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Saturday, January 30, 2010

VIDEO DADA & YouTube as "Gallery"

This coming week is the last week to catch a show at UC Irvine that's featuring one of my pieces -- something I did for the YouTube Commentary Project. I very much wish I could make it down to see the show -- it sounds both fascinating and overwhelming.

Here's the press release on it:

UC Irvine, University Art Gallery / Room Gallery Presents:

An exhibition and project by Martha Gever

Opening Reception Thursday, January 7, 6-9 pm | UAG
January 7- February 6, 2010

VIDEO DADA: No repeat of history, not neo-Dada, but still wreaking havoc with conventional parameters of art. Nowadays inventive, intelligent, and aesthetically sophisticated videos can be seen far afield, outside traditional art venues like museums and galleries. And artists circulate their videos on a much wider scale than that achieved by any television network. VIDEO DADA asks how these changes complicate the conceptual and aesthetic contours of art. The exhibition features 300 plus videos — playing on eight screens — by individual artists and art collectives that circulate in the hurly-burly multiverse of the internet. Some serious, some humorous, and some both at once, these works exercise manifold strategies: absurd drama, wry animation, politically astute collage, wild performance, and uncategorizable others. Some play with music; some incorporate extraordinary written or spoken texts; some prefer silence and all the noise that offers. In sum, VIDEO DADA surveys the internet’s amalgamation of popular culture and art, calling into question the difference between the two.

And, yes, there may be echoes of Dada: “Dadaism was no ideological movement but an organic product that came into existence as a reaction against the cloud- cuckoo -land tendencies of so-called sacred art.... while military leaders painted in blood.” — George Grosz, 1924 .

Gever has written a thought-provoking essay for the exhibition, examining the qualities of YouTube as a sort of art-delivery mechanism (unfortunately, the essay isn't online). She has a clear eye for some of the cultural repercussions of YouTube, ranging from copyright struggles to contested notions of democratization to the elevation of amateurism beyond aesthetics into a kind of basic phenomenological fact. The essay is admirably free of the kind of blinkered utopianism that usually comes with technological appraisals -- without being closed off to some of the exciting possibilities bubbling up through the chaos of the new. I can't reduce the essay to a pithy one-liner, but she does have a good summing up of the biases of YouTube as a venue: "The non-hierarchical, uncurated organization of YouTube provides a fitting venue for videos that are fleeting, provisional, rowdy, rude, epigrammatic, overtly political, or otherwise unruly in the terms that govern more disciplined precints of art."

The show got a positive review in the OC Weekly -- here's a quote:

...The show is as stylistically and thematically diverse as it is sprawling, exploring such varied topics as sexuality, politics, drama, feminism, pop culture, animation, multiculturalism and comic relief—the sheer size of the exhibition speaks to the diversity of the medium.

Read the full review here.

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