This video, created by Scott Lawrimore and Yoko Ott, and the following essay were created as a companion pieces to this year’s MFA catalogue. The exhibition opens this weekend, the community celebration is Friday, May 23 at 7PM.
See you there!
WHATEVER: A YouTube | MFA MASH-UP
by Scott Lawrimore and Yoko Ott
So when the sucker m.c.s try to chump my style
I let them know that I’m versatile
I got style finesse and a little black book
That’s filled with rhymes and I know you wanna look
Today, how can we not speak of the university?
But there’s a thing that separates you from me
And that’s called originality…
…A tick a tock y’all a beat beat y’all
A let’s rock y’all ya don’t stop
~ A Sugarhill Gang and Jacques Derrida Mash-Up
Two voices presented as one, sampled and remixed into a new composition to create fresh meaning, the above quote and the following co-authored essay are mash-ups of ideas, reflections, opinions and critical evaluations.
We were, admittedly, implored by members of the 2008 Master of Fine Arts graduating class to do something different. With that charge, and in the spirit of originality and institutional critique offered by Sugarhill Gang and Jacques Derrida, we searched for different beats. Embrace the syncopation.
This MFA thesis exhibition is a culmination of two years spent refining thought and perfecting craft; this catalog the record. Both represent a transition out of a safe academic environment. The feedback loops of studio critiques and oral thesis defenses amongst their peers and advisors are now reverberating in a new forum where the audience is redefined, expanded, and viewer response amped up and tuned in to new frequencies. With the rite of passage of graduation—and degrees labeling these individuals as masters in their field—nineteen freshly dubbed artists are about to be released into circulation. This is their major-label debut. It is a new product launch and we’re supposed to be writing advertising copy, not only for the graduates, but also for the University of Washington School of Art, its Director, and its professors. Heard through those headphones, our resistors temporarily overloaded. Our search for a smart point of entry into the reductive practice of filtering all of these artists’ ideas into one neat and tidy bit of writing led us to ask these questions: Why not create a platform for the artists to share their own words and ideas with this new audience? Why stop there? Why not establish a way to connect with an audience far beyond the confines of this catalog and its limited readership?
In a Web 2.0 era, taking advantage of interactive communication and producing creative, collaborative work in a web-based community is not uncommon. MySpace, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc., are ubiquitous examples of how information today is created and shared. Engaging those sites prompted interest in styles of new writing such as hypertexting, metagraphing, hypergraphing, et al, as practiced by the new electrate. We were inspired to write alongside the graduate’s work as opposed to about it. Some in the literary field might call our intervention intertextual, grafting or picto-ideo-phonographic. The art world might recognize it as a form of appropriation or being a member of the ‘-age’ family (collage, bricolage, montage, or découpage). However, as we are from the MTV generation, a more apropos designation of our attempt at writing alongside the artists’ work links it to that of musical sampling, remixing or the mash-up.
The contemporary musical mash-up finds its historical antecedent in the 15th century quodlibet, from the Latin meaning “whatever” (quod (what) libet (pleases)), a piece of music that combined two or more melodies from different popular tunes. If whatever is the guiding principle, YouTube is the platform nonpareil. It is an open forum where ideas and images are shared on a level the visual arts can only dream of. With our mash-up sources established, we worked intuitively, taking salient excerpts from the artists’ statements provided using them as the search terms to find illustrative videos drawn from this exemplar of popular culture. We tried to approach the graduates’ work and statements in ways that would be meaningful, respectful, playful, insightful, and analytical.
Recognizing that YouTube’s slogan, Broadcast Yourself™ comes part and parcel with open, subjective critique to any of its postings, it becomes the everyman analog to the construct of this thesis exhibition, this catalog and the artists’ future reception by a more rarified arts community. Our intervention—mashing-up the artists’ words with videos found on YouTube—is but a first response to the work and marks this shift in audience feedback. This new composition can now be found on the internet. It is a supplement intended to add to the understanding of the artists’ individual projects while supplanting what might be found in a traditional catalog essay.
As you flip through the images in these pages and reflect on what you might have seen in the exhibition, we invite you to read alongside these artists’ work in a new way—to watch a video and listen to the artists’ own words:
Scott Lawrimore studied art history at UC Davis and Cal State Sacramento. He owns the contemporary art gallery, Lawrimore Project. Yoko Ott received her BFA from the University of Washington, and has since gone on to do curatorial work. She currently works at the Frye Art Museum in its education department.