Curating the Web - Putting Web Video into context (Work Edit - Part 1)

Film in the Post Media Age
XIII International Film and Media Studies Conference in Transylvania
Sapienta Hungarian University of Transylvania
Cluj-Napoca, 22./23.10.10

I’d like to start with a video right away:

I’ve chosen this video called „Yelp – with apologies to Allen Ginsberg“ by Tiffany Shlain to start with for three reasons. First because of it’s form. By appropriating found footage it’s a prime example for the remix aesthetic which is one of the dominant visualities of web video. Moreover it has a trailer-like narrative, it’s short and it’s dramatic curve and rhythm are very acurate - also a good example for Web Video, which has to compete for the very short attention span of the average internet user.

Second, I’ve chosen it because of it’s themes of technology addication and information overload. Every day more than a billion videos are uploaded to YouTube, that’s 11500 videos uploaded every second. Another interesting number I came across was that YouTube archives more video every 60 days than the 3 major US tv networks have created in 60 years. Video hosting sites have quickly become an important part of the visual and cultural memory of our time, and even though I don’t agree with the pessimistic approach of information overload, nevertheless the question how to structure and access these archives becomes more and more important.

Besides new search technologies and semantic approaches the personal recommendation has become one of the most important orientation tools and structuring practises of the Intenet. It’s a tool of complexity reduction which we know from other media but which has become more important on the World Wide Web. Let it be Link-suggestions via email or news-streams from facebook, the recoomendation-algorhytms of Amazon and Last.Fm, the idea of following single people on Twitter, and also Playlist and Channels on YouTube, the personal recommendation guides our path thtough the net.

I am aiming on a comparison to the role of the curator here, him beeing one of the determining recommendation authority in the system of art. The need of structuring the massive quantities of data on the net has brought a transgression to the term curator lately. Internet companies are hiring content curators, and especially bloggers are executing cultural practices which are similar to curational workflow. By widening the term today everything is curated, from sneaker stores to Dj-Nights to family photoalbums, the term is broadly used to transfer the notion of expertise and authority from it’s original meaning.

Reactions on this inflation of the term curator often come from indeolocical positions of the discourse. On the one hand conservatives try to maintain hierarchies and attempt to save the gate-keeper-authority of the curator – by reducing web video to piano-playing cats and finger-biting babies – banalities of everday life which are not worth exhibiting. On the other hand web enthusiasts highlight the emancipatory potential of the medium – everyone can and should be a curator. That the web tends to be commercialized more and more, and that the low percentage of interacting prosumers is accompanied by the majority of passive consumers, are facts often ignored by this second group.

I’d like to add a more unemotional question to the discourse by asking, which capacities can the curator bring to the new medium? Can he be a navigator through the ocean of creative artifacts? I am asking those questions because the summation of videos which reach me through the established recommendation structutes of the web often feel fragmetend, not connected. The come to me as a stream, an unordered enumeration – I am missing contexts and critical commentary. Offline- or Online exhibitions assembled by educated curators could bring a contemplative concentration to the medium.

And that is how I reach my third reason to show you the video in the beginning.
Yelp was selected for the short list of the first exhibition on web video of a leading contemporary art museum, the New York Guggenheim Museum of Art. “YOUTUBE PLAY - the Bienale of creative Video”, a cooperation of the Guggenheim-Museums, YouTube and some sponsors is to my knowledge the first approach by a major player of the art system towards Web Video – by this it is a major reference point form y thoughts.

Following this call 23.000 videos with a maximum lenght of 10 minutes have been submitted to the competition. If you assume an average lenght of 5 minutes thats about 2k hours of footage which make 240 work days of 8 hours to watch them. By that you could also assume that a presenlection has been made by interns, which shows how the traditional selection methods of museums and festivals are challenged by the new medium.

Let’s take a look at the creative criteria, which have been published as a guideline to enter the competition.


This very open call does not show a curational concept so I tried to find out more about the exhibition. Of the 23k videos 125 have been selected for a short list, which was classified into the following categories:

- Animation
- Documentary
- Experimental
- Music Videos
- Narrative Works
- Non-Narrative Works

This categories were developed by the curational team from what types of video had been submitted. While this is a legitimate approach it clearly shows some difficulties for curational work with web video. First you can note that the categories overlap, second they are not on the same level of classification. Moreover I am missing any category which is specific to the medium, this taxonomy could be used for any film festival of the world, how can a Web video bienale develop an understanding of a new art form by imitating categories from older media?

If you have a look at the jury, which selected 20 winners from the 125-shortlist, more questions about the concept come to the mind:

- Laurie Aderson (Performance Artist)
- Animal Collective (Musicians)
- Darren Aronofsky (Filmmaker)
- Douglas Gordon (Artist)
- Marylin Minter (Artist)
- Ryan McGinley (Photographer)
- Takashi Murakami (Artist)
- Shirin Neshat (Artist/Filmmaker)
- Stefan Sagmeister (Graphic Designer)
- Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Filmmaker)
- Nacy Spector (Chief Curator Guggenheim)

This is a jury wiht big names which shows some interdisciplinarity but I am asking where are the experts fort the new medium? Where are Web-Designers, -Theorists, -Activists or –Artists? Where are the Digital Natives?

The YouTube-Play Bienale shows one major need for establishing curational appraoches towards creative web video. To distinguish the new format from film festival or video-art-screenings in the museum space, we should come up with medium-specific expertsise and teaxonomies.

In terms of the principle questions of this conference I propose two curational viewpoints on web video:

Which medium-specific aesthetics and narratives come up with web video? How do the production- and distribution-modalities influence the artworks?

Which ancestries of bordering art foms like film and video art can be identified in web video? And vice versa, what impact does the web have on already established formats?



The emanzipation of the audience, the evolution towards the prosumer, is one of the big meta-stories of the Internet. Zitat. Broadcast yourself! Internet-Communication causes an almost fetishistic fascination for the authenticity of amateur-aesthetics. commercial industries react to this trend by imitating homevideo-visualities to achieve viral distribution of their advertisements. All those videos, no matter if commercial or idependently produced, compete for the hard currency of the click. The next video is only a link away and this results in an attention economy. Reach your audience in 15 seconds or you get lost in the archive – these circumstances engender performative actions in front of the camera – a heavy contradiction to the urge for authenticity. Curators and artists create critical viewpoints onto this dichotomy.

Los Angeles based artist Natalie Bookchin arranges fragments of video diary, the so-called v-logs in her series called „Testament“. We are going to see one artwork from this series called „My Meds“ (Click the Image to see the Video on the artist’s website):


The series reflect on the „peculiar blend of intimacy and anonymity“ „that characterizes social relations today.“

Another involvement in the social forms of interaction ist he perfomance „No Fun“ of Eva and Franco Mattes. The artists explore the behaviours on a chat platform called chat roulette. When you log onto this website you get a random chat partner, and by pushing a button you can switch to next one, an endless stream of arbitrary encounters.

The artist did a life performance on the platform and later uploaded a ten minute excerpt onto video platforms. In the performance they staged a suicide, the notebook in the lower right corner functioning as the prove of authenticity, because the chat partners could see their life picture on that monitor. In the 10minute expcerpt you can witness the different reactions of the chat partner. While most of them dont believe what they are seeing and waver between amusement and indifference, those who do believe the pictures react haggardly. When you are watching the video of the performance you get a feeling fort he voyeuristic and self-exposing aspects of chat-communication.

In the exhibtion „3 hours in 1 second“, which was curated by Robert Sakrowski in Berlin this februrary, he invited artists to arrange 4 to 16 videos in socalled GRIDs. I took part in the exhibition and would like to show you my work „Attention“, which shows homerecordings of children receiving game consoles as a christmas present (click the image to go to the exhibitions’ website).


I dont want to give you an interpretation of my own work here, but I think it’s clear that it stands in line with the other two works in presenting amateur aesthetics from a critical viewpoint.

Putting web videos into context, showing relations and contrasts, is not only achieved by arrangeing them spatialy as multiframe videos, but also by remixing them in a single frame. I’d like to show you two examples of a genre called Political Remix Video, which critize power constellations and narrative structures of mass media.

Besides political remixes a lot of appropriative videos relate to popular culture. In the viral video „Key to Reserva“ Martin Scorsesee claims that he has found some pages of a lost Hitchcock script and he states that he will shoot the film as Hitchcock would have made it. “It’s one thing to preserve a film that has been made. It’s another thing to preserve a film that has not been made.”

The ten minute video shows an interview with Scorsesee and a making of of the shooting, whehre he constantely claims the authenticity of the work. Embedded in these making of sequences you see the acual movie, which accurately copies Hitchcock aesthetics and quotes scenes and shots from at least 8 different hitchcock movies.

Key to Reserva is an example fort he acceleration of remix culture. Although it’s a sport for fans to indentify every single reference in a remix video, for most of the viewers the process of remixing becomes more important than the link to the original. Remixing becomes a cultural technique, a virtous play with numerous references leading to a level of self-referentiality not know before.

go to Part 2

4 Responses to “Curating the Web - Putting Web Video into context (Work Edit - Part 1)”

  1. Movingweb - observing moving content on the Internet! » Blog Archiv » Curating the Web - Putting Web Video into Context Says:

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  2. Curating the Web | Simon Ruschmeyer Says:

    [...] start off the project with a talk&screening at Cluj, Romania, and as a seminar/exhibition at University of Siegen . Januar 2011 Category: All » [...]

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  4. Jake Says:

    But many of our everyday busniess activities are timeless. Technology may come into play, but it can’t replace the human factor of collaboration, confidence, caring,a0and checking.a0a0a0a0

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