by Rosalyn Hunter
This week I watched the Youtube music awards . A chaotic and someone uneven affair with alternating moments of exhilaration and lameness. But watching the show brought to mind how much more collaborative the world is now than it was in the past.
In the audience of the show, dozens of people watched while holding up their phones. They were recording the events, no doubt planning to post these videos up on the internet as well. For most people, modern video production is as close as their cellular phones. And it isn’t just shows that people film. People are recording all sorts of things from their day to day lifes.
This prevalence of direct primary information about the world has changed the way that we get our news, as well as what we expect from our art. Art is no longer something that is produced by others simply for us to watch. Art today is a collaborative medium: A call and response where someone makes the art, and others respond to it by posting their thoughts online.
Take for example Gangnam Style . What started out as a politically-critical music video by a Korean pop star became an internet phenomena spawning parodies , recreations , and covers as well as making itself into mainstream media sources (such as broadcast radio).
People are no longer willing to leave art alone. They want to be part of it. With multimedia software, cheaper storage media, and video recording more accessible than ever, responses to art become the norm rather than the exception.
A purer form of this is the Harlem Shake . A group of people make a silly video to a snippet of a niche song, and before the month is out, thousands have made their own video responses . Some requiring the cooperation of hundreds of people .
Why do this?
Because the new media allows normal people to add their bit to a worldwide conversation. And this was a conversation because the final versions of the Harlem Shake were very little like the original. Every group had their own interpretation, adding bits to the dance that were preserved in later versions. Their productions are a way for them to communicate and show that they are part of a larger human culture. Strange as it may seem, dressing up in funny clothes and dancing around in front of a camera can show solidarity with others who are far removed physically and socially. To say, ‘I understand the joke!’ To say, ‘We are not so different’. It is a way to make Collaborative Art.
Reproducing popular memes is also a way to draw attention to the conditions of people in other parts of the globe or as political commentary.
US Navy and Marines in Afghanistan Gangnam Style Parody
Art has become, not simply something to observe, but something to be a part of, and that makes this time a very exciting time to be alive.