Feb 17, 2010

go see three screen ray in person

This past weekend I spent a few hours at SFMOMA, enjoying the 75th anniversary show. I've lived in the Bay Area for going on 20 years now, so the show was like a highlight reel of past great exhibitions; I especially loved seeing Richter's Lesende, Diebenkorn's Ocean Park #54, the huge canvases from Sigmar Polke, and room-sized fridge from Matthew Barney.

The piece I absolutely fell in love with, though, is Bruce Conner's new video projection piece, THREE SCREEN RAY. Here's the description of the piece from SFMOMA's site:

In Bruce Conner's electric THREE SCREEN RAY (2006), a new acquisition that premieres in this exhibition, Ray Charles's 1959 hit song "What'd I Say" is set to an ecstatic, frenzied collage — nude women, bomb explosions, fireworks — of original and preexisting imagery, including war newsreels, cartoons, and TV commercials. A tour de force of editing and experimental film techniques, the piece features Conner's manipulations of the film surface itself and his signature use of countdown leader. The work's point of departure and central image is Conner's 1961 film COSMIC RAY, which he adapted to three screens in 1965 and later reedited to create this gallery installation of three video projections.

Words don't really capture it, though. So, thinking about you, dear reader, I stood in a corner, turned on my iPhone's video camera, and shot a couple minutes of it. And then yesterday, testing out the super slick upload feature inside Snow Leopard's QuickTime player I posted it to YouTube.


So...within five minutes of posting that video yesterday I had an email notifying me that my video "may have content that is owned or licensed by WMG." And, as you probably noticed if you clicked play on the video, the soundtrack's been muted.

Now, I know I'm most likely breaking copyright law by publishing this on YouTube -- I might be able to argue Fair Use, but IANAL -- and I'm not surprised that YouTube did what it did. What surprised me was how fast it happened. The audio quality on this iPhone recording was crap to begin with (you'll have to trust me on this, obviously), so either they (a) have great machines listening in on the audio content, (b) they knew that anything uploaded with the title THREE SCREEN RAY would have Ray Charles music in it, or (c) they've got a massive staff of people trained to recognize the catalogs of the major labels. Any one of those is frighteningly impressive. And I'll let you know if/when I get the DMCA takedown or get shut out of my Gmail account.

Anyway. Here's the point: this off kilter, 480px wide obviously amateur recording without sound doesn't do the piece justice at all. I'm just trying to give you a taste so that you get your ass to SFMOMA and sit in that dark room for a while.

Update, Feb 19 2010: And...scene. The video's been pulled from YouTube entirely for copyright violation. Disappointing, but not surprising.