The universal gesture of the upraised arm holding a lighter at a live concert has received an upgrade. Instead of lighters, outstretched limbs hold aloft, like triumphant torches, countless digital cameras and cell phones to document the here and now to be saved and shared, seemingly forever, on the internet.
The videos in Perspectives in the Crowd are all documents of the same event: a live performance by the band Daft Punk at the 2006 Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California. They were gathered by contacting people who posted their personal footage on YouTube. I asked each person if they would give me permission to compile their raw data of the concert onto one DVD. Hailing from various parts of the U.S. and the world, these DIY documentarians came together for one night at Coachella, and they are reunited here via their shared recorded memory to present a night of their impressions.
The videos represent both a personal and collective experience, a position of subjectivity within a crowd while simultaneously presenting an objective, often unedited, view of the crowd and band. When compiled on one DVD and projected in succession in a public space, layers of experience are being added at every remove from the original site and experience—from a tent to a digital camera to the internet to a gallery. This contemporary transformation in how, we as viewers, process experience as both participant and recorder is changing our relationship to the present. As we transfer our memories to prosthetic devices and download them to a public forum it raises dozens of questions.
What does it mean to have so many people documenting the same event with different types of cameras from so many perspectives? How have technologies like digital cameras, cell phones, and sites like YouTube changed the way we individually and collectively experience the world around us? Does this way of documenting our own experiences help us to remember or does it usher in a new way to forget the moments between recorded images? Does it mean we capture and convey the ‘real’ experience or are we generating an entirely new reality?
ARTFORUM.COM review of the show:
“Perspectives in the Crowd” is a large-scale video projection comprising over fifty DIY audiovisual accounts of Daft Punk’s raucous 2006 performance at the Coachella Music Festival, all gathered from YouTube and spliced together by artist Tucker Neel. The effect of this unlikely project is mesmerizing and variously suggestive. Like much of the best performance documentation—think of Chris Burden’s early performance photographs or the Viennese Actionists’ fastidiously composed performance stills—this video compilation immediately establishes itself as ontologically distinct from the live source event. It is true that each digital video captures the same musical performance, but the resultant work is of an entirely different order; ultimately, Neel’s canny project is an autonomous aesthetic gesture only tenuously related to the spectacle that is its source. Agitated camera movement and digital pixelation conspire to render the stage a throbbing mass of light, screens, and speakers. The pounding of electronic beats cuts in and out, and only occasionally does the amateur camera operator succeed in training his or her lens on the two space-age druids elevated in the center of the stage, fiddling feverishly with a concealed control panel, their efforts generating a state of near hysteria in the audience. Neel’s work has a presentness entirely absent from most performance documentation. This presentness derives chiefly from that fact that Neel accepts the formal limitations of the medium he is working with, as well as the serendipities of novice camerawork, and exploits those characteristics to create a shimmering, largely abstract audiovisual spectacle that offers the viewer an entirely self-contained, entirely gripping experience.