Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Couldn't resist. We love Rodin. And Moby's pretty okay, too.
MULTIMEDIA. YouTube takes a beating for many excellent reasons. It would be easy to get the idea from the MSM and even YouTube's own lists of favorites that the site consists of all that is low and despicable in the human condition. It is swept by fads -- girls beating up girls, boys torturing cats or breaking their own bodies in stupid stunts, disgruntled spouses and other exes spilling sewage about matters best left private, lunatics ranting into webcams about their fanatical beliefs and causes, music videos that call to mind the artifacts of archaeological research into dead civilizations. It is also pervaded by all things sentimental and cloying -- cute babies doing cute things, cute puppies doing cute things, tributes to cute child actors of the past, etc.
But the uncomfortable truth is that YouTube is a mirror. Whatever you are looking for there you will likely find. It's a vast repository of cultural memory, something like a computer version of Jung's collective unconscious. All the building blocks of our own memories are there -- sports, music, TV, celebrities, politics, commercials, science, technology, war, history, movies past and present, sex, and even religion..
It's no wonder the copyright and trademark battles surrounding YouTube are so fierce. How do you copyright the personal, individual memories that make up individual consciousness and the soul of the world? You don't, really. You can try, but this is an arena in which the law is lost and the value of the whole so transcends the mechanisms of government that constraining it becomes an effective impossibility. You may win a skirmish or two, but you will inevitably lose the larger fight. YouTube is bigger than all of us.
That's why we decided today to look for things that don't get much press. Not too surprisingly, a earch for "art" turns up positive and beautiful new permutations of classic masterpieces across the ages. A multimedia vehicle like YouTube has an unprecedented ability to make art personal again, to share individual perceptions that take flat canvases off the museum walls and restore the kinetic play of emotion and light and process which animated the genius of the artists.
The available tools are extensive and the results are accordingly varied. It's possible to rejuvenate old art in many ways -- by moving cameras, the addition of soundtracks, the sequencing of images, the use of playful animation, and even reenactments of the creative process. I suppose one could dismiss all this as a decadent, post-modern by-product of the end of art, but I suspect that it is only the beginning of a new epoch in art -- the resurrection of the old into a brand new synthesis that uses the past to inspire a creative explosion capable of capitalizing on the technology which is presently redefining everyone's experience of life. The innovations thus far are still rudimentary, but in some cases multimedia technology already seems to represent a completion and fulfillment of the artist's intention. Here, for example, is a YouTube permutation of Escher:
Yes, it's a lowball interpretation of what is implicit in the original, but don't you find yourself wondering what Escher himself would have done if he'd had access to our technology? Well, I do.
And does anybody else share my curiosity about what the cubists were trying to say, what they would have said if they had a software suite half as good as what's available to the average MySpace dude?
Or think about Dali. What would he have done with a computer?
And would Matisse have liked this presentation of his paintings? I have to think he would.
You think it only works with the moderns? Not true. Here's what seem to be the first of what will be innumerable new treatments of Hieronymus Bosch.
3-D by God. Are you starting to get the idea that a new engine is rumbling in the background of art? That's all I'm suggesting. Although I can't quit before I highlight an interesting trend with regard to the works of one of my own favorite artists, Edward Hopper. People aren't animating him. (Correct. He was a sculptor in paint.) They're scoring him. And I confess myself surprised. It never occurred to me that his work was jazz:
Truthfully, the Big Band thing isn't working for me. But whoever did it is not alone. Here's another.
Personally, I'm thinking the opaque solipsism of Miles Davis or John Coltrane would be more appropriate than the vitality of "Sing, Sing, Sing" or the schmaltz of Glen Miller. But that's the beauty of YouTube. If I disagree enough to do something about it, I can do something about it.
As a final note, I'll show you what I interpret as an act of YouTube art criticism. It's definitely NSFW, but here's what purports to be a tribute to Jackson Pollock. Yet its effect is to make of Pollock the joke that I always thought he was. See what you think.
So that's it for today. Are you feeling artistic yet?