The Guggenheim’s YouTube Exhibition Play Challenged From The Outset

by Paddy Johnson on June 16, 2010 · 10 comments Newswire

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An update on the criticisms of this post can be found here.

How out of touch can the art people get? The Guggenheim’s launching a new YouTube Biennial dubbed Play for two days this October and the museum’s curators have named themselves the web experts and chief video selectors. “We're looking for things we haven't seen before” Nancy Spector, the deputy director and chief curator of the Guggenheim Foundation told The Times last week, as if the staff spent most of their hours on YouTube. I have a hard time believing the Guggenheim’s secretly spent the past decade beefing up on the various web memes and amateur videos trafficked across the web. How will the museum’s curators be able to recognize a remade meme from years past without that experience? How will they be able to spot various web references? If the ability to locate art historical citation within art work is important, surely an equally rich background in the web is essential. [UPDATE: SS asks why assume the videos will have anything to do with web culture. They may not, but if they do it won’t be spotted by staff. Also, the opportunity missed here is all the work that’s out there to be found].

So far, art media has been predictably myopic in its discussion of the announced. Dean of Yale University School of Art, and famed art quote churner Robert Storr told  the Times Carol Vogel what he thought of the exhibition, “Hit-and-run, no-fault encounters between curators and artists, works and the public, will never give useful shape to the art of the present nor define the viewpoint of institutions.” His statement is predictably out of touch with contemporary culture, but also not overly relevant. In this instance he’s not an art world gatekeeper (contrary to NYMagazine critic Jerry Saltz), just a prominent voice with an ill-informed opinion.

The real problem is the museum’s untrained staff, now charged with  identifying 200 outstanding videos from thousands. According to their website, a jury of “experts,” (distinguished artists, filmmakers, graphic designers, and musicians) will select up to 20 videos from the museum’s initial picks. It’s anyone’s guess who they’ll select — hopefully they’ll opt for those with web-expertise — but before they get to that stage, I hope they’ll consider working with professionals who can give them some guidance. Here are a few names:

Andrew Baron: Founder of Rocketboom, Magma, and Know Your Meme amongst other video and meme based websites. Baron holds a Master of Fine Arts from Parsons University.

Rex Sorgatz: Founder of Kind of Sorta Media, and former Executive Producer of MSNBC.com. Runs the blog fimoculous. Sorgatz has a Masters of Digital Media from the University of Washington and has a working knowledge and interest in Fine Art.

Joanne McNeil: A renaissance woman of all things Internet. Founding editor of the Tomorrow Museum.

Tom Moody: A well known artist and fine art blogger who’s spent the last ten years scouring the web for engaging visual material.

Lauren Cornell: Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator for the New Museum.

Jonah Paretti: Founder of Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, and Contagious Media. Worked at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center from 2000-2005 and has exhibited at the New Museum (though he does not consider his work “art”).

Camille Paloque-Berges: PHD Candidate  and Teaching Assistant in Information Science and Communication at the Laboratoire Paragraphe (Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint Denis). A web connoisseur of the highest degree.

  • SS

    Why assume videos shared via YouTube would necessarily have anything to do with Internet culture and “web memes”?

    If the Guggenheim’s open call involved artists mailing in DVDs instead, would you expect the judges to have expertise about the postal system?

  • SS

    Why assume videos shared via YouTube would necessarily have anything to do with Internet culture and “web memes”?

    If the Guggenheim’s open call involved artists mailing in DVDs instead, would you expect the judges to have expertise about the postal system?

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

    I meant to qualify that assumption in the post, so thanks for pointing it out. They don’t necessarily. I guess my feeling is that there’s a lot of stuff out there to be found as well as those who might submit, so their call really only engages a fraction of the audience it could.

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

    I meant to qualify that assumption in the post, so thanks for pointing it out. They don’t necessarily. I guess my feeling is that there’s a lot of stuff out there to be found as well as those who might submit, so their call really only engages a fraction of the audience it could.

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

    I meant to qualify that assumption in the post, so thanks for pointing it out. They don’t necessarily. I guess my feeling is that there’s a lot of stuff out there to be found as well as those who might submit, so their call really only engages a fraction of the audience it could.

  • http://thomashellstrom.net ernstwhere

    The whole things smells like ‘American Idol’ to me. Are we already seeing the Bravo effect?

  • http://thomashellstrom.net ernstwhere

    The whole things smells like ‘American Idol’ to me. Are we already seeing the Bravo effect?

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Paddy, the link is broken on the Times story. SS’s “would you expect the judges to have expertise about the postal system?” question, while sarcastic, gets to whether YouTube is just a delivery system for “video art” or whether it’s a culture unto itself that curators should be learning about. The involvement of the YouTube p.r. department and Hewlett-Packard, which according to the Times, is collaborating on the project “to teach skills like editing, animation and lighting to the video-naïve” (yuck) suggests YouTube is being thought of in its original, intended, non-vernacular sense as a place for video “new talent.” But as William Gibson said, “the street finds its own uses for things” and right now it seems to me YouTube is being used mostly as a substitute iTunes, with people posting their favorite obscure song with a single still image for the consideration of the site’s talkative commenters. Likely this and other “pirate” uses of YT–such as OAVs or “original anime videos” featuring anime clips recut with new music–will not be considered.

  • http://tommoody.us tom moody

    Paddy, the link is broken on the Times story. SS’s “would you expect the judges to have expertise about the postal system?” question, while sarcastic, gets to whether YouTube is just a delivery system for “video art” or whether it’s a culture unto itself that curators should be learning about. The involvement of the YouTube p.r. department and Hewlett-Packard, which according to the Times, is collaborating on the project “to teach skills like editing, animation and lighting to the video-naïve” (yuck) suggests YouTube is being thought of in its original, intended, non-vernacular sense as a place for video “new talent.” But as William Gibson said, “the street finds its own uses for things” and right now it seems to me YouTube is being used mostly as a substitute iTunes, with people posting their favorite obscure song with a single still image for the consideration of the site’s talkative commenters. Likely this and other “pirate” uses of YT–such as OAVs or “original anime videos” featuring anime clips recut with new music–will not be considered.

  • Pingback: Leading Off: Vaquero For Fort Worth, Producing Superman, and Second Thoughts on the Guggenheim’s YouTube Project | FrontRow

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