YouTube Censors Petra Cortright, But 'VVEBCAM' Lives on in the Rhizome ArtBase

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RIP 2007-2011 – 65,403 views

On Saturday December 10th 2011, Petra Cortright received an email stating that a video of hers had been flagged by a member of the YouTube Community. The automatically generated email said that upon review it was verified that the video did indeed violate the terms of the YouTube Community Guidelines and has thus been removed. The video in question, titled "VVEBCAM" was uploaded to YouTube in 2007. It has exhibited internationally, is discussed in several new media and contemporary art texts, and is taught in academic curricula.

The video, likely known to most readers, features Cortright mundanely clicking through the stock effects of a $20 webcam, gazing bored into the screen of her computer, trance playing in the background. Far from offensive content. The violation lies in Cortright's use of keywords. The video description contained 733 keywords, ranging from "tits, vagina, sex, nude, boobs" to "san francisco, diego, jose, puto, taco bell, border patrol, mcdonalds, KFC, kentucky fried chicken, trans fat".

Cortright told us over email that she appealed the decision. She explained to YouTube that the video and its contents were part of an original artwork. She referenced interviews that have explained the importance of the use of "spam" in the video's description. Four hours later her appeal was denied, and the video now has ceased to exist on YouTube. The work is also defunct on the artists website, where the video was embedded via YouTube.

Thankfully Rhizome has recently archived VVEBCAM in the ArtBase. We worked with Cortright to create an archival representation of the work as it existed on her site. We have replaced the broken YouTube video with an HTML5 player that references local files and emulates (at least approximately) the look and feel of the original YouTube player.