Brian Droitcour
Since 2008
Works in BROOKLYN, New York United States of America

Rhizome curatorial fellow September 2008 - April 2009, staff writer April 2009 - December 2011, poetry editor January 2012 - 20??

Random Butler on YouTube

I don’t remember exactly how I first came across Random Butler’s YouTube channel, besides seeing a video from it in the “Related Videos” sidebar when I was watching something else, and while I can’t say I know much about YouTube’s algorithm for selecting “Related Videos” I suspect the sheer number of videos on the channel helped it get in my window. Since creating his YouTube account on April 24, 2006, Butler has uploaded 1,219 videos—an average of about one a day. And while there are many YouTube users who maintain frequently updated vlogs, Butler’s is the only one I’ve encountered that shifts the video diary’s role from an emotional outlet to a creative one. Instead of focusing on the user’s persona, it presents a direct record of what he sees and what goes on in his inner world. Butler has pointed his web cam at the television as he wins Zelda, and uploaded several “multimedia messages” that show views of a computer screen or out a car window, taken on a Nokia 6102. In recent months, he has been uploading fewer web cam and cell phone videos and spending more time on experiments that distort clips from games and cartoons. A favorite source has been King of the Hill. Like any diary, Butler’s YouTube channel is composed of incremental fragments and best considered as a whole, but nonetheless, I’ll offer a few highlights here.


Sound Design

Image: Photo of Chris Watson's Microphone (Source: Chris Watson's site)

Michael Guidetti recently released the fifth edition of Skeleton Sweep, a collaborative podcast collage of field recordings and found sound. The project’s poetic title accommodates an array of meanings, from the artist’s embrace of the fleshless quality of sound on an mp3 to the wide-ranging breadth of the material’s origins. Volume 5 includes recordings as diverse as a mother’s affectionate voicemail message, wind chimes, percussive music made with knives, and black boxes of crashed planes.

Skeleton Sweep grew out of Guidetti’s longtime interest in field recordings. Before compiling Volume 1 in March 2007, he mailed a micro-recorder back and forth with a friend living in Japan, to share the sounds of their surroundings. As a serious hobbyist, Guidetti uses high-quality equipment for his own recordings—a Sony DAT walkman with an Audio-Technica stereo mic—but relishes juxtapositions of various qualities of sound. Skeleton Sweep welcomes unsolicited submissions from amateurs but also includes the work of experts, so a volume might take sound off lo-fi cassettes and cell phones as well as pieces by Chris Watson or Toshiya Tsunoda; Volume 4 even has excerpts of compositions by David Tudor and Robert Ashley. Contributors are given credit on the Skeleton Sweep site in a list labeled “Info,” though the term is a bit of an exaggeration, as the barebones descriptions of content on the list often generate more questions than they answer. In any case, when a chorus of witch cackles, a blanket of crickets, and chirping ringtones succeed each other in an early stretch of Volume 5, the connections an active listener draws between those noises—and the nuanced differences of each file’s silence—matter more than the relationship between a sound and ...


Printed Pages

eflux in afterall.jpg
Image: Scan of e-flux journal ad in Afterall

From its beginnings ten years ago, e-flux has been an unconventional media model, one that aggregates and distributes announcements for contemporary art exhibitions and events for a fee and uses its profits to fund artist-directed projects. Last November e-flux introduced an online journal with essays by artists and critics. The advertisement-free publication filled a position similar to that of ads in magazines—an appendage that subscribers to the e-flux brand may or may not find useful. To increase the journal’s autonomy from the announcement service—and also to get it off the internet, which is not a favorable environment for long and complex theoretical essays—e-flux announced its plans for a “print-on-demand” feature in February (noted on Rhizome). To get the word out about this new service, e-flux put excerpts of essays from its fourth issue in the summer issues of Parkett, Artforum, Bidoun, Cabinet, Texte Zur Kunst, Afterall, Flash Art, and Frieze. Besides addressing the obstacles an online journal faces in specialized art media, where print still holds a privileged position, the use of editorial as advertising in e-flux’s summer campaign anticipates the shift that will accompany the launch of their print on-demand service this fall, when the journal’s readers can also become its publishers.


Basic Structures


Image: Michael Joaquin Grey, Perpetual ZOOZ (Madonna and Child), 2005-2009 (Stills)

In the twenty years that Michael Joaquin Grey has been exhibiting, critics have often employed phrases like “back to basics” and “building blocks” to describe his interest in the conventions dictating the representation of concepts that form the foundation of human knowledge. An exhibition of Grey’s new and old work currently on view at P.S.1 includes a drawing that distills his approach: an outline of an infant playing with two red blocks is the image of a nascent mind grappling with the concept of one plus one. A larger drawing on an adjacent wall reuses the red squares to demonstrate the meaning of prepositions—above, under, behind, etc.—like a diagram in a grammar textbook. Object as preposition (1988-2007), also uses orange circles, a colored form that appears several times in the gallery. The fruit suggested by an orange round is a favorite symbol for Grey (his web site is Perhaps it’s because the tautology of the object’s name and the color that describes it produces a conundrum: a schematic picture of an orange is both an abstraction and a concrete representation. The repetition of the orange (or just orange, with no definite article) forces viewers to struggle with the same problem that Grey does: even at the most fundamental level, our descriptions of the world are frustratingly paradoxical and slippery.

Lean, instructional-pamphlet drawings dominate the first of the show’s two galleries; Perpetual ZOOZ (Madonna and Child) (2005-2009), a video projected in the second, darkened room, looks Baroque by comparison. In Grey’s “computational cinema,” The Wizard of Oz plays on both sides of a square that spins against a yellow field. The characters and scenery of the family classic ...


On Networked Equality

Image: Heath Bunting, BorderXing Guide, 2001

The afternoon of May 30 was clear and sunny, which probably accounted for the low turnout at the New Museum’s panel discussion Networked Equality. Too bad, because the presentations were engaging and generated a lively Q&A; session afterward. More than a month later, the topics raised still seem worth discussion, especially in light of the ongoing conversation about political art and the content of Rhizome’s coverage. The speakers at Networked Equality were researchers, activists, one-time dot-com entrepreneurs and self-described nerds Ethan Zuckerman and Omar Wasow. Zuckerman discussed how the internet’s vaunted potential to increase the flow of ideas across borders of nation, race, and class had been stunted by homophily, the tendency of people to stick to like-minded groups. His project Global Voices is one effort to counter that inclination by aggregating and translating independent media. Wasow, an education specialist, emphasized that access to technology would not narrow the gap between classes, and education was the key to helping disadvantaged segments of the population become participants in a networked economy.

Zuckerman is a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where he said his older colleagues—academics who already had established careers when the internet appeared-- greeted networked technologies enthusiastically, predicting earth-shattering change and falling borders. To the contrary, Zuckerman and Wasow’s peers, who helped build the early internet, approached it with a healthy skepticism. This attitude resonates with some pioneering net art works, such as those of Heath Bunting and Daniel Garcia Andujar who reacted sharply to utopian views of networked technologies. BorderXing, Bunting’s project with Kayle Brandon, offered a database with instructions on how to cross borders illegally, but limited access to that database; the project showed literally how political borders were in fact ...