BE THE ARTS COUNCIL’S PEWDIEPIE
“This video work is an ontologically complex vehicle for the exploration of domestic space, oscillating between the predatory subtexts of the manufactured consumer sphere and its products, and an ironic postmodernist subversion of so-called “innocence” in nature.”
The Arts Council has just awarded a “seedcorn investment” £1.8 million grant to Rightster, the “global b2b video network for distribution, content-sourcing, audience engagement and monetisation”, via the National Lottery. That’s a large seed corn, approaching inexplicable James and the Giant Peach proportions. It’s in aid of a new YouTube-based multichannel network (MCN) for the arts. You never know, it may be brilliant. It may open up opportunities and wider audiences for lots of previously undersupported, excluded or underappreciated artists who deserve more recognition and reward. Stranger things have happened. Maybe they’ll genuinely bring in people other than the usual suspects and the same boring old brand name artists who really don’t need any more help. They need to do some proper research and outreach, look properly at what artists are really doing and really interested in right now instead of just going straight to the established galleries who don’t have a bloody clue about either of these things. They’re always 5-10 years behind the actual practice of most artists. Bypass institutional curators entirely, because they only know what and who they like, not what’s really happening at ground level. The AC’s previous effort, The Space, seems well-intentioned and appears to be doing something even though to me their website is such a usability horrorshow and so sparse in its content that I can’t tell what exactly they’re doing or what they’re hoping to achieve. I’m not even being sarcastic. Seriously, if anybody can explain it to me, feel free.
I really fear, though, that MCNACE* will simply favour an art world version of the lowest common denominator trash that racks up the views everywhere else on YouTube, facilitated by corporate interests like Rightster– unknown to most people, who still somehow manage to delude themselves that there’s any kind of indie, grassroots creativity or spontaneity to million hit+ channels. I’d love them to prove me wrong, but at the moment I really don’t see how it makes sense to tackle an inherently minority interest aesthetic realm like the arts with the same toolbox as uncomplicated, zero-subtext, zero-craft virals about people wearing GoPros as they leap off a cliff, or cats riding Roombas.
The biggest clue to the purpose and mentality behind these MCNs is in the very name: “channel”, like on your TV, programmed, commissioned, corralled and controlled in exactly the same way except that the investment in production and artists’ development is a fraction of what broadcasters have been accustomed to. It’s what they’ve been trying to do with varying degrees of failure since the internet became a genuinely mass medium. Does anybody remember “web portals”? And if so, do you know anyone who liked them? Start planning your new video art practice now, but only on subjects like kittens, pugs, various other pets in costumes or boxes or otherwise doing human-like stuff, screamingunhingedrunk commentaries while you play video games, what you bought when you went shopping, your dinner, reactions to or parodies of other YouTube videos, setting fire to things, cruel and psychopathic pranks, unfunny skits with you wearing a wig, drippy low-fi ukelele or piano covers of pop songs, etc.
Also, from the same link and presented in the same no biggie, FYI, just-thought-you-should-know spirit as the press release:
“Rightster applied for the MCN grant commission in May 2014. In July 2014 they bought Base79**, a company in which Arts Council Chair, Sir Peter Bazalgette, had a shareholding (declared in the Arts Council’s register of interests in November 2013). Rightster’s purchase of Base79 is a cash+shares transaction, the shares dependent on Base79’s future performance, so Sir Peter Bazalgette has a potential interest in Rightster. He has not been party to the decision to award the grant to Rightster.”
* Somebody from Rightster should contact me privately to discuss licensing this name for use on all the channel’s branding. <Tony Soprano voice> I’d like a taste of that £1.8 million, just like Baz… you know… POTENTIALLY.
** Base79 is an existing MCN, which seems fairly ghastly.