Provocative YouTube Feedback Loops

Every time artist Martin Kohout watches a Youtube video, he takes webcam footage of himself watching and posts it as a Youtube “response” to the original.

Screen capture from “Watching re: watching response to Watching Response to Re: Response to Watching Being a”

Every time artist Martin Kohout watches a Youtube video, he takes webcam footage of himself watching and posts it as a Youtube “response” to the original. Unlike many Youtube “responders,” Berlin-based Kohout does not offer opinion or even speak. Throughout the hundreds of Youtube posts he’s amassed since starting the practice in April 2010, Kohout simply watches, punctuating his silence with an occasional cough, smile, or sideways glance. Of course, some users join in on the act and post videos of themselves watching Kohout’s Youtubes, to which he responds by making another Youtube of himself watching that Youtube, and so on.

Kohout has experimented with provocative Youtube feedback loops before. His 2008 work Moonwalk, an infinite staircase of the Youtube progress bars, gained him museum showings and and Internet notoriety of near-equal “likes” and “dislikes.” Another series found Kohout downloading Youtubes of people kick-starting their motorcycles, digitally removing the engine sound and posting the altered video as a response to the owner’s original. Another consists of “Portraits extracted from collected funeral notices, printed without any graphic or layout and put back to the original environment.” In all of these, Kohout exploits technological ease of duplication to erase the pride of text and speech-based language, forwarding the silent emotions of image and point-of-view. While superficially Martin Kohout’s Youtube channel appears like a massive self-portrait, once we begin following its nexus of links, it becomes a reflection of the online community.

Martin Kouhout

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