Video Art on YouTube: The Name is Equivocal (October 27, 2009)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
During the Fall of 2009, I wrote a series of blog posts about video art on YouTube. I had been asked to write an essay about this question by Ming-Yuen Ma and Erika Suderberg, the editors of Resolution 3: Video Praxis in Global Spaces, a large collection of contemporary essays on video art. With their permission, I conceived of the essay in advance, to be composed of these blogs and printed with paltry frame grabs of YouTube videos, as a way to point to my growing discomfort about writing and publishing about YouTube on paper.
In The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhyanathan asks: "What does the world look like through the lens of Google? How is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge? And how has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states?"[cit]

The protocols (a set of instructions for transferring data) for allowing search and find within an archive or database are key to controlling what and how we know, govern, sell, and teach. "Is the Internet a vast arena of unrestricted communication and freely exchanged information or a regulated, highly structured virtual bureaucracy? In Protocol, Alexander Galloway argues that the founding principle of the Net is control, not freedom, and that the controlling power lies in the technical protocols that make network connections (and disconnections) possible."[cit]

Since video's commercial availability in the late 1960s, video art has been a developing use of the medium: "The history of video itself is a long and ever-evolving tale, and with online media becoming dominant and new methods like walk-on-video being produced, it will no doubt continue to grow."[cit]

YouTube Play, a Biennial of Creative Video went on view in October 2010. "Those who thought they heard the barbarians at the gate when the Guggenheim announced this project can exhale. There is no rabble here, only technically savvy competence," writes Roberta Smith for The New York Times Art Review.[cit]
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More videos related to the content of this page
"VIDEO ART. The name is equivocal. A good name. It leaves open all the questions and asks them anyway. Is this an art form, a new genre? An anthology of valued activity conducted in a particular arena defined by display on a cathode ray tube? The kind of video made by a special class of people--artists--whose works are exhibited primarily in what is called 'the art world'--ARTISTS' VIDEO?"
David Antin, from "Video: The Distinctive Features of the Medium," Video Art, 1976

Searching for videos on YouTube is never the best way to find them. (Random, happy surprises based on a loosely calculated flow and invented terms channeling the zany, half-baked logic of a teenager is the only path that gets you anything near like what you want.) I'll attest that you can't find much video art there by searching that or any other concrete term, such as the other common one, art video, if you are looking for the practices already heralded as such by the authorities of the art world, academia, or independent media.

As proves typical of the site, what you do find gives some indication of non-expert understandings of both concepts and the words that define them, mixed up, of course, with corporate and individual's shenanigans (adding unrelated but popular search terms in order to achieve higher hits.) "Video art" finds videos about art—little of it high, most very low—as well as videos with the word "art" in their titles: whether that be the man's name, the antiquated use of "to be," or industrial crafts repackaged for better sales.

As ever, the populist ways of YouTube dominate. The everyday practices (and crafts) of everyday people—making coffee and doing nails, skateboarding and pole dancing, painting with sand or pixels—snatch the term from the realm of experts, professionals, and artists and reattach it to products and activities understood, and loved, because they are ever ready to buy and consume.