If you’ve got 80 minutes to spare, watch RiP: A Remix Manifesto, a probing investigation into how culture builds upon culture in the information age.
If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, watch Professor Lawrence Lessig‘s TED Talk, where he shows how current laws strangle creativity.
But if you’ve only 3 minutes to spare, watch Madeon‘s live mashup of 39 songs while asking yourself this: Should each of the sampled artists have the power to demand this video be removed due to copyright infringement?
This digital video art titled ‘Oops’ by Chris Beckman is composed entirely of appropriated YouTube videos, seamlessly stitched together via a motif of camera drops, which according to the artist “serves both as transportative adventure and metaphorical elucidation of YouTube itself (i.e. endless related videos) exemplifying the Internet’s infinite repository of ‘throwaway’ social documentation”. This work was awarded a 2010 Vimeo Award.
This does not reference the original. This isn’t an homage. This is the lazy man’s way of looking creative without actually being creative. It’s copying someone else’s work down to the smallest detail and hoping no one will notice.
Read my original post here.
Suing YouTube for 1 billion dollars, Viacom in their opening statements (which have been made public today) claimed the leading video site does not do enough in dealing with copyrighted material; To which YouTube retorted:
For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.
I don’t watch much Israeli TV these days, but when I do I am usually insulted by what I perceive as a general lack of effort. One specific trend that seems to catch on, be it within the actual shows or during their commercial breaks, is this notion that the creative people have decided to call it quits and just copy the latest viral video they stumbled upon on YouTube. Zero creativity, zero added value. Copy and paste.
This YouTube-Copy-and-Paste trend is in its infancy and so I am unable to eloquently dissect and analyze it, but suffice to say it feels inauthentic and corrosive in its nature – and yet very typical of this falsehood of a culture we are gradually becoming.
And so if all that I can do is point to it – pointing I shall:
Excerpt from show: Dancing with the Stars
Show promo: Shavua Sof
TV Ad: Shekem Electric
Last week Israel’s Channel 2 News had a segment about brides and grooms that want their wedding to be different. Apparently, after watching a couple of viral wedding videos they thought to themselves: “Yeah, how about we do something original for a change: Let’s do exactly what those other people did…”. Forget about holy matrimony, these people are here to entertain you on their quote-unquote “most important day” of their lives.
The segment is in Hebrew, but you don’t really need to understand the language in order to understand this copycat phenomenon should be studied by both psychologists and sociologists. You can skip over the first 55 seconds:
Captcha, those ‘Are you human?’ tests usually appear when signing up for services, but now they pop up when you least expect them, like searching for a video on YouTube. Something in the way I use YouTube must be triggering the YouTube beast, as it challenges me to a duel so often it has become a nuisance.
Now I am not dyslexic and my English skills are just fine, so when I noticed I was failing YouTube’s Captcha tests in succession, sometimes passing the test only after my sixth or seventh attempt, I started to get suspicious.
Above are 16 YouTube Captcha tests I personally believe failed recently. Some of them are so simple and obvious that you might think there would be no problem ‘solving’ them – but you’d be wrong. And the fact they need to be quote-unquote solved, is just what’s wrong with the system as these reverse Turing tests are supposed to come natural. Facebook, for example, asks you to type in real words – and I never seem to fail their tests.
Apparently Professor Lawrence Lessig has bigger problems with machines going wild. Here is a lecture he gave three days ago titled “Will Technology Change Our World”:
I have previously addressed IP-based advertising and how it virtually never works in a tiny country like Israel. Lately, I have been seeing a lot of Holocaust related content popping on my screen while I am on YouTube or Facebook, and it gets to be quite annoying.
You see, whenever anyone visits a website, there are certain details about them that are revealed automatically: their IP address, the browser they use, their screen resolution etc. Many websites do not bother to collect this information at all, while others use it for statistic purposes. A lot of websites, like Facebook in our case, show ads relevant to the visitor’s geographical location using an IP-to-city query.
Other website giants, like YouTube, are smart enough to suggest content relevant to the visitor’s location, based on the same mentioned query. All this is good and dandy, except lately everyone and their mother hopped on the user-generated content wagon, and the result for the average Israeli surfer is a bombardment of Holocaust related material, shoved in the face of every Tomer, Dikla or Ari.
Now, I would understand if YouTube somehow got a hold of a list of neo-Nazis, and wanted to mess with their heads so that every time they visit YouTube they would get non-stop Yad Vashem survivor testimonials at the ‘Featured Videos’ section. That would be awesome, and might even prove to be a positive educational experience for a bigot or two.
It’s just that I don’t understand why the unsuspecting Israeli should get the same treatment. As a third-generation Holocaust survivor, I prefer not to be lectured about it whenever I search for the latest skateboarding dog shenanigans, thank you very much.
Last week, a friend of mine saw one of my photo collages and mentioned an amazing video she saw. The video, by Canadian artist and illustrator Ray Fenwick, is made out of three videos found on YouTube (#1, #2, #3), in each one a different woman sings Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. Check out the two versions of this work, before reading my interview with the artist, as conducted today:
And now for the interview:
Shahar Golan: YouTube, the new ‘Mirror with a Memory’, spawned so many cultural phenomena we have just started to notice and examine. Your videos, investigating a number of these aspects, could not have been made even five years ago. Can you elaborate on the ideas that triggered you to create this work?
Ray Fenwick: Well, I think a lot about the internet and its effect on culture, and internet culture itself. There is so much to think about, so many pockets of change happening at once that it’s hard not to think about. Making this work is just a way for me to wrap my head around what’s going on. I’ve never made video before this. All of my previous work has been drawing, and often they’re sort of narrative works that use humour, or kind of explore the idea of comedy. I did some drawings of friendship bracelets a while back, and that was sort of an attempt at thinking about the way the internet is redefining culture, something as simple as the idea of friendship. But ultimately no story I could think of was getting at what was interesting to me. Then one day I just stumbled upon one of these “me singing ____” videos and was totally fascinated by them.
I kind of ignored it though because I thought “I’m not a video artist, I’ll just keep drawing”. I do however make music, so I decided to synch up just the audio from a few of the videos. Then left it for a while. I put that on my ipod and found myself wanting to listen to it, which just told me that I wasn’t done with it yet. So after listening to it for a while I couldn’t resist. I liked the way it sounded, but also what it allowed me to think about. I thought the audio was doing something that could only be helped with something visual, even though I know it raises the intensity a bit.
To do the synch of the whole thing though, that process, it kind of lead me to make the cut up edited version first. You have to kind of loop small parts to get the synch right, or at least I do, and I found that these short loops were interesting. They manage to keep a lot of the earnestness and intensity even though they’re just little bits of the whole.
SG: In no particular order, here are things that popped into my mind while watching your video and its raw material:
– Seeing and being seen, allowing others to see us, and seeing ourselves while doing so.
– What we broadcast and transmit using our bodies, clothes, and the objects around us.
– Singing as this decade’s talent everyone wants to have/thinks he has.
– The awkwardness of not having something to do – as perceived during a break within a song.
– Saying ‘I love you’, saying it out loud, saying it to yourself, saying it to your significant other, saying it to complete strangers.
– Wanting to be different and unique and succumbing to being a faded xerox, a replicant.
Anything on that list you want to relate to?
RF: Well, I would say all of those things are valid readings. For me, what I’m most interested in with this stuff is the intimacy of it, the yearning to be known despite the exponentially increasing odds against that. It’s comedic, in that it makes you want to laugh because of the almost shocking directness, laugh in the way people do when they are surprised by something. Not laughing at these people, in that cruel way, but laughing at what we all do as humans living in this age. To that end, I didn’t choose people that were singing ‘badly’. These women can all sing, and it sounds good.
Also interesting to me are all the levels of intimacy. One is in front of a makeshift stage, one is in her room, and one is in a kind of home office. Even the stage, which is like a sheet hung up on a door or something, it still has this intimate feeling. The key thing is that the intimacy isn’t earned. It’s just given.
SG: How do you see the edited version correlating to the triptych version? To the raw material? Do you have any preliminary thoughts about how to exhibit this work, possibly in a video installation that includes the other aforementioned works?
RF: Well, I am going to try a few more before I think about whether to show it or not. I’m sort of working it out as I proceed. One thing I know for sure though is that I personally like the simple triptych one more, it feels more successful to me at the moment. I would love to be in a room where each separate video had one wall, so you were surrounded on three sides by the synched video. The intimacy of the video, the epic emotion of the song would be interesting at that scale I think. I feel the synched triptych is better as it feels more like a presentation of the ideas, less fussy. What do you think?
SG: I thought that seeing the synched triptych is essential to understanding the edited version, the latter being so addictive and so wonderfully sums up the ideas discussed.
RF: See, which tells me that the edited one is superfluous. Again, I think I want to try a couple other songs and see what I think about it. I think maybe why I am quick to dismiss it is that it feels so… YouTube.
SG: I do fear, though, that people who only watch the edit might falsely dismiss it as gimmicky. It is not!
RF: I hate the idea common on YouTube that everything needs to be summarized and given a hook to be relevant.
SG: I think it all depends on where you exhibit your work and who you see as your audience.
RF: Yeah, exactly. Context is everything. In a way this stuff would be even better if I hadn’t put it up online at all. In fact, haha, I put it up, then took it down for that very reason, because a day after it was online it felt like I was somehow trying to “tap in” to the sharing culture of the internet, where everything is shared without any filter. It took a talk with a friend to make me feel okay about it, or to loosen up enough.
SG: On Flickr the videos are licensed as CC-BY-NC-ND, which means the work can be shared and distributed as long as it is attributed to you, noncommercial, and it is not altered, transformed or built upon. The ‘No Derivative Works’ part of the license made me wonder, since your work is a derivative of the original videos uploaded by the three women. Was that just an oversight?
RF: Oh, it was absolutely an oversight. I had that for my other work, which is less obviously appropriated. I’m going to change that right now.
SG: Would you care to elaborate on the technical tools used in the making of these videos, and on artistic decisions worth mentioning?
RF: Well, I used really basic software for editing. The program I used for the edited version, Ableton Live, is actually intended for audio but still allows for very basic editing of video. It made sense because I could cut up the audio in a way I was used to and just have the video follow suit. I had to use something a little more robust for the triptych though. Luckily for me what I wanted was very little virtuosity in the editing of it… No transitions or titles or anything. I toyed with the idea of having the videos synched but alternating between the three videos, but it seemed less of a direct presentation. I think forcing them into synch is enough trickery.
SG: Most of your work consists of drawings, painting and comics. What made you venture into video, a new medium for you, and can you, at this very early stage, talk about the differences, apart from the obvious ones, including viewer reaction?
RF: Well, it was video itself that initiated the idea, so it didn’t make any sense to then transfer that to the world of drawing. I’m trying lately to just let an idea take the most appropriate form. As for the differences, well, people respond more to video, but that response isn’t necessarily more meaningful. But you can share a link to a video with more people than you can share a link to a painting. Which makes me a little sad.
To see more of Ray Fenwick’s art, visit his website at RayFenwick.ca