Home Movies, YouTube, and Mashup
by Jennifer Proctor — University of Michigan-Dearborn
October 19, 2012 – 00:00
Wreck and Salvage’s Golden Gates (see also Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore) mashes "home movies" posted to YouTube into a spatial montage that explores the pervasive online posting of travelogue videos. Home movies, of course, are steeped in the preservation of memory, and these "little movies" on YouTube summon Vivian Sobchack’s description of Joseph Cornell’s memory boxes as using a "mnemonic aesthetic": a practice based on repetition, rhythm, looping, and patterning to explore the ephemeral and often fractured nature of memory.
In juxtaposing multiple clips of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the video plays with the repetition, accidental synchronicity, and rhythm of the mnemonic aesthetic. We witness, simultaneously, multiple attempts to preserve the memory of crossing the bridge, each with a familiar but ultimately unique perspective, collapsed into a single multivalent visual collage.
But the video expands beyond simple spatial montage and into what Brigid Maher has characterized as "smart montage," a blend of spatial montage and Eistenstein’s dialectical montage. The video explores the aesthetics and visual design afforded by the repetition of imagery, but the gaps and differences between these multiple perspectives contains a deeper critique. The piece comments on the very trend of making the personal public in a Web 3.0 era, of showcasing the banal in an unabashed public and collective setting. Whereas home movies originated as a distinctly private practice, the vast multiplicity of home movies in this video underscores how public our private lives have become.
Of course, the piece pokes fun, too. It points out the absurdity of the cultural impulse to repeatedly record the same image, the hubris of believing that any individual in this globalized world is truly unique. The ego is lost in this montage - but there remains, in tension with this loss, a celebration of the collective experience, of participating in this travel/record/upload ritual with hundreds of others. It is the mnemonic aesthetic - the differences among "sameness" - that provides this critique.
The piece further functions as a kind of moving infographic of YouTube as a database of home movies, rendering in visual form the public and collective memory gathered there. In this sense, to surf YouTube is to surf a giant spatial montage, especially via related videos and tags. This video is thus a meta-montage, a montage of the YouTube montage. Public memory emerges as a cultural palimpsest in the layers and depths of YouTube’s uploads.