Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now and Then -- Performance to Performative

Amateur Viral Video

The term viral video refers to video clip content which gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email or IM messages, blogs and other media sharing websites. Viral videos are often humorous in nature and may range from televised comedy sketches such as Saturday Night Live's Lazy Sunday to unintentionally released amateur video clips like Star Wars kid, the Numa Numa song, The Dancing Cadet, and The Evolution of Dance.

'You' named Time's person of 2006

"You" have been named as Time magazine's Person of the Year for the growth and influence of user-generated content on the internet.

The US magazine praised the public for "seizing the reins of the global media" and filling the web's virtual world.

Time has been giving its controversial awards since 1927, aiming to identify those who most affect the news.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Chinese leader Hu Jintao and North Korea's Kim Jong-il were 2006 runners.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, his wife Melinda and rock star Bono won the accolade last year and recent winners also include President George W Bush in 2004, and "The American Soldier" in 2003.

'Wresting power'

The magazine said naming a collectivity rather than an individual reflected the way the internet was shifting the balance of power within the media through blogs, videos and social networks.

Time cited websites such as YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Wikipedia, which allow users to interact with the web by uploading and publishing their own comments, videos, pictures and links.

"It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes," Time magazine's Lev Grossman writes.

Time praised the tool that made such broad collaboration possible - the web.

"It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter," Mr Grossman said.

Time aims to pick "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill".

Early Video Art ---

When Sony released its first portable video camera, the Portapak, in 1968, the three M's—McLuhan, Marcuse, and marijuana—determined the political framework of America's young intelligentsia. The first generation of video artists mapped and defined a utopian territory, voiced in the influential magazine Radical Software. The titles of two books written by contributors to Radical Software are enough to sample the ideological scope that a technological advent helped to foster: Paul Ryan's Birth and Death and Cybernation: Cybernetics of the Sacred (1972) and Michael Shamberg's Guerrilla Television (1971). The communitarian use of video paralleled the development of cable television. Control of the means of production, copyright, and distribution blurred the frontiers between activism, local news forecasting, and art-making.

From my own experience, I felt that early on there were two distinct developments evident. The one you first mentioned, camera/body/monitor, is best seen in the early tapes by Bruce Nauman or Vito Acconci. They were coming out of what became known as "body art" but also from a projection of an inner psychological state. But there was also another area of development, which was to create alternative forms to broadcast television. Here the concern was with relationships to and through the community, or a much more social "self." Both fields overlapped. With regard to the self and the body, many works were developed in the isolation of the artist's studio, such as Bruce Nauman's 1968 Stamping in the Studio, where he inverted the camera so that to the viewer he appears to be walking on the ceiling. Even though he repeatedly stamps in a rhythmic, almost primitive pattern, he is not really participating in any social or communal rite. He remains individualized in his own studio. Acconci's Centers (1971) has the artist pointing at his own image on the video monitor, attempting to keep his finger in the center of the screen. He was pointing away from himself and to an outside viewer. In that work he introduces another aspect of video: using the video monitor as a mirror. The work also begins to take advantage of the self-reflexive potential of video by becoming more aware of the psychology of interpersonal relationships.

Dara Birnbaum is a New York-based artist who is widely recognized as a pioneer in the video medium. She is the recipient of the American Film Institute's prestigious Maya Deren Award, among numerous other awards from international film and video festivals.