YouTube wants you to think of their videos as little works of art with a new initiative called YouTube Play. That's a tall order considering how many non-artistic videos show up on the site—not to mention the completely subjective definition of the word "art.” But nonetheless, the video portal has teamed up with the Guggenheim in an effort to find the most creative online video.
The Guggenheim, in addition to being a word that is difficult to spell, is a museum in New York that is the permanent home to some of the most famous Impressionist and Modern era artworks (there is actually a network of Guggenheim museums around the world). It's also notable for its architecture, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
In other words, YouTube is partnering with one of the most recognizable museums in the world to help find new artistic video content. That's really the gist of it. They want submissions that think outside the box. From their blog post:
"We're looking for animation, motion graphics, narrative, non-narrative, or documentary work, music videos and entirely new art forms—creations that really challenge the world's perceptions of what's possible with video. We want to elevate the debate.”
Between now and July 31, 2010, users are encouraged to create and upload a video to YouTube Play to be considered. Then the staff at the Guggenheim—who presumably know their art—will evaluate all the submissions and pare them down to a manageable short-list. That short list will be evaluated by "an international jury of experts from the worlds of art, design, film, and video," who will spit out a final list of 20 finalists.
All 20 finalist videos will be screened at the Guggenheim Museum in October—with the other Guggenheim-network museums screening them as well. And YouTube will make all 20 available at the YouTube Play branded channel.
Here's the promotional video about the contest that is currently has playing on the YouTube Play channel:
I can completely get on board with the idea of elevating the debate about online video. While I am a huge fan of online video, the number of viral hits I've seen that I would classify as "art" is staggeringly low—though this one certainly fits the bill for me personally. And it is definitely a medium that could use a little more of the fine art sensibilities. So this contest makes perfect sense to me (except for the HP sponsorship, but oh well).
And the Guggenheim is probably the best partner to "legitimize" YouTube's quest for more artistically valuable content—and the perfect way to woo artists who might have previously found YouTube to be too lowbrow for fine art. I don't know if you've ever known any art students, but having their work shown in the Guggenheim would be a dream come true for most of the ones I've met.
Which is not to say that this promotion will change the face of YouTube… because it won't. There will always be a home on YouTube for dog videos and news bloopers. But only good things can come from making YouTube just a little more friendly to fine art—and from making fine art just a little more friendly to the online video viewing audience. YouTube doesn't want to push out the content producers they currently have… they simply want to add a few ingredients to the melting pot… making it more diverse.
What kinds of YouTube videos do you think count as fine art? Short films? Animations? Stop-motion videos? I wonder what kind of envelope-pushing we'll see among the submissions. I'll be checking back in on YouTube Play as it progresses, and will be sure to share any awesome videos I discover.