Tuesday, 15 June 2010
From the bedroom to the Guggenheim: search is on for a YouTube masterpiece
New York museum reaches out to the masses to find the next generation of video artists
- Jemima Kiss
- The Guardian, Monday 14 June 2010
- It is home to one of the world's finest collections of contemporary art, from Mondrian to Mapplethorpe and Joseph Beuys to Rachel Whiteread. But now New York's Guggenheim Museum is using YouTube to source a new generation of creative talent, hosting a biennale of video art this October.
YouTube Play invites submissions from any artist anywhere in the world. Two hundred shortlisted videos will be published on the site.
Better known for finger-biting babies, sneezing pandas and Justin Bieber, YouTube's audience is vast. The Google-owned site serves 2 billion videos each day and 24 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute.
The Guggenheim's influential chief curator, Nancy Spector, said the idea came from a discussion on how the museum could reach a wider audience. "YouTube is fascinating to us because it represents a demographic quite beyond our means – that's very attractive," she said. "We are always wondering about how to reach a broader public."
A panel of artists, designers and filmmakers will pick the best 20 pieces for the four-day Guggenheim exhibit; at four months, the selection procedure is quicker than the typical curatorial endeavour of three or four years. Sponsored by HP, the winning pieces will also be presented at the Guggenheim's sister museums in Berlin, Bilbao and Venice. The deadline for entries is 31 July.
Spector said YouTube's culture of making, sharing and collaborating was producing innovative work. She said judges will be looking not for what is "now, but what is 'next'" – perhaps a tall order for a site that reflects contemporary culture. "This project is aspirational and we hope that people will rise to the occasion," she said. "Many artists today work quite profoundly with popular culture – that is something we recognise and embrace. It doesn't concern me that a tribute to Lady Gaga could end up being an important work of art and we don't want to rule that out."
Video art emerged in the 70s, led by artists including Fluxus artist Nam June Paik, radical performance artist Vito Acconci and Bill Viola, who used the medium to explore themes of spirituality. More recently, celebrated video artists include Pipilotti Rist, Matthew Barney and Saatchi favourite Ryan Trecartin, whose camp, theatrical videos play with themes of an increasingly digitally defined youth culture.
Rather than attract established artists, the Guggenheim hopes to exploit YouTube's scale to appeal to new artists. There are already more refined corners of YouTube where artists are finding a new and international audience for their work, and, rather than fine art, many of those are animators, filmmakers and 3D artists. But the site is also a subject in itself, a symbol of interconnected global culture, collaboration and comment, videos shared and republished in surprising contexts, and the re-appropriation and remixing of popular culture.
"In the 70s video was exclusively a broadcast medium until artists colonised it," Spector said. "Here, it still really has the same DNA, the same properties as video but now uses social networking, for instance, and is being disseminated on the internet. The tools have shifted, and it is interesting to see where that is going to take creativity."
The Guggenheim runs a number of outreach projects. The most recent, "Recontemplating The Void", asked the public to create an artwork for the central space of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum and to submit their designs to Flickr.
YouTube's senior marketing manager, Ed Sanders, admitted the partnership with the Guggenheim "looked slightly unusual on paper", but said the meeting of high art and popular culture was exciting. "We've noticed an explosion in creative video as a medium," he said. "Much of this is driven by the growth of sites like YouTube and the democratisation of production – the access to tools, equipment and software. There's a huge creative community online but it is fragmented. Were hoping this project will help bubble things up to the surface."
THAT VIRAL THING
Help Cheer Up Keanu Reeves
By Claire Suddath Tuesday, Jun. 15, 2010
Eleven thousand people think Keanu Reeves might be depressed. And with reason — the man hasn't had a hit movie in years, and his entire acting career can be summed up in one word: 'Woah.' So when a paparazzi photo surfaced on the Internet featuring an unshaven, mopey Keanu eating a sandwich on a park bench, fans started to worry. Was Keanu sad? Lonely? Bored? Was something actually wrong or was he just tired? The Internet, as it tends to, became very concerned.
Did I say concerned? I meant obsessed. The park bench photo spread everywhere: on gossip sites, on message boards — it even got its own Tumblr blog. People left over 200,000 comments on the website Reddit.com. Web illustrators photoshopped Keanu into other sad settings: next to Forrest Gump, surrounded by cats, on the Lost island, in a Lady Gaga video, even next to Stalin and Churchill. Nothing they did seemed to make the major movie star happy. But maybe this will: Today, June 15, is Cheer Up Keanu Day.
"I'm sure he's doing fine," says Daniel Murphy, 21, who created the Cheer Up Keanu Facebook page to advertise the newly made-up holiday. "I don't really think he's that sad, I just think his work is underappreciated." Murphy, and some of the more than 11 thousand people who joined the page, believe that Keanu Reeves' acting is overlooked because of his airhead surfer stereotype. "His depiction of Hamlet was probably one of the best American versions, but everyone still just thinks of him as Ted," he says, referring to Keanu's lead role in the 1989 movie, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. That film grossed $40 million at the box office and includes one of the best nuggets of stoner philosophy ever uttered: "be excellent to each other."
But unlike other celebrity-related Internet fads — Chuck Norris facts, Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, Rickrolling — Cheer Up Keanu Day seems to be based on true sincerity and affection. "At first I thought this was a joke," writes Marlon McAllister on the event's Facebook page, "but then I did some research and he's actually a really, supremely nice person...let's show Keanu some love!" Fans have offered to give money to cancer research, donate bone marrow or organize charity walks in the star's name (Keanu's sister has been diagnosed with leukemia, hence the interest in cancer charities).
This is the most interesting aspect of Cheer Up Keanu day. While Internet is most commonly used to mock celebrities, Cheer Up Keanu-ites just want to show the star how much they care. On message board discussions of the sad park bench photo, there are almost no mentions of Keanu's good looks or failed Matrix sequels. Even his role in the cult classic Point Break is largely ignored. Instead, people fret over Keanu's strained relationship with his father, or the fact that in 2001 his girlfriend died in a car accident. They swap stories about meeting him — Keanu offered a ride to a hitchhiker! He bought Harleys for a movie's special effects crew! He treated strangers to breakfast! — that, even if only half-true, demonstrate some sort of untapped fondness for an actor of otherwise negligible importance. "[His personality] has made me love his movies," writes an anonymous commenter on Reddit.com. "I don't care how great they are. I love to see him, because he makes me happy." In other words, it's pretty hard to hate on Keanu.
And while Keanu seems to be experiencing a mini-version of what Betty White did during the Facebook campaign to get her on SNL, fans may find him less accepting of the attention — his representatives do not want the movie star associated with Cheer Up Keanu Day. They declined to let the star be interviewed and issued a statement saying simply (and somewhat humorlessly), "Keanu Reeves would like to thank all of his fans for their concerns regarding his happiness and wants to assure everyone that all is well. This situation is a result of a misinterpretation of a paparazzi shot."
"He was just eating a sandwich. Of course he isn't depressed," says Murphy. "Cheer Up Keanu Day isn't really about that. We just wanted to show him that we cared." And that is pretty excellent.