<videovortex> the-artistic-limitations-of-youtube-mash-up

Geert Lovink geert at xs4all.nl
Sun May 30 12:55:20 CEST 2010


For those readers who don’t scour AFC’s comment boards, pbd fleshed  
out the limitations of video mash-ups as art and Rashaad Newsome’s The  
Conductor (fortuna imperatix mundi) & The Conductor (primo vere, omnia  
sol temperat), on Monday’s post. This is valuable stuff, so I’ve  
posted the meat of it below:
pbd: i was watching Conductor thinking “rapper hand gestures don”t  
match basic conductor patterns (hands always go up on the last beat of  
a bar). is that a minus? all his cuts are right on beat without fail,  
is that a plus? cuts on beat aren’t hard to do, is that a minus? focus  
on mid 90s bad boy records in the first movement suggests artist  
favors east coast over west coast, is that a plus? and where are bone  

If all the artistic gestures within the piece reduce to the one line  
statements above, the piece isn’t saying that much. But what about  
the  dialogue between the two pieces? Howard Halle points out later  
the lyrics of the Carmina Burana’s most well-known passage are all  
about fate, “the monstrous and empty”—and fortune—”detestable life,  
now difficult and then easy.” pbd responds,

pbd: to me, whatever informational connection one can deduce from a  
mashup based on it’s source material, i’d really doubt it’s something  
due to seeing it as a mashup…as in it’s something you didn’t already  
know about the source material on it’s own. so then, what is the  
potential of a mashup to say anything new?

a crude analogy might be to say that i know 3 + 2 is 5. i wasn’t  
thinking about it at the moment it was pointed out again in a mashup,  
which adds a 3 with a 2, but that doesn’t mean the artwork has any  
information in it.

so all of howards connections make sense, but for me they don’t  
support the work cos in the way i’m interested in looking at artworks,  
those connections are more or less meaningless. they aren’t specific  
to the action of the artist in the work i’m viewing, they are specific  
to source material i’m already familiar with on its own terms. unless  
a mashup has some insane technical apparatus behind it, i don’t think  
it can function as anything other than a guilty pleasure if that. and  
i learned this from making and exhibiting mashups :)

to quote craig mack’s verse on flava in ya ear remix, one of the  
videos featured in Conductor’s first movement (and which of course  
we   don’t hear):

“Word up don’t rap no crap you bore me,
Wanna grab my dick…too lazy…hold it for me.”

if it aint broke dont fix it, right?

i think the reason is that the language of mashup is so limited. you  
have two sources, edits, and that’s it. it’s a bit like working with  
presets in a way, in that the thing you make is actually a comment on  
the the self-imposed limits you’re employing, perhaps the social  
conditions that predicated them, etc. but presets can be many things… 
code, interface, hardware, microsoft word, protocol, whatever –    
there’s room to move and material selections to make.

with a mashup you don’t even have that…by definition you have  
flattened youtube pop culture element a and you combine it with  
flattened youtube pop culture element b. it’s 2010, so a and b are  
almost equivalent anyway. good luck coming up with anything to say in  
that system!

Needless to say, this is undoubtedly the most useful breakdown on the  
limitations of video mash-ups as art I’ve read to date.

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