April 9, 2011
About six monts ago I posted a YouTube play list of 83 videos. In the accompanying commentary I wrote that "what I realize in a way only now, is that my blog, my YouTube Favourites, my 8Tracks mixes and my Facebook page feel more to me like my real art practice then my actual art practice. They are more a part of my daily life, I am more deeply engaged with them, they are more intimate and more public, they are not labored over and overworked in the same way my professional artistic life is, they are not marred by grant-writing and publicity. It is the old dream of art as completely interwoven with life. It is simple, lonely, semi-public and locked to a larger corporate and social network. I hope in the future that I will understand it more."
In the past six months I fear this idea has become something of a self fulfilling prophesy. Many people, including my publisher, read this text and have begun to, at least partially, see my practice in these terms. I have begun to post videos on Facebook even more frequently and, some days, it seems to me it is the only thing I manage to accomplish. Well... an internet addiction is nothing particularly original and to call it an art practice doesn't add that much surplus value to the condition. But I was hoping to think over the question a bit more.
My last book, Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed, sold approximately four hundred copies last year, while my blog gets about one thousand hits every month. Such comparisons are a bit specious. To read a book is a much greater investment of time and attention than to glance at a blog for a few minutes. But I can't stop thinking about all of these questions and contradictions. What does it mean to be an artist in the age of the internet? The art galleries are still full of art, the theatres full of performances, clubs still full of bands - yet I can't help but feel the reality of art has moved, or is in the process of moving, elsewhere. Art as something you do, or share with, a few friends on line. And then every once in a while something goes viral.
Recently I wrote a text entitled Insincere YouTube Auteur. I've been wondering if there is a way to move my entire art practice onto YouTube. (YouTube is not just video. YouTube exists somewhere between home movies, commercials, video art, diary, b-movies and cinema. Or something like that.) I remember a student once telling me that she had a realization: more people would see a YouTube video of a baby eating a lemon in one hour than would see all of the work I make in my entire life. (I don't know if this is true but is it a startling idea nonetheless.) Yesterday I had the idea that I could take already successful YouTube videos, for example turtle humping a shoe, and put my own voice-over on top of them. Has someone already done this?
I mainly use YouTube for watching and listening to music. In this I believe I am not alone. The fact that music has plummeted from the extremely high audio quality of CD's to the almost pathetic audio quality of YouTube is also a fascinating turn of events, further proof that rock n' roll has never been about audiophiles. At a certain year in one's life, the perfect song sounds even more perfect when it sounds like shit. I think this phenomena is somehow a metaphor for art on the internet: the momentary excitement of ephemera. This has been the case for most pop culture over the course of the last hundred years. But on the internet we can all be making it. For now at least. For better or worse.