A hypothesis about difficulty… and my first collab video! Feat Philosophy Tube.
It probably goes without saying but I absolutely agree with the idea that–assuming people stick around–the reward for enduring (my word, not Emily’s) difficult media is great, and the likelihood the audience will take something additional away from it is higher.
When updatesupdatesupdates and I started making performance art around 2008 that was our modus operandi: how can we make performances which try to convey a reasonably complicated idea in as complicated a manner as possible before it becomes universally alienating? And then! Assuming that is successful! What does the audience actually get out of it? We did that for a number of years (memefactory being the most popular expression of that line of performance thinking, though by far the least complex) and the response was always heartening and encouraging.
[DIGRESSION: One early show was obliquely about the fact that America went to war over the “existence” of weapons in Iraq. Though we never once said the word “Iraq” or the acronym “WMDs” or made any kind of overtly political statement of any kind (the climax of the performance was in fact a full-length screening of the music video for Under Pressure by Queen ft. David Bowie on YouTube) the number of people who connected the described philoso-scientific debate between those who thought vacuums were possible and those who didn’t (vacuists and anti-vacuists) to our then-current political climate–both were “wars about nothing”–was very high.]
Idea Channel is also based partially upon this line of thinking and influenced greatly by all the performance work I did before it.
I like the second part of this collab vid. I took the time to make a little transcript for those of you who are struggling to keep up with the speed of this speech.
Is YouTube poop Art?
On of the thigs that might seem to separate YouTube Poop from say Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa'or Van Gogh's 'Star Night' is that is essentially derivative. It is a mash up of other works wrong. Rather than create something totally original Poopers take other people's work and re-mix it.
But why can’t a remix be artistic?
In their paper ‘Digital Remix’, Colin Lankshear and Michelle Knobel said that a remix is taking one thing and looking at it from a different point of view whilst still retaining some of the original. And surely loads of art does that. Surely loads of art derives from other sources. Fan art derives from other creative works. So does fan fiction and AMV (note: Anime Music Videos) and cos-plays… like this amazing steampunk reinterpretation of Disney’s Ariel. Shakespeare was a remixer. ‘The Merchant of Venice' was inspired by an Italian text: 'Il Pecorone’, and a medieval one: ‘Gesta Romanorum' (click here for more info). ‘Romeo and Juliet' was a poem by Arthur Brooke (click here to read it) before it was ever a play and an Italian novel before that. And ‘Troilus and Cressida’? That’s reinterpreting the Trojan War. That’s remixing Homer.
Philosophy disagrees on what exactly the definition of Art is and even whether there should be a definition of Art, but just because something is derivative doesn’t mean we should rule it out as a work Art in its own right.
YouTube Poops fit a number of the suggested criteria for Art. George Dickie said that Art has to exist within an institution. Well, YouTube is a pretty big institution.
[Remark: interesting to hear some one refer to YouTube as an ‘institution (for Art)’]
But if that’s not enough for you there is also YouChew.net, the Pooper’s Paradise, where Poop theory is discussed, techniques are analyzed, Poops are even sorted even sorted according to their aesthetic value into good and bad.
Wittgenstein said that Art is creative material always was interpreted according to cultural context. Well the certainly a lot of context in YouTube Poops. If you take the audio from ‘Star Wars' and dub it over the video from 'Harry Potter' then that's not going to be a funny joke to position unless your audience already knows how separate and different those two things are. Or if you take sensor bleeps and put them over my little pony, then that's not going to be funny unless your audience knows that 'My Little Pony’, ostensibly anyway, a show aimed at a less mature audiences.
YouTube Poops have a lot in common with the movement known in artistic circles as surrealism. Bizarre juxtapositions, surprise non-sequiturs and randomness. Surrealism is supposed to be characterized though by unbridled emotive expression. Are YouTube Poops expressive?
I might seem weird to say that remixes can be expressive of an emotion or an attitude, but in his book ‘Remix’, Lawrence Lessig wrote that the growth the TV and the Internet over old-fashioned forms of media mean that audio and video are fast becoming the new writing, the new way of expressing information. Whereas in ye’olden days, if you wanted to distribute information you kinda had to write it down and pass it around. Look how things have changed.
[Remark: if we are talking about the popularity of a particular form, then I agree. If we are talking about the processes of production and distribution, then I strongly disagree since we still have to take time to ‘write’ down our ideas (in whatever form: text, audio, video, computer-code…) and pass them around. It is nonetheless true that the means to produce and distribute information have become more versatile, ubiquitous and perhaps accessible (though inclusion-specialists might disagree about this last item).]
Look at the use of infographics to give info, rage faces to express emotions, the rise of the reaction gif. Remixes can of course be expressive. Remixes can be thought-provoking, evocative, even political.
Whether an individual YouTube Poop is expressive probably depends on the Poopers themselves. Many make it out of boredom or for amusement or for catharsis. Tolstoy wrote that for an artwork to be expressive on emotion the artist has to sincerely experience that emotion whilst making it. And if a Pooper experiences amusement which is then communicated to the audience, then hasn’t something been expressed there, namely: lolz?