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The exhibition YouTube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video, running this month at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, will certainly not include a screening of the "Bed Intruder Song." There will be no double-rainbow exclamations and no cute little kids rambling woozily after a trip to the dentist. What you will see is a wide variety of shorts, created by those who reside in the middle ground between everyday users and the fine artists who are experimenting with online video. "What we were interested in is identifying this new wave and investigating if there are new sensibilities because of this new platform," says Nancy Spector, chief curator at the Guggenheim. "'Creative' is a little more open than 'artistic,' and we wanted to draw the line between something that was made with art in mind versus something simply uploaded in a Funniest Home Videos kind of way."
In an ambitious partnership between the museum, HP and the popular video website, the project began this summer with more than 23,000 submissions from 91 countries. In September, a short list of 125 videos was selected by Guggenheim curators and a few trusted confidants and posted on the YouTube Play channel. They include pieces ranging from the soft-spoken tone poem "Words" to an absurdly constructed music video from South African hip-hop phenoms Die Antwoord to a giggle-worthy subway performance by comedy group Improv Everywhere.
On October 21, 20 winners will be announced at the Guggenheim and on YouTube, then projected inside the rotunda of the museum from October 22 to 24. The winners are being determined by a jury of creative luminaries like performance artist Laurie Anderson, photographer Ryan McGinley, the band Animal Collective and filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, among others. Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, another member of the jury, said his criterion is simple. "I just need to be touched in any way, shape or form," he says. "Either emotionally, or by the formally exquisite execution, or by technical wizardry, or by editorial content, or by sheer beauty."
More than anything, the project offers an opportunity for nonartists to enter the museum setting, simply through the sheer force of creative energy. And the idea that people can upload videos without feeling constricted by certain rules is one of its strengths, argues Spector. "There's no judgment on this project," she says. "The invitation to not be judged is really appealing to people."