August 15, 2008
How Is YouTube Not the Greatest Art Project Ever?
The question just occurred to me: How is YouTube not the greatest art project ever?
Imagine a slightly parallel dimension where Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim aren’t web engineers from Silicon Valley but instead art scenesters from New York. They know the language of the art world; they know how to present work in that context.
But they also have tech chops — NYU ITP grads, say — so their project isn’t a painting or an avante-garde video but a web app. It’s a platform, a system.
And that project grows into YouTube — one of the craziest, most kaleidoscopic reflections of humanity we’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful. It totally encapsulates and embodies the spirit of the age. And, in our parallel dimension, as the YouTube guys struggle with servers and scalability, they’re also submitting it to juried shows and, I don’t know, biennials or whatever. They are framing it.
Isn’t that high art? Isn’t that incredibly successful, important art?
Now, forget the commercial objection, because for years YouTube didn’t run a single ad. And let’s push our parallel dimension even further and say that Google signs on not as the project’s acquirer but as its patron. The Medici of Mountain View!
Am I missing some foundational idea or definition here? I don’t actually know anything about art (though I will admit I am in this frame of mind b/c I just strolled through SFMOMA yesterday) — what would the knee-jerk art-scholar reaction be?
And what do you think?