Sunday, August 26, 2007

Star Wars Kid VS. Naumann

Star Wars Kid 2002

The boy made a video of himself swinging a golf ball retriever around as a weapon, imitating the Darth Maul character from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace who wields a double-bladed lightsaber. The video was filmed at the studio of his high school, and the tape was left forgotten in a basement. The original owner of the videotape discovered his recorded acts and immediately shared it with some friends. Thinking that it would be a funny prank, they encoded it to a WMV file and shared it using the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing network.

Within two weeks, the file was downloaded several million times. An adapted version of the video was created, adding Star Wars music, texts, and lightsaber lights and sounds to his golf ball retriever.

As of 27 November 2006 it has been estimated by The Viral Factory that the videos had been viewed over 900 million times, making it the most popular "viral video" on the Internet. Because of the creation of YouTube, it may have been seen almost a billion times.[1]


Bruce Naumann stamping in the studio 1968

In 1966, just graduated, Nauman contemplated what it was that an artist was supposed to do. He concluded that 'if I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art.' Art at this point 'became more of an activity and less of a product' and he began to use his body as a material.

Concerned to incorporate the mundane elements of daily life into his work, Nauman used his behaviour, obsessively pacing around the studio, as the starting point for a series of films and videos made from 1967-69. He recorded himself performing simple, repetitive activities, each responding to a specific 'problem' suggested in the title. Physically and mentally demanding, these actions were often performed for one hour – the length of a videotape. As a result, the threat of failure is ever present, evoking in the viewer an empathy Nauman described as a 'body response'.

Although made much later, Setting a Good Corner (Allegory and Metaphor) 1999, responds to a similar set of concerns. Once again, the artist records himself performing a repetitive, mundane task, this time from the daily life on his ranch in New Mexico.

The figure in these recordings, which are endlessly looped, becomes a metaphor for the rituals and struggles of human existence and owes much to the plays and stories of Samuel Beckett that Nauman first read in 1966. Nauman shares with Beckett an obsession with the human condition: both use repetitive, non-productive and often solitary physical activity to reveal the lot of humankind – its modes of behaviour, frustrations, abilities and frailty.

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