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The video in the previous post re-edits a promotion for a major, arts-supporting retailer, discussed here. The company hires street taggers, or actors playing street taggers, or artists making art that looks like street tagging (not sure which). As documented on the company's video, two taggers have a "paint off" or "paint beef" to see who is the better artist. To a slow-rolling hiphop beat, they start out painting their own individual white cubes like it's a real competition but then they begin painting the air with Adobe Illustrator-ish digital graffiti, then the painting on the cubes comes to life and hovers in the air like cyber-Judy Pfaff room abstractions, and the two cubes merge into a single installation that looks like it was all done by one person. We've neglected to mention that the company's logo appears in the installation and actually zooms out at the viewer.
"Art for All" [5.6 MB .mp4]
"Art for Others" [mp3 removed]
One afterthought on Cindy Sherman vs Webcammers: the comparison made the most sense in the earlier days of cams, when bandwidth and the "state of the art" limited the cammer to a series of still photos. Most of the journalistic focus in say, the late '90s, was on privacy issues and the pics were treated as straightforward documentary "slices of life" rather than what they also were--a string of self-composed photos placing form and content demands on the cammer. A series of fictions that may or may not have related to someone's actual life, and in the case of "sex worker" camming were home-run small businesses. Thus you had playacting, dressing up, and adventurous camera angles just to keep viewers interested, and the record of these performances was a series of individual photos that could be collected, separated from the main stream, passed around the net, etc. The difference between this and Sherman's untitled film stills was just a matter of highbrow vs lowbrow intent, a vastly different collector apparatus, and no critics willing to furrow their brows over the cammers. Some might say that's all the difference in the world but I think the gap is pretty small. In the age of MySpace intro videos Sherman's relevance fades because of the time element. Now instead of postModern tableaux vivants we have basement cinema that refers to other cinema.
I have a college chum teaching at Va Tech, just emailed him after many years to see if he's OK. I'm avoiding TV but guessing the shooter is dominating the news cycle. It's tragic beyond belief and difficult to comprehend how one person could be that alienated and furious. I guess it's inevitable that the Pres had to get involved with this, speechifying and what not. But it makes me sick seeing him in the news photos.
Update: My friend is OK.
Update 2: Firedoglake:
I remember during Columbine there were measures taken to assure that the gunmen's videos and writings didn't get released to the public, and that they did not become cult heros as a result of their actions. It seemed like a bit of decency amidst the mayhem. I really don't know what's to be gained journalistically by [MSNBC] broadcasting the killer's videos other than a ratings bonanza, but it seems quite ghoulish.
Petra Cortright's vvebkm (YouTube) - An Exchange from Paddy Johnson's Blog Comments - Cindy Sherman Reference Partially Explained
Paddy Johnson (Mar. 27, 2007):
Four days ago Tom Moody posted Petra Cortright’s webcam video and since then I’ve been struggling to articulate why the aesthetics of this piece of go beyond taking a few clip images from the web and slapping them on a video. Unlike a David Shrigley piece, which uses humor so obvious its value requires no explanation, a cam featuring a still figure, dancing pizzas, and falling snow to an electronic beat may require a little more discussion.
Probably the most amusing aspect of this work lies in the fact that it’s basically a documentation of a live performance, in which you watch someone concentrate on their computer screen for the duration of a song. I realize this comment tends to incite a host of responses most of which begin something to the effect of “So why am I looking at this?”, and while there’s no response to this if you don’t find the redundancies of web surfing that so many net artists like to highlight funny, there’s also a level of virtuosity in the live arrangement of gifs etc, that needs to be called to attention. Cortright’s webcam piece succeeds because her dancing pizzas are unexpected, and the snow and lightening seem almost delicately placed. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you have to spend a lot of time with these seemingly crappy images not only to gain a sensibility for how to use them, but how to read them. It’s not that Cortright found the most exquisite buzzing bee and flower on the net, it’s that she thought to use it, and then did it so well. It’s a skill very few people have.
27 Mar 2007 at 9:16 pm1--tom:
These icons may all be defaults that come with the webcam program or host. I don’t know for sure. Cortright says in the comments “i need to put more curated imagery into this but the defaults were still pretty good!!” [Update - Make magazine editor Phillip Torrone plays with the same webcam in this YouTube in what seems more like an extended product promotion for logitech--thx paul)]
So the artistry is mostly in the timing, I think, plus the “live” nature of the performance, the choice of music (the ceephax is pleasantly spacy), and playing on our expectations of what a cam person is supposed to do. Instead of mugging, pouting, and otherwise playing directly to an imagined audience she’s concentrating on the behind-the-scenes work of manipulating the images, which are not particularly sexy. The audience is still staring at her (and one commenter is rather hitting on her with that “smile” line) but she’s only giving you her image and what she does. This relates to Marisa Olson’s videos of herself listening to music, too, I think.
My great unwritten essay (or not so great) is on how the camgirl and camboy phenomenon relates to Cindy Sherman and her “self-empowering” use of her own image to act out media tropes (she’s a millionaire and they...have lots of internet friends). Pieces like Cortright’s are even more punk than that–as if Sherman were taking photos of herself loading and unloading the camera and setting up the lights instead of being the “actress.”
27 Mar 2007 at 10:00 pm 2--paddy:
It’s true - the timing is done extremely well.
I’m not sure I’m understanding your comment on Cindy Sherman correctly. Are you saying that work like Cortright’s is more punk than Sherman’s because there’s a greater DIY element to it? If so, I suppose there’s some element of truth to that, but I suspect Sherman was just as broke when she was in her twenties and making that work, and probably didn’t have too much help past the necessities. Does the DIY aspect of it really add that much to this particular piece?
28 Mar 2007 at 12:13 am3--tom:
Punk in the sense of a guitarist keeping her back to the audience while playing rather than doing all the emotive face moves that say “I’m happy, I’m in pain, look at me, love me.” Here Cortright is looking down and “working.”
The early, classic Sherman work was DIY and done on the cheap. It’s not her fault she got canonized so early and was forced ever thereafter to work with big budgets.
My point in bringing her up (I think) was how web cammers kind of do what she did early on instinctively. It’s personal or self-centric photography, but still a series of media tropes (the “working girl,” the “ingenue,” “Marilyn” etc) Whereas Cortright isn’t going there–she’s a nerd pushing buttons to summon kitties and pizza slices and you just happen to be watching her.
28 Mar 2007 at 12:43 am4--paddy:
I really like that punk reference.
Interestingly, one of the things I was going to bring up in the post that got lost for whatever reason, was that the piece reminded me of how in the late 90’s and early 2000 people would go see DJ’s spin, and various musicians working with electronics perform, and complain that it was totally dull watching people turn a few nobs for hours on end. Like any good net artist, Cortright knows that about a minute and a half of nob turning is fascinating - do much more than that and you’ve lost your audience. It makes me feel like the piece builds something positive into a tradition of performance that often suffered from some significant problems just a short time ago.
Ludwig Schwarz - "Three Point Play" [Quicktime .mov]
"How fantastic was that? It might be a bit corny as they say, but if you want to see something really corny, look at this..."