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."