana's most well-known passage are all about fate, “the monstrous and empty”—and fortune—”detestable life, now difficult and then easy.” pbd responds,

pbd: to me, whatever informational connection one can deduce from a mashup based on it's source material, i'd really doubt it's something due to seeing it as a mashup”¦as in it's something you didn't already know about the source material on it's own. so then, what is the potential of a mashup to say anything new?

a crude analogy might be to say that i know 3 + 2 is 5. i wasn't thinking about it at the moment it was pointed out again in a mashup, which adds a 3 with a 2, but that doesn't mean the artwork has any information in it.

so all of howards connections make sense, but for me they don't support the work cos in the way i'm interested in looking at artworks, those connections are more or less meaningless. they aren't specific to the action of the artist in the work i'm viewing, they are specific to source material i'm already familiar with on its own terms. unless a mashup has some insane technical apparatus behind it, i don't think it can function as anything other than a guilty pleasure if that. and i learned this from making and exhibiting mashups :)

to quote craig mack's verse on flava in ya ear remix, one of the videos featured in Conductor's first movement (and which of course we don't hear):
“Word up don't rap no crap you bore me,
Wanna grab my dick”¦too lazy”¦hold it for me.”

if it aint broke dont fix it, right?

i think the reason is that the language of mashup is so limited. you have two sources, edits, and that's it. it's a bit like working with presets in a way, in that the thing you make is actually a comment on the the self-imposed limits you're employing, perhaps the social conditions that predicated them, etc. but presets can be many things”¦code, interface, hardware, microsoft word, protocol, whatever — there's room to move and material selections to make.

with a mashup you don't even have that”¦by definition you have flattened youtube pop culture element a and you combine it with flattened youtube pop culture element b. it's 2010, so a and b are almost equivalent anyway. good luck coming up with anything to say in that system!

Needless to say, this is undoubtedly the most useful breakdown on the limitations of video mash-ups as art I’ve read to date.

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    I’m surprised there has been no discussion about the tremendous debt that this video has to Paul Pfeiffer’s videos (and it might be of interest to remember that Pfeiffer took part in the first Greater New York).

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    I’m surprised there has been no discussion about the tremendous debt that this video has to Paul Pfeiffer’s videos (and it might be of interest to remember that Pfeiffer took part in the first Greater New York).

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    Which Pfeiffer videos are you talking about? I’m not sure I see that.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    Which Pfeiffer videos are you talking about? I’m not sure I see that.

  • http://niklasgoldbach.wordpress.com/ ngold

    the video by pfeiffer is called “John 3:16″ from 2000.
    hear him talk here: http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/audios/35/817

  • http://niklasgoldbach.wordpress.com/ ngold

    the video by pfeiffer is called “John 3:16″ from 2000.
    hear him talk here: http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/audios/35/817

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    Oh I forgot about that piece. Pfeiffer came to Rutgers when I was in grad school to talk about his work — this was one of the pieces he discussed and I remembered being totally taken by the work and Pfeiffer. He is incredibly articulate.

    This piece looks a lot less interesting now than it did then though.

    Also, I mentioned this the other day during a panel discussion, but I really think who did what first fast becomes meaningless in the age of digital technology. There’s always someone else who will innovate the same thing you would have. That’s probably why “the new” doesn’t carry the same kind of weight it used to.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    Oh I forgot about that piece. Pfeiffer came to Rutgers when I was in grad school to talk about his work — this was one of the pieces he discussed and I remembered being totally taken by the work and Pfeiffer. He is incredibly articulate.

    This piece looks a lot less interesting now than it did then though.

    Also, I mentioned this the other day during a panel discussion, but I really think who did what first fast becomes meaningless in the age of digital technology. There’s always someone else who will innovate the same thing you would have. That’s probably why “the new” doesn’t carry the same kind of weight it used to.

  • http://niklasgoldbach.de ngold

    true. nevertheless it’s good to know the origins.

  • http://niklasgoldbach.de ngold

    true. nevertheless it’s good to know the origins.

  • http://niklasgoldbach.de ngold

    true. nevertheless it’s good to know the origins.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    I don’t know — I think this piece has far more connections with Oliver Laric’s 50 50 piece than it does Paul Pfeiffer.

    http://oliverlaric.com/5050.htm

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    I don’t know — I think this piece has far more connections with Oliver Laric’s 50 50 piece than it does Paul Pfeiffer.

    http://oliverlaric.com/5050.htm

  • mbs

    Can’t leave out this 2007 video of Oliver’s – http://oliverlaric.com/manoizquierda.htm

  • mbs

    Can’t leave out this 2007 video of Oliver’s – http://oliverlaric.com/manoizquierda.htm

  • mbs

    Can’t leave out this 2007 video of Oliver’s – http://oliverlaric.com/manoizquierda.htm

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Pfeiffer’s video immediately came to mind–but that’s been done to death now–like the GIFs of Paris Hilton’s frozen face where dozens of backgrounds appear to swirl around her ( http://www.digitalmediatree.com/tommoody/comment/37205/ ). Pfeiffer’s piece was interesting the way the video player stuck out from the wall, putting more focus on the basketball as a quasi-physical object, but otherwise it was a “forced meme in the making,” slightly ahead of its time, which the art world went nuts over.

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Pfeiffer’s video immediately came to mind–but that’s been done to death now–like the GIFs of Paris Hilton’s frozen face where dozens of backgrounds appear to swirl around her ( http://www.digitalmediatree.com/tommoody/comment/37205/ ). Pfeiffer’s piece was interesting the way the video player stuck out from the wall, putting more focus on the basketball as a quasi-physical object, but otherwise it was a “forced meme in the making,” slightly ahead of its time, which the art world went nuts over.

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Pfeiffer’s video immediately came to mind–but that’s been done to death now–like the GIFs of Paris Hilton’s frozen face where dozens of backgrounds appear to swirl around her ( http://www.digitalmediatree.com/tommoody/comment/37205/ ). Pfeiffer’s piece was interesting the way the video player stuck out from the wall, putting more focus on the basketball as a quasi-physical object, but otherwise it was a “forced meme in the making,” slightly ahead of its time, which the art world went nuts over.

  • http://niklasgoldbach.de ngold

    ok… now that we’re talking:
    http://whiteglovetracking.com/

  • http://niklasgoldbach.de ngold

    ok… now that we’re talking:
    http://whiteglovetracking.com/

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City
  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City
  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City
  • http://www.davidoresick.com msick

    I think the limits of Newsome’s mash-ups are evident and well described but I don’t think that says much about the limits of the form overall. Perhaps the mash-up has come to suggest a clever, ironic, and humorous relationship to pop culture but there are so many more possibilities like David Oresick’s video of clips from soldiers in Iraq.

  • http://www.davidoresick.com msick

    I think the limits of Newsome’s mash-ups are evident and well described but I don’t think that says much about the limits of the form overall. Perhaps the mash-up has come to suggest a clever, ironic, and humorous relationship to pop culture but there are so many more possibilities like David Oresick’s video of clips from soldiers in Iraq.

  • http://www.davidoresick.com msick

    I think the limits of Newsome’s mash-ups are evident and well described but I don’t think that says much about the limits of the form overall. Perhaps the mash-up has come to suggest a clever, ironic, and humorous relationship to pop culture but there are so many more possibilities like David Oresick’s video of clips from soldiers in Iraq.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    If you want to pimp your work here David you’re going to have to a) be more transparent about it — Nobody wants to read a 3rd person pimping, as though you aren’t actually the artist who’s work you’re promoting, and b) explain why your video presents more possibilities than the others cited before posting a link to the work. I have removed your link.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    If you want to pimp your work here David you’re going to have to a) be more transparent about it — Nobody wants to read a 3rd person pimping, as though you aren’t actually the artist who’s work you’re promoting, and b) explain why your video presents more possibilities than the others cited before posting a link to the work. I have removed your link.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    If you want to pimp your work here David you’re going to have to a) be more transparent about it — Nobody wants to read a 3rd person pimping, as though you aren’t actually the artist who’s work you’re promoting, and b) explain why your video presents more possibilities than the others cited before posting a link to the work. I have removed your link.

  • mbs

    This may seem like splitting hairs, but I think talking about Newsome’s video (despite it’s relationship to forum culture) as a “mashup” does it a disservice.

    Mashups are usually defined by the novelty of cheap combination – “all I did was take A (an instrumental break from a Strokes song) and pair it with B (a Christina Aguilera acapella) and it made something (a song) that (kind of) works!!!”

    If this is what we’re talking about, than I pretty much agree with pbd – the moment when that simple pairing could bring anything new and critical to light is all but gone. But while that moment may have passed, we shouldn’t disregard the potential of what these threads have been referring to as craft, virtuosity, or “general getting down” in appropriated video work. In calling this video a mashup, I think it helps engender a surface, novelty-based reading, closing down the more nuanced treatment we should give – and which these threads have given – to a form (appropriated video) that artists have been working with for over 30 years.

    With regards to pbd’s thoughts, I’d advocate for a sort of “mashups are dead, long live working with other people’s video” approach.

    Also – it’s 2010, no one says mashup anymore. Do so and you risk sounding like an out of touch record executive or Boing Boing blogger. :)

  • mbs

    This may seem like splitting hairs, but I think talking about Newsome’s video (despite it’s relationship to forum culture) as a “mashup” does it a disservice.

    Mashups are usually defined by the novelty of cheap combination – “all I did was take A (an instrumental break from a Strokes song) and pair it with B (a Christina Aguilera acapella) and it made something (a song) that (kind of) works!!!”

    If this is what we’re talking about, than I pretty much agree with pbd – the moment when that simple pairing could bring anything new and critical to light is all but gone. But while that moment may have passed, we shouldn’t disregard the potential of what these threads have been referring to as craft, virtuosity, or “general getting down” in appropriated video work. In calling this video a mashup, I think it helps engender a surface, novelty-based reading, closing down the more nuanced treatment we should give – and which these threads have given – to a form (appropriated video) that artists have been working with for over 30 years.

    With regards to pbd’s thoughts, I’d advocate for a sort of “mashups are dead, long live working with other people’s video” approach.

    Also – it’s 2010, no one says mashup anymore. Do so and you risk sounding like an out of touch record executive or Boing Boing blogger. :)

  • mbs

    This may seem like splitting hairs, but I think talking about Newsome’s video (despite it’s relationship to forum culture) as a “mashup” does it a disservice.

    Mashups are usually defined by the novelty of cheap combination – “all I did was take A (an instrumental break from a Strokes song) and pair it with B (a Christina Aguilera acapella) and it made something (a song) that (kind of) works!!!”

    If this is what we’re talking about, than I pretty much agree with pbd – the moment when that simple pairing could bring anything new and critical to light is all but gone. But while that moment may have passed, we shouldn’t disregard the potential of what these threads have been referring to as craft, virtuosity, or “general getting down” in appropriated video work. In calling this video a mashup, I think it helps engender a surface, novelty-based reading, closing down the more nuanced treatment we should give – and which these threads have given – to a form (appropriated video) that artists have been working with for over 30 years.

    With regards to pbd’s thoughts, I’d advocate for a sort of “mashups are dead, long live working with other people’s video” approach.

    Also – it’s 2010, no one says mashup anymore. Do so and you risk sounding like an out of touch record executive or Boing Boing blogger. :)

  • pbd

    haha yeah that’s a good point, but it’s hard not to say mashup in 2010 when artists still make them :P

    any critique of mashup limitations has little to say about using found video, it’s specific to the form. i mentioned it cos i found Conductor fit the form so closely: it really is an a + b, using two extremely well known cultural elements. readings like howard’s where he found it “filtering the delusions of popular culture through race”, i’d agree with but my point was that doesn’t commercial hiphop (Conductor’s a) filter those delusions quite nicely? its success as a cultural form is built on those delusions. that’s why there’s no information in Conductor: it’s not telling you anything you don’t know.

    and that’s where my thinking about mashups comes from, i think the form is too limited to escape the ‘a’ or the ‘b’. you can only reinforce the positions of one or both, hence the uselessness of attempting any sort of self-reflexive critique. definitely good for guilty pleasures tho.

    also regarding “nuanced” readings, like howards or the ones you suggest, i frankly see those as the surface readings. they look only at a level of surface content and one thing they lack is any sort of structural analysis which i feel is equally, if not more, important when reading 1. art that employs computers and 2. art that employs material from the whitewash we know as pop culture. through a surface-level reading (maybe content-level is a better term), the work of newsome’s where he generates his own content, often used in combination with jacked pop culture content, has much more for me to get into.

    more importantly tho michael you picked up on what i think is the meatier part of the thread, but that we didn’t – probably can’t – flush out, which is the struggle to evaulate contemporary ‘found art’ video art…especially post-2005. is spending 30 hours trolling through youtube for content more virtuosic than spending 25 hours? what is a crafty use of Final Cut Pro, or any commercial video software that will automate your actions in the next version (a la photoshop context fill)? or how one can evaluate “getting down” – perhaps curator x hasn’t heard this morning’s Gucci Mane album leak. i find it very, very difficult.

  • pbd

    haha yeah that’s a good point, but it’s hard not to say mashup in 2010 when artists still make them :P

    any critique of mashup limitations has little to say about using found video, it’s specific to the form. i mentioned it cos i found Conductor fit the form so closely: it really is an a + b, using two extremely well known cultural elements. readings like howard’s where he found it “filtering the delusions of popular culture through race”, i’d agree with but my point was that doesn’t commercial hiphop (Conductor’s a) filter those delusions quite nicely? its success as a cultural form is built on those delusions. that’s why there’s no information in Conductor: it’s not telling you anything you don’t know.

    and that’s where my thinking about mashups comes from, i think the form is too limited to escape the ‘a’ or the ‘b’. you can only reinforce the positions of one or both, hence the uselessness of attempting any sort of self-reflexive critique. definitely good for guilty pleasures tho.

    also regarding “nuanced” readings, like howards or the ones you suggest, i frankly see those as the surface readings. they look only at a level of surface content and one thing they lack is any sort of structural analysis which i feel is equally, if not more, important when reading 1. art that employs computers and 2. art that employs material from the whitewash we know as pop culture. through a surface-level reading (maybe content-level is a better term), the work of newsome’s where he generates his own content, often used in combination with jacked pop culture content, has much more for me to get into.

    more importantly tho michael you picked up on what i think is the meatier part of the thread, but that we didn’t – probably can’t – flush out, which is the struggle to evaulate contemporary ‘found art’ video art…especially post-2005. is spending 30 hours trolling through youtube for content more virtuosic than spending 25 hours? what is a crafty use of Final Cut Pro, or any commercial video software that will automate your actions in the next version (a la photoshop context fill)? or how one can evaluate “getting down” – perhaps curator x hasn’t heard this morning’s Gucci Mane album leak. i find it very, very difficult.

  • pbd

    haha yeah that’s a good point, but it’s hard not to say mashup in 2010 when artists still make them :P

    any critique of mashup limitations has little to say about using found video, it’s specific to the form. i mentioned it cos i found Conductor fit the form so closely: it really is an a + b, using two extremely well known cultural elements. readings like howard’s where he found it “filtering the delusions of popular culture through race”, i’d agree with but my point was that doesn’t commercial hiphop (Conductor’s a) filter those delusions quite nicely? its success as a cultural form is built on those delusions. that’s why there’s no information in Conductor: it’s not telling you anything you don’t know.

    and that’s where my thinking about mashups comes from, i think the form is too limited to escape the ‘a’ or the ‘b’. you can only reinforce the positions of one or both, hence the uselessness of attempting any sort of self-reflexive critique. definitely good for guilty pleasures tho.

    also regarding “nuanced” readings, like howards or the ones you suggest, i frankly see those as the surface readings. they look only at a level of surface content and one thing they lack is any sort of structural analysis which i feel is equally, if not more, important when reading 1. art that employs computers and 2. art that employs material from the whitewash we know as pop culture. through a surface-level reading (maybe content-level is a better term), the work of newsome’s where he generates his own content, often used in combination with jacked pop culture content, has much more for me to get into.

    more importantly tho michael you picked up on what i think is the meatier part of the thread, but that we didn’t – probably can’t – flush out, which is the struggle to evaulate contemporary ‘found art’ video art…especially post-2005. is spending 30 hours trolling through youtube for content more virtuosic than spending 25 hours? what is a crafty use of Final Cut Pro, or any commercial video software that will automate your actions in the next version (a la photoshop context fill)? or how one can evaluate “getting down” – perhaps curator x hasn’t heard this morning’s Gucci Mane album leak. i find it very, very difficult.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    I spent a bunch of time at PS1 again Friday and looked at the video again. A couple of thoughts based on my second irl viewing:

    1. It looks better large. It’s pixelated and all that crap, but it does look like that’s the way it’s supposed to look, and I think it’s more effective at that size.

    2. I think everyone can agree that clipping together a bunch of hand movements so they look like they’re conducting the overlaid music is kind of stupid. But I think the virtuosity I spoke of in the previous threads is more than just laying shots down to the beat of the music.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s some easy message stuff in the video too, but particularly in the second part of the first Fortuna, there’s some very beautiful gestures; a man moving his hands in a way that seems to indicate the shape of the transposed music, another man in a green shirt pointing to some oblique point off camera at a key point in the music. It’s a monumental showcase of beauty within the Africian America gesture.

    pbd says all that stuff is already there, and while I think he’s right, I also think there are moments in that video that more effectively do what pre-existing gestures were meant to do. That’s significant in my opinion, even acknowledging the equally problematic weaknesses of this work.

    Responding to pbd’s questions about whether spending 30 hours of trolling through youtube for content is more virtuosic than spending 25 hours with final cut pro: I struggle with that too. But the question reminds me of an old criticism of certain kinds of photography — that the subject matter is more interesting than the photographer’s vision. I suppose this is stating the obvious, but locating the latter is critical to evaluating the former.

  • http://www.artfagcity.com Art Fag City

    I spent a bunch of time at PS1 again Friday and looked at the video again. A couple of thoughts based on my second irl viewing:

    1. It looks better large. It’s pixelated and all that crap, but it does look like that’s the way it’s supposed to look, and I think it’s more effective at that size.

    2. I think everyone can agree that clipping together a bunch of hand movements so they look like they’re conducting the overlaid music is kind of stupid. But I think the virtuosity I spoke of in the previous threads is more than just laying shots down to the beat of the music.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s some easy message stuff in the video too, but particularly in the second part of the first Fortuna, there’s some very beautiful gestures; a man moving his hands in a way that seems to indicate the shape of the transposed music, another man in a green shirt pointing to some oblique point off camera at a key point in the music. It’s a monumental showcase of beauty within the Africian America gesture.

    pbd says all that stuff is already there, and while I think he’s right, I also think there are moments in that video that more effectively do what pre-existing gestures were meant to do. That’s significant in my opinion, even acknowledging the equally problematic weaknesses of this work.

    Responding to pbd’s questions about whether spending 30 hours of trolling through youtube for content is more virtuosic than spending 25 hours with final cut pro: I struggle with that too. But the question reminds me of an old criticism of certain kinds of photography — that the subject matter is more interesting than the photographer’s vision. I suppose this is stating the obvious, but locating the latter is critical to evaluating the former.

  • mbs

    pbd – Good points. To clarify my thoughts a little: in suggesting a more nuanced approach, I wasn’t advocating any particular type of reading (you mention Howard’s), just a “closer” one than I think most audiences are accustomed to with this type of video. And I’m definitely with you on the importance of a structural reading. I fear, however, that too much emphasis is put on structure in this type of work – thus phrases like “what is it past a cut-up youtube video” from Paddy’s friend. When you consider that the structure of mashups, cut-ups, remixes, etc. are often associated with one-liners and novelty, there’s a danger in focusing on that to the exclusion of other elements.

    I think one of the more powerful effects that the democratization of making and distributing digital stuff (via youtube, cheap tools, etc.) has had on artists, is the way it has emptied out certain artistic strategies. A clever editing scheme, strangely laborious process, or signature style can’t get you nearly as far as it used to (at least in the digital world). On a good internet day, you’ll see a dozen clever edits and labor-intensive projects before lunch. And the second you put that signature style online, it’s open to biting and multiplying.

    To the extent that these strategies were gimmicks to begin with, I think this is a good thing, but it certainly ties into the difficulty you and Paddy allude to in evaluating contemporary “found art” video art. I used to think there was a lot of power in locating the kind of structural, self-reflective, critical gestures that are at the root of mashups and much of the work we’re talking about. Now, thinking in those terms seems futile. If you’ll excuse a corny analogy, it’s kind of like playing pin the tail on the donkey, but with a million donkeys running all over the place. I’m not sure shifting the discussion towards virtuosity is the right solution, though, it’s not something we put much stock in when it comes to other contemporary forms (wouldn’t you rather listen to Gucci than Twista?).

  • mbs

    pbd – Good points. To clarify my thoughts a little: in suggesting a more nuanced approach, I wasn’t advocating any particular type of reading (you mention Howard’s), just a “closer” one than I think most audiences are accustomed to with this type of video. And I’m definitely with you on the importance of a structural reading. I fear, however, that too much emphasis is put on structure in this type of work – thus phrases like “what is it past a cut-up youtube video” from Paddy’s friend. When you consider that the structure of mashups, cut-ups, remixes, etc. are often associated with one-liners and novelty, there’s a danger in focusing on that to the exclusion of other elements.

    I think one of the more powerful effects that the democratization of making and distributing digital stuff (via youtube, cheap tools, etc.) has had on artists, is the way it has emptied out certain artistic strategies. A clever editing scheme, strangely laborious process, or signature style can’t get you nearly as far as it used to (at least in the digital world). On a good internet day, you’ll see a dozen clever edits and labor-intensive projects before lunch. And the second you put that signature style online, it’s open to biting and multiplying.

    To the extent that these strategies were gimmicks to begin with, I think this is a good thing, but it certainly ties into the difficulty you and Paddy allude to in evaluating contemporary “found art” video art. I used to think there was a lot of power in locating the kind of structural, self-reflective, critical gestures that are at the root of mashups and much of the work we’re talking about. Now, thinking in those terms seems futile. If you’ll excuse a corny analogy, it’s kind of like playing pin the tail on the donkey, but with a million donkeys running all over the place. I’m not sure shifting the discussion towards virtuosity is the right solution, though, it’s not something we put much stock in when it comes to other contemporary forms (wouldn’t you rather listen to Gucci than Twista?).

  • mbs

    pbd – Good points. To clarify my thoughts a little: in suggesting a more nuanced approach, I wasn’t advocating any particular type of reading (you mention Howard’s), just a “closer” one than I think most audiences are accustomed to with this type of video. And I’m definitely with you on the importance of a structural reading. I fear, however, that too much emphasis is put on structure in this type of work – thus phrases like “what is it past a cut-up youtube video” from Paddy’s friend. When you consider that the structure of mashups, cut-ups, remixes, etc. are often associated with one-liners and novelty, there’s a danger in focusing on that to the exclusion of other elements.

    I think one of the more powerful effects that the democratization of making and distributing digital stuff (via youtube, cheap tools, etc.) has had on artists, is the way it has emptied out certain artistic strategies. A clever editing scheme, strangely laborious process, or signature style can’t get you nearly as far as it used to (at least in the digital world). On a good internet day, you’ll see a dozen clever edits and labor-intensive projects before lunch. And the second you put that signature style online, it’s open to biting and multiplying.

    To the extent that these strategies were gimmicks to begin with, I think this is a good thing, but it certainly ties into the difficulty you and Paddy allude to in evaluating contemporary “found art” video art. I used to think there was a lot of power in locating the kind of structural, self-reflective, critical gestures that are at the root of mashups and much of the work we’re talking about. Now, thinking in those terms seems futile. If you’ll excuse a corny analogy, it’s kind of like playing pin the tail on the donkey, but with a million donkeys running all over the place. I’m not sure shifting the discussion towards virtuosity is the right solution, though, it’s not something we put much stock in when it comes to other contemporary forms (wouldn’t you rather listen to Gucci than Twista?).

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Paddy has a good point about the scale–you can definitely notice details and be transported by large-scale video in a way you can’t online. I know people groaned when I described my Cai Guo-Qiang video but I am trying to make the case for anti-virtuosity. Five years ago MBS asked me how my video of animated GIFs of people dancing stacked up to the “meme” ones out there. My reply was “I don’t think mine is any different, really, from the other ones in this genre, except possibly it’s more slacker in its lack of ambition and refusal to bowl anyone over.” That is still a credo worth starving for.

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Paddy has a good point about the scale–you can definitely notice details and be transported by large-scale video in a way you can’t online. I know people groaned when I described my Cai Guo-Qiang video but I am trying to make the case for anti-virtuosity. Five years ago MBS asked me how my video of animated GIFs of people dancing stacked up to the “meme” ones out there. My reply was “I don’t think mine is any different, really, from the other ones in this genre, except possibly it’s more slacker in its lack of ambition and refusal to bowl anyone over.” That is still a credo worth starving for.

  • pbd

    hey sorry it took me a minute to get back to this, good points on all accounts, couple thoughts:

    @paddy
    i never considered it but is it a bit like that photo criticism. i’d say it’s even amplified here. an artist taking pics captures something, however dubious when framed as art it might be, that in most cases vanishes when the shutter closes. i take a stab at their vision partly based on knowing the temporality of what i’m looking at. with the internets that gap is closed. as mbs points out it’s amazing that the gap is closed, a result is how found video now functions as readers digest versions of some existing cultural object that’s only a couple mouseclicks away from you at all times.

    @mbs
    yeah deffo – a reading completely based on structure is a no-no to anyone with an art brain. but i feel comfy foregrounding a structural reading here, where i otherwise wouldn’t, because i’m sensitive that it’s been missing in the reading of computer based work for so long. structural reparations or something.

    as artists are forced to adopt new strategies i’d think it would force viewers to do the same. reading something as film, that’s ontologically not film, seems a bit backwards doesn’t it? as is making something that’s not cinema, but appears to be thanks to emulation, just so people can comfortably read their artwork the way they did before. it’s like we’re still suffering from a case of the Manovich that just won’t fuck off. there’s a great quote from the shape of time that i pull out a lot when having this discussion: “We are discovering little by little all over again that what a thing means is not more important than what it is;” (Kubler, 1962).

    i’m also not making the case for virtuosity, paddy mentioned it as a way to describe the logic of some edits and i was kinda like “hold up, wait” in my best Nate Dogg voice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfotyE2ItdY

    my question is, regardless of where you want to position virtuosity, how can we argue for or against something that’s now so difficult to define?

    @moody dont worry, “people” in the plural didn’t groan at your video, it was just me :) xoxo

  • pbd

    hey sorry it took me a minute to get back to this, good points on all accounts, couple thoughts:

    @paddy
    i never considered it but is it a bit like that photo criticism. i’d say it’s even amplified here. an artist taking pics captures something, however dubious when framed as art it might be, that in most cases vanishes when the shutter closes. i take a stab at their vision partly based on knowing the temporality of what i’m looking at. with the internets that gap is closed. as mbs points out it’s amazing that the gap is closed, a result is how found video now functions as readers digest versions of some existing cultural object that’s only a couple mouseclicks away from you at all times.

    @mbs
    yeah deffo – a reading completely based on structure is a no-no to anyone with an art brain. but i feel comfy foregrounding a structural reading here, where i otherwise wouldn’t, because i’m sensitive that it’s been missing in the reading of computer based work for so long. structural reparations or something.

    as artists are forced to adopt new strategies i’d think it would force viewers to do the same. reading something as film, that’s ontologically not film, seems a bit backwards doesn’t it? as is making something that’s not cinema, but appears to be thanks to emulation, just so people can comfortably read their artwork the way they did before. it’s like we’re still suffering from a case of the Manovich that just won’t fuck off. there’s a great quote from the shape of time that i pull out a lot when having this discussion: “We are discovering little by little all over again that what a thing means is not more important than what it is;” (Kubler, 1962).

    i’m also not making the case for virtuosity, paddy mentioned it as a way to describe the logic of some edits and i was kinda like “hold up, wait” in my best Nate Dogg voice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfotyE2ItdY

    my question is, regardless of where you want to position virtuosity, how can we argue for or against something that’s now so difficult to define?

    @moody dont worry, “people” in the plural didn’t groan at your video, it was just me :) xoxo

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Am agnostic on cultural regurgitation–something may be a few mouseclicks away or it may have disappeared completely from sight (for legal or technical reasons) in which case the “mash” is our only copy. Video art-wise am a fan/disciple of Ludwig Schwarz (a Dallas artist who has a small following in NY consisting of Cheryl Donegan, Kenneth Goldsmith, and WFMU’s Brian Turner). Schwarz takes barely significant cultural fragments like a VHS clip of an overweight kid from Bad News Bears 2 saying “Let’s Call the Colonel!” (as in Sanders) and plays them over and over, using a pause button to freeze so the edits are irregular. After a couple of minutes of this repetition it’s not about the source (which most people won’t recognize anyway) but only pain and madness. The familiar formalism of Steve Reich acquires an emotional edge that didn’t previously exist before the artist’s version. I played a couple of these for two prominent new media artists and the reaction was several moments of appalled silence. Not a very helpful guideline, but I propose that anything that makes you say “cool” or “fly” be automatically rejected from museums. (In retrospect this would even include Bob Dylan set to house music, sorry MBS.) To Boris Groys’ weak gesture let’s consider the weak, ugly gesture. Something that makes you groan. Or if that’s too extreme, can we at least recycle stuff hardly anyone recognizes, so comparison to the “source” is difficult or impossible? This might mean no museum show but the true artist risks rejection.

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Am agnostic on cultural regurgitation–something may be a few mouseclicks away or it may have disappeared completely from sight (for legal or technical reasons) in which case the “mash” is our only copy. Video art-wise am a fan/disciple of Ludwig Schwarz (a Dallas artist who has a small following in NY consisting of Cheryl Donegan, Kenneth Goldsmith, and WFMU’s Brian Turner). Schwarz takes barely significant cultural fragments like a VHS clip of an overweight kid from Bad News Bears 2 saying “Let’s Call the Colonel!” (as in Sanders) and plays them over and over, using a pause button to freeze so the edits are irregular. After a couple of minutes of this repetition it’s not about the source (which most people won’t recognize anyway) but only pain and madness. The familiar formalism of Steve Reich acquires an emotional edge that didn’t previously exist before the artist’s version. I played a couple of these for two prominent new media artists and the reaction was several moments of appalled silence. Not a very helpful guideline, but I propose that anything that makes you say “cool” or “fly” be automatically rejected from museums. (In retrospect this would even include Bob Dylan set to house music, sorry MBS.) To Boris Groys’ weak gesture let’s consider the weak, ugly gesture. Something that makes you groan. Or if that’s too extreme, can we at least recycle stuff hardly anyone recognizes, so comparison to the “source” is difficult or impossible? This might mean no museum show but the true artist risks rejection.

  • paula

    For whatever its worth..a few years ago my son made a video for a school project. We had been talking about the idea of ‘total synesthesia’. In a matter of months the commentary on youtube had to be taken down. He created it on his ibook with no special software, simply obsessive zeal. I offer it here in response to MBS’s worthy comment
    “A clever editing scheme, strangely laborious process, or signature style can’t get you nearly as far as it used to (at least in the digital world).”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJz5CLRa4E8

    He has moved beyond this now, but it was a powerful piece of work -then.

  • paula

    For whatever its worth..a few years ago my son made a video for a school project. We had been talking about the idea of ‘total synesthesia’. In a matter of months the commentary on youtube had to be taken down. He created it on his ibook with no special software, simply obsessive zeal. I offer it here in response to MBS’s worthy comment
    “A clever editing scheme, strangely laborious process, or signature style can’t get you nearly as far as it used to (at least in the digital world).”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJz5CLRa4E8

    He has moved beyond this now, but it was a powerful piece of work -then.

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