Alex Taylor's 3GTV is on the front page of rhizome.org through Monday, February 8.
In a modern-day world dominated by iPhones and Androids, images of Paris Hilton flaunting a pink RAZR flip phone have long been filed in the digital pop culture archives. Despite Anna Wintour and Rihanna’s outlier attempts to bring back in style the outdated flip phone for a few paparazzi snaps in 2014, the cellular landscape has since shifted.
During the 3G era, camera phones allowed users to record and play back short videos in a file format called 3GP. With Apple’s introduction of ios9 software, iPhones lost the ability to play back this format, making these videos as obsolete as the phones they were recorded on.
For his new project 3GTV, awarded a 2015 Rhizome micro-commission, Alex Taylor culls 3GP videos from YouTube, re-presenting them in a CGI interface that simulates the experience of a 3D smartphone. Users are able to view an endless loop of randomized 3GP video clips that were harvested from YouTube. If you’re lucky, you may run into a video of a boy dancing to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean or Jersey Shore’s DJ Pauly D introducing Pitbull during an MTV Spring Break special from 2011. 3GTV harnesses the present day cultural phenomenon of binge watching, but in a format that reminds us of what used to be, allowing us to see the content and aesthetics these videos have in common.
The project isn't only about a nostalgic aesthetic, though. The prevalence of what seem to be recent international videos suggests that while many users in the US have to set down their 4G smartphones and transition to our computers in order to visit this digital exhibition, less privileged users in West Africa, Southeast Asia, and even the United States are still using 3G mobile devices years after a style became outdated. Our digital past is still here, it's just unevenly distributed.