Mobile Media Hits MoMA

The sometimes-celebrated, sometimes-critiqued origin myth of video art is that it was born with Sony's Portapak video camera and that the eponymous portability of this device enabled the medium to flourish. A similar logic might explain the recent plethora of exhibitions related to mobile phone pictures and videos. Though this line of reasoning seems to privilege the machine's form over its content, there is the sense that the increasing availability and usability of mobile devices (in Western culture, that is) is leading to a democratization of form that will ultimately generate an expansion of the genre. We saw this with internet art when the initial, highly self-reflexive context of net art gave way to a more diverse range of online practices. This has also been the trajectory for documentary film, which is the context of an upcoming mobile video screening at New York's Museum of Modern Art. CELLuloid is a screening of nine short docs, all made on cell phone cameras. The playlist boasts a range of humorous, politically-engaged, and highly topical works by "established artists experimenting with new technology as well as first-time creators inspired to document the world around them." These include Nao Bustamante's "Nanookie Of The North," Darrin Martin's "Every (Text, Image, Sound, Movie) from my cell phone," and Joshua Thorson's "UFO Days." Programmed in conjunction with MoMA's Documentary Fortnight series, the screening happens February 20 and will be followed by a discussion with the artists. - Marisa Olson