Empire of the humdrum

Your homework for today, class, is to identify what you feel are the essential differences between this:


and this:


I don’t intend to throw stones at Warhol, but to exalt webcams just as highly as they deserve. I adore them. If art/drama/whatever is life with the boring bits taken out, then a webcam is — ought to be — life with all the interesting bits taken out. And that itself I find interesting: looking into the forgotten, elided, in-between places with a steady gaze. In that respect Empire isn’t my sort of webcam: its subject is just too iconic. But a webcam is exactly what Warhol produced. It’s not art, because a webcam makes its single profound virtue of being artless. Make it steerable or zoomable, or too well-centered on the relevant, and that’s lost. It’s all about not selecting, not filtering.

Can’t resist this bit of art-wankery, though:

Curator Clare Carolin said Empire raised issues about “time and space”.

Those ‘issues’ presumably being: time passes, and space is filled by things. However meagre the idea, there was an idea behind the film, but it’s not an artistic one, except insofar as it’s about seeing. The important component of the work is the other side of the equation’s LHS:

Idea + Chutzpah = Conceptual Art

Maybe that’s what I love so much about webcams: they don’t claim anything, not interest, not value, not relevance. They absolutely must be statically locked-off, continuous — potentially infinite, even, capable of recording the passage of time with a dispassionate long-eye in the manner of those sequences in George Pal’s The Time Machine where a shop-window is a metonym for human ephemera. It’s about stopping to smell the flowers, but also to watch this piece of concrete, or that empty beach. Peace, I suppose.

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