YouTube has a reputation as the social networking site with the lowest level of collective intelligence among its members. That said, it also has a lot more users than a site like Vimeo, which may sustain reasoned debate but mostly offers the alternative of indifference to the cut and thrust of YouTube. I use both, but I use YouTube more.
Fed up with some of the comments elicited by my explorations of what experimental film might be in a digital age, last month I posted on YouTube a video I’d originally entitled Watching Paint Dry – both as a humorous response to numskulls and as an examination of the aesthetics of boredom. When I uploaded the film I wasn’t that surprised to discover someone else had done a series of videos called Watching Paint Dry, which were instantly linked to mine because of related tags. When I looked at these postings they appeared to be an unchanging coloured screen without a soundtrack. I’d gone to the trouble of painting weathered wood which absorbed a coat of granular solids quickly so that you could literally see it dry in less than ten minutes. I’d also put on a soundtrack and reframed what I’d done by filming it playing back on a camera monitor – so that among other things, you can see the time counted off. The message accompanying the older but fake ‘paint drying’ videos is that most of what’s on YouTube is shit and it is more interesting to ‘watch paint dry’. This is a one-line joke which reproduces the situation it claims to decry.
So far, my paint drying video has proved less popular than much of what I’ve posted, whereas the earlier fake ‘paint drying’ video has far more hits than anything I’ve done. But then I’d have rather made a good film than got 100,000 hits for a one-line joke. And while I intend to continue with the various lines of film-making I’ve been exploring on YouTube, I decided to try a quick change of tack. I’ve just put up a film called Naked Kangaroos which I made during a trip to Melbourne in 2004 when I was working as artist-in-residence at Victorian College of the Arts. While there I went on a couple of tourist trips and filmed other tourists taking pictures. One of the excursions was to Philip Island via a wildlife sanctuary and vineyard, the other was around the harbour, and I threw in a few shots from my 26th floor harbour-side serviced apartment. Naked Kangaroos was not a film I’d planned to make public, but I’m curious to see if this video of tourists proves more popular than a more considered and carefully prepared piece like Watching Paint Dry.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!