Thursday, April 28, 2016

Battle of the bands

A couple of weeks back two people put 686 rubberbands around a watermelon and 800,000 people went crazy. They even stuck around for 45 minutes to watch it explode online. Since then millions more have gone to BuzzFeed to catch the big bang. We mention this because there is an art connection. Last year Steve Carr used the same idea for his video work Watermelon which is currently on view at City Gallery. As many of these melon sites (there are a lot) have gone over a million viewers, and one over 15 million, it’s interesting to consider how the Carr version differs. It comes to context and presentation. BuzzFeed very strongly signals what you should be feeling with a near-hysterical build-up of will-it-won’t-it-squeals-of-anticipation from the crew. It's more about what we should be feeling than what we are looking at. In contrast, Carr offers a more objective and formal presentation with few emotional signals. Last week we watched people quietly sitting  through Carr’s Watermelon having just spent about the same time looking at his slow-mo bursting balloons. No commentary, no directives, limited framing. So maybe there's a bigger point here. You can hype and pre-condition your audiences expectations like BuzzFeed does, or you can leave some space for people to figure it out for themselves. As Te Papa leans more toward the BuzzFeed model, it’s good to see the City Gallery sticking with art.
Images: watermelon madness top, BuzzFeed and bottom City Gallery