Marcus Westbury’s Not Quite Art is back for a second series.
You may recall the first series (episode 2) featured NUCA (and yours truly, prancing around in a blue jacket waving bubblegum cards). [You can download that episode here].
The show is a remarkably courageous move by the ABC to feature cultural phenomena beyond recognisable high art.
This time around, Marcus looks a bit more confident in front of the TV cameras. Less dissing of the concert hall and opera house, and more enthusiastic, positive investigation of how “low art” channels of distribution (or “audience creation”) are growing exponentially, lending “not quite art” the means of spreading itself all around the world.
The first episode of the new series, then, was fittingly devoted to the grand-daddy of these distro-systems, The Internet. At times, in fact, Marcus’ enthusiasm seemed a bit like a (redundant) commercial for the web (and for Google Corp., whose proprietary application YouTube got a fair bit of free advertising on our ABC!)
But of course you don’t need to sell the net to anyone, and YouTube needs no ads. It does quite nicely on its own. And it’s perhaps The Internet, as a “character” in its own right (rather than any individual example of folks wot use/abuse it) that is the protagonist of this brave new cultural era.
The episode featured the chooky dancers (who did the greek zorba and went “platinum” on youtube) Jodi Rose (who makes bridges “sing” and won a prize for best aussie blog a few years back) and Brisbane’s Yahtzee, who publishes compelling high-paced video-reviews of computer games and is an internet phenomenon in his own right.
These were all interesting case studies. And I reckon Marcus could have substituted any of a thousand alternative not-quite-artists to make his point, and that point would still have come across strongly:
“The Net Is Changing The Way We Live Our Lives.”
Which we all already know. Maybe in 20 years it’ll be interesting to look back on Not Quite Art 2008 and have a giggle at how full of wonder we were about it all, “back then”.
Fittingly, the ABC have decided to vodcast the episodes as they roll out. Amusingly (given the subject matter of the first episode) it is unavailable for download to international viewers from the ABC website.
So for any of you internationals out there who wanna see what it’s all about, I hereby give you, Not Quite Art Series 2 Episode 1. Go crazy.
PS: here is episode two.
…and here is episode three…
“It is unavailable for download to international viewers from the ABC website.”
I am sure there would a be a way to get around that.
>> Which we all already know. Maybe in 20 years itâ€™ll be interesting to look back on Not Quite Art 2008 and have a giggle at how full of wonder we were about it all, â€œback thenâ€.
I think some circles already know this eg anyone going to the festivals or galleries or into independent local music/arts, but there are plenty of people who aren’t aware that all these things go on. eg if I mention some things to my cousins or some friends at work, they are all amazed at what’s going on. and most would like to know more about these things too – they just don’t know what they don’t know. they don’t know the labels/terms to search for on the net either, and most mainstream media doesn’t cover these things. this isn’t new either, but I think it’s easier for people to find things out these days with the net.
so I think programs like Marcus’ helps people get an idea that there’s another layer of society out there that perhaps is worth finding out more about. for mainstream Australia to get into these things, I think the program would need to be shown on Ch 9/7/10 though, or get the Home & Away or Neighbours kids to talk about these things as they do for other product placements. ABC is great but I think it’s still an audience that probably has these things in their radar.
indeed, it is important to remember that the infinite reach of the net is not evenly distributed at all.
It occurred to me that the chooky dancers, for instance, who marcus featured in episode 1, probably did not use YouTube very often themselves. In other words, they are a cultural phenomenon because someone else shot a video of their performance and posted it online – not because they themselves are media savvy artists in pursuit of an ever-widening audience… I’m not sure that Marcus made that distinction very clear…
however, to make a small contradiction to your idea of mainstream australia, and its limited exposure to this “crazy stuff”:
in my not-very-wide and non-scientific surveys i note that my family members who i would describe as “mainstream” have in fact developed odd and interesting fringe interests by stumbling across them on the internet. for them, broadband is much more “broadening” than TV…
“Less dissing of the concert hall and opera house, and more enthusiastic, positive investigation of how â€œlow artâ€ channels of distribution (or â€œaudience creationâ€) are growing exponentially”
I found Marcus dissing quiet irritating in the last series. His need to separate “high” and “low” I think is a bit limiting.
The question I am asking myself (and the students i have been watching it with) is how does he decide when a piece is “good”. What is the measure of its worth. In that first episode it seemed to be about the size of its audience, which is interesting, however I was really stumped at the cultural or artistic qualties of little girl and pony animations…? Is it just that I am too old and not a gamer? and my much younger students too institutionalised by the academy that we found that work lacking?
ah yes, the Question of Quality!
i agree, the first episode focussed on the phenomenon of “audience reach” – and popularity was posited as a sort of “end in itself”.
The questions that I think need to be asked go beyond statistical volume of distribution – instead, we need to think about this: “what sort of experiences are those audiences having when they encounter this work?”
I think that question is a lot harder to answer than a 25 minute tv show allows. It is an “in-depth” type of problem. For instance, you would need to look in detail at the work of Jodi Rose (the Singing Bridges gal) and ask: “well, what are some of these bridges she has made sing, and what are the songs like that have been created? Under what circumstances can we listen to those songs, and what effect do they have on us?”
There certainly exists the possibility of a “good idea which is poorly executed”, as well as a “good idea, executed well”, although I’m not so sure about “poor ideas well executed.” Anyway… The point is that the popularity criterion states that the “market decides” – the more popular, the better the quality. But since porn is one of the most popular things on the net, perhaps Marcus should have made room for that on his show?
Of course we all carry around with us a broad set of criteria for assessing the “goodness” of a piece (like “criticality” or humour) but you just can’t “know” by simply skimming the surface. Ya gotta “drill down” to get to the good stuff. These things take time, and the attention economy of a TV presentation makes that tricky…
hey lucas – thanks for the tip about the vodcasts. irony aside, i’m quite excited about being able to watch NQA now. i don’t have a tv and every week my mother, maddingly texts me updates about the show. i’m looking forward to a balance of power again.. heh.