Friday, April 3, 2009
JODI, "YouTube Records," 2009
So, JODI, apparently, is taking YouTube videos of people singing, etching them into vinyl records, playing them on a turntable and recording it, posting the resulting video to YouTube.
It's a very un-JODI project, but I love it. Here are four things I said to some kid about what the "point" was. So, here are four points.
1. I collect records, even though I could have MP3's. I also put out a print newspaper even though it could exist entirely on the Web. But putting something into a tangible form like a CD or a record - or a newspaper, or a printed photograph - has a much heavier resonance and feeling than simply looking at it on the screen and storing it on a hard drive. We have a vastly different relationship with digital media than we do with tangible media we can hold in our hands. Why?
2. Our relationships with the media we make. Everyone is producing something on YouTube, even if it is some kid singing along to Alicia Keys. So when someone takes that and elevates it to the status of a record, you can say they're actually taking that culture a lot more seriously than its producers are. So what does that say about the producers? And the state of what it means to be a producer, on the Internet, where everyone is producing and producing into a channel of complete obscurity? (Ira Glass talks about what a giant act of will it is to make anything that isn't mediocre, that entropy drives creativity into mediocrity. This would seem to sum up the Internet.)
3. The YouTube fantasy: When people post videos of themselves singing along to something, they do it, at least a little bit, out of the hope that they'll be "discovered," or made famous. They throw themselves a little bit into the mythology of the spectacle in the hopes of swept up into part of the spectacle's machinery. Then JODI comes along and links to a video of themselves playing a record they made of your version of a song - and it's a very weird way of playing with that idea and notion. I see it as kind of a celebration of that dorky impulse to celebrity - a "Hey, you're a star to us, kiddo!" kind of thing, but it could also be cynical. It's probably both. JODI is hard to read.
4. They're saying, "This is something we want to preserve," but why? It seems funny to want to preserve throw-away YouTube videos, to elevate them to a collectible status. But if that's the case, why look at YouTube at all?