As the curator of online video here at Art21, I spend a lot of time looking at work produced by colleagues around the world. And while there’s a lot of serious work being done out there by very accomplished people, rarely does a video project strike me as being truly affectionate towards art and artists.
That’s what makes the YouTube Sound Off! competition by The Baltimore Museum of Art so interesting (submission deadline: December 1st). By soliciting viewer responses to their current exhibition by Austrian sculptor Franz West, the museum has managed to get closer to the spirit of the artist’s work than a more traditional interview or exhaustive curatorial overview possibly could. West’s sculptures and furniture pieces are often intended to be handled or sat on, and their day-glo colors and lumpen forms have an open, friendly quality that speaks to the frail optimism of our times. At times daffy, sweet, embarrassing, and clumsy (in all the best possible ways), I think the videos submitted to date provide the perfect companion piece to the art on view:
The museum has also put together a few of its own videos, primarily documenting the installation of West’s massive sculptures. While there’s certainly something to be learned from these, I would hate to imagine the exhibition without the former viewer-submitted tributes.
I got in touch with Preston Bautista, Director of Public Programs at the museum, who explains a little bit about how the project started and how the artist’s work served as point of departure:
The artist’s work, or maybe more accurately, the artist himself set the tone. I did not have conversations with the artist, but in discussions with the curator, it became clear that Franz drew influence from the café culture of Vienna, which often featured musicians, poets, spoken word artists, etc. I also learned that Franz listened to experimental musicians such as Bernhard Gal, so I thought it would be great to reverse the flow of influence: find musicians, writers, poets to create original creative responses to West’s work.
Be sure to visit the BMA’s website for complete details and rules on the project and how to submit your own video and audio. I know I’ll be watching to see what else gets uploaded.