‘This Is Your Brain on Video’
Two years ago, a YouTube member named MadV uploaded a short video in which he held his hand up to the camera, showing what he’d written on his palm: “One World”; he then urged viewers to respond. Within a few days, the responses numbered in the hundreds. Users displayed similar messaged written on their hands—”Don’t Quit!” “Tread gently.” “Think.” “Carpe diem.” “Open your eyes.” “They could be gone tomorrow!” are the messages that Clive Thompson notes in his Wired magazine article about the video.
Eventually, MadV had 2,000 replies to his video, the most of any video in YouTube’s history. MadV then combined the responses into a long montage, which you can still watch on YouTube.
Thompson’s question is ontological: what is a video like this? “It isn’t quite a documentary; it isn’t exactly a conversation or a commentary, either. It’s some curious mongrel form,” he writes. He goes on to talk about how the internet has changed culture—has given everyone the tools to create videos, and thus to communicate through video. He concludes with this prediction:
A [big] leap will occur when we get better tools for archiving and searching video. Then we’ll start using it the way we use paper or word processing: to take notes or mull over a problem, like Tom Cruise flipping through scenes at the beginning of “Minority Report.” We think of video as a way to communicate with others—but it’s becoming a way to communicate with ourselves.
I don’t know what to make of all this, really. Part of me really wants to tie it to Harrell. What MadV did seems Harrell-esque in its dependence on non-artists, in its participatory nature. MadV’s “artist-as-facilitator” stance is also kind of similar to the way Harrell relates to his material, to the subjects of his work. I’m reminded of Fletcher’s 2004 video piece “Hello Friend” in which various residents of Queens walk around their neighborhood, pick up objects off the ground, and present them to the camera in their open hand. In both pieces, video seems to have been stripped down to some kind of essential nature where the combination of clips seems almost syntactic. I’m also reminded of Learning To Love You More, with its similar use of the internet to generate content by a variety of people worldwide. If I were to make an analogy, I’d say MadV’s piece is to its constituent pieces as the Learning To Love You More book is to people’s individual responses. I know that’s not quite right, but I think it’s an interesting connection nonetheless.
It also seems kind of Jen-esque, if only because of the writing on hands which reminds me of “Heart Felt Connection”. But even more generally, it seems like the kind of thing she’d be into.