Skip to Main Content

Creator and Artist Stories

Conrad Ventur refracts YouTube videos at MoMA

By The YouTube Team

Brooklyn-based Conrad Ventur makes installations from YouTube videos and currently has a show at MoMA PS1, running through October 18, 2010. Learn more about this video artiste...

1) How do you use video in your art?

I use video in my art in two different ways. First, I find older recordings that I incorporate into installation. I really love archive performances by singers and work with these as material in my art. Secondly, I also direct and shoot videos myself. In these works, I'm essentially re-filming or re-staging underground films from the ’60s using the same actors that appeared in them the first time around. Some of these are Jack Smith and Andy Warhol films. My upcoming projects use some of these actors in stories that are non-quotational.

2) How do you use YouTube in your art?

For the last few years, I've enjoyed browsing YouTube. A video will attract my attention if it's an old recording that may have originally been meant for live television broadcast -- I like LIVE recordings mainly. I'm drawn to recordings that might have the potential to appeal to the collective memory of a larger audience. I take those videos and then project them through new-age crystal prisms or onto mirror balls in order to change the way the video content affects the viewer. I like my art to be more of an experience for the audience. It's best to see it in person.

3) What are you trying to convey through the installation currently at MoMA PS1?

In the installation at MoMA PS1, the curators and I decided to show a three channel video piece that we situated in the lower level of the museum. It's in an unexpected, small room. It's a bit of a surprise for museum-goers when they encounter these three recordings of the singer Shirley Bassey. It's the same song, “This Is My Life,” that she performed in three different decades of her life. Each has its own projector, and the three play at the same time on a continuous loop: the young Shirley singing with the old Shirley, singing a song about her life. Rotating prisms are situated in front of each projector lens. The videos are projected directly through these prisms. Thus, the room becomes a kaleidoscope that you walk into. It's a swirling, refracted, multiplied space that came from the collective (and ever-changing) catalogue of YouTube.

4) If you were to create this installation in 100 years, based on the music icons of today, who/which videos would you include and why?

If in 100 years I could look back and see how the careers and lives of contemporary singers unfold, I would choose live recordings of Micheal Jackson to use in an installation. Most importantly, in 100 years, the varnish will rub off and we'll be able to see clearly how the march of time resonates with the myth of MJ. He was a tremendous talent and was extremely generous to his audiences as a performer. His untimely death is an unfortunate bookend to a life lived in the spotlight which we all are familiar with in some way. An installation would be an interesting format to tell his story in a way that appeals to the audience's senses on many levels.

5) What are your top 5 videos of all time on the site?

I'm always looking for new material to capture my imagination. Here are a few that I like:

You can subscribe to Conrad Ventur’s YouTube channel here.