passepartout! (by Anne Helmond)

…and once again, all the great photos in this entry are made by the very talented Anne Helmond!

And on yet another rainy morning in Amsterdam (not surprising, you get used to it after a while!), full of curiosity and hopes for the day, I went to the second day of the Video Vortex - Responses to YouTube conference. I was hoping that today would be more fruitful than yesterday, and indeed, what a pleasant surprise! Well, call me selfish, but instead of giving a general overview I will focus on the session that was the most interesting for me personally: Curating Online Video.

The session started with a very inspiring presentation by Sarah Cook. Sarah is co-founder, editor and researcher at CRUMB (Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss), an online resource and mailinglist for people involved with New Media Art. She did her PHD at the University of Sunderland and is now a post doctoral fellow working with Eyebeam in New York for 2008. She is also a curator, and has co-edited several publications on new media art. Currently she is co-curating the exhibition Broadcast Yourself at AV Festival 2008.

Sarah Cook (by Anne Helmond)

In her presentation, Sarah talked about the works that she selected for this exhibition. One of the main questions of her research was whether such a thing as “tv art” actually exists, and what can be seen as “tv art”. A great source of inspiration was Dieter Daniels’ essay “Television-Art or Anti-Art” in which he discusses artists’ interventions with television. One of the most famous examples is Chris Burden’s TV Hijack (1972) in which the artist was invited to a talkshow and, during the course of the interview, attempted at kidnapping the show host by holding a knife to her throat.

tv hijack still from

More examples are ANT FARM and their residency at a Texas news organization, during which they produced news items with their own fictional content (which were shown at the end of every news show), and the first reality tv show ever made, American Family (1971). Interestingly enough, American Family also includes an episode that documents how the family goes to visit the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Whitney Museum. And, luckily, the show can be found on Youtube!

As you can see, Sarah had quite an impressive list of examples, and that’s not even all yet! UK’s Channel 4 also produced a series of ‘art tv’ called Dadarama in which artists could basically develop their own tv show concept, including the decisions on length, time of airing, feature film or series, content, etc. And at, you can submit your very own favorite video material, and every once in a while a list including all sorts of different submissions will be send to all members of the mailinglist. Other projects mentioned are tv swansong and the Bastard Channel. Sadly, make tv was not as successful as its biggest competitor, YouTube, which was lounged just a few days later. At make tv, users can have their own 15 minutes of fame. They get to pick an airing time and can either show uploaded material or do a live show.In order to find out how such projects can work curatorially, and explore the question of the producer vs. distributor relationship, Sarah suggested looking at projects such as Cory Archangel’s Blue Tube , Jeff Krauss’ that shows 3 youtube channels next to each other in a sort of simulation of a gallery installation form, and Nina Simon’s blog Museum 2.0. screenshot

The last project that Sarah mentioned is one she is involved in herself, Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle - a cinema completely built and run through volunteer work that blurs the boundaries between producers, distributors and viewers by letting people submit their own work for the film nights. They also host art exhibitions and give workshops on film making and presenting.

The next and also very interesting presentation was Thomas Thiel’s talk about the Curator as Filter / User as Curator. Thomas works at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, and has curated and organized several events such as MindFrames Media Study at Buffallo 1973-1990 with the Vasulkas. This exhibition was experimental in so far as it consisted of more than 150 hours (!!!) of video works that could be viewed in three different ways: As a static exhibition (single presentations), as a dynamic exhibition (program schedules), and as an on-demand exhibition (visitor’s choice).

Thomas Thiel (by Anne Helmond)

Thomas claimed that YouTube is just another form of video distribution, just like galleries, art institutions, festivals, archives, and collectors. He participated in a symposium in 2005 with the title The Future Of Video Art Distribution, and some of the most important questions raised were: What are the financial models of internet distribution? Will supply increase in demand? Is there a need for video art watched at home? This can lead us further to think about why artists do NOT want their work to be published online. For many artists, this means losing a certain control over the context in which the work was made and in which it will be shown (as anyone can show it anywhere they like in whatever context). This also raises questions of exclusivity, availability, quality and rights. General video platforms do not allow to include other media such as PDF, so they cannot serve as an alternative to a personal site with a portfolio. Furthermore, sites such as Youtube only work for single-channel works (that’s why is such a great idea!). Thomas rightly pointed out that actually most video material on such sites is not art in itself, but a lot of things about art, such as marketing, gossip, openings of exhibitions, walkthroughs, artist talks and interviews…basically, a documentation of art and the whole community around art. As an example, see the clip below about the Art Radio WPS1 at the Venice Biennale 2007. So, Thomas concluded, YouTube should be seen not as a platform for art itself but as a resource for the arts.

The last presentation I (quickly) want to mention was that of Emma Quinn who basically introduced the Institute of Contemporary Art UK where she works. Emma is also a curator, and director of Live and Media Art at the Institute of Contemporary Art UK. At the ICA she has helped setting up the digital studio, a sort of media lab, that initially started off with workshops for people who wanted to learn what the internet was. They gave people lessons in the history of the WWW and showed them how to use it, how to create an email account, and so on and so forth. Later they were being addressed by artists working with the net, and this developed into exhibitions and collaborations with festivals and other organizations and projects such as The digital studio is now being changed into a real working space for artists, and they’re also planning to create an online gallery. Their most successful exhibition so far was the Viral Awards Exhibition in 2006. Bizarrely enough, although people could have watched all the material at home on their computers, the crowds were literally lining up to see the exhibition that combined works from artists as well as amateurs.

Emma Quinn (by Anne Helmond)

So, after all, the second day of the conference made up for the chaos of the first day! The presentations of Sarah, Emma and Thomas were really interesting, I loved that they showed lots of examples, so thanks to them for saving the conference for me! =)

discussion session ‘curating online video’ (by Anne Helmond)

interviews of audience (by Anne Helmond)

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