Ruaidhri Ryan: Accelerating towards a red light @ CBS, Liverpool
Emoji summary: 🚚🔦☁️
I reaaaaallllllly love YouTube. I tweet about it every so often or im grabby when it comes up in conversation but I don’t see it framing art and cultural discourse; it’s not properly banked or used as a reference or form in the way I want. Considering the amount of time I spend with its content, subcultures, drama, and generally thinking about its development, i should write about it more. As it is my entertainment more than anything else, it’d b good to declare just how much it shapes my experience of visual art. so, i am excited cause Ruaidhri Ryan’s VERY SLIGHT use of youtube in his current exhibition at Crown Building Studios in Liverpool has given me the excuse i hav been waiting for to write words on what I’m callin THE YOUTUBE MOOD.
a giant preface: i’ve had an account since I was 13ish. back then i watched things mostly thru internet access in IT or on friday evenings with my sister using the laptop the school had provided for her dyslexia. it was silver, plastic, clunky, n we would stay over at my Nans and use that to pass the time rather the telly + coronation st. At the beginning, we would watch HORSE KICKS DOG or DOG ATTACKS SHARK, like bizarre outtakes that are too violent for You’ve Been Framed but too amateur for When Good Pets Go Bad. The official pinnacle of animal kingdom drama on youtube is ofc the 79 million views safari footage titled Battle of Kruger. it is naturally emotive, urgent, it’s also beside the point (which I will get to in about 800 words), but I know for a fact I watched a lot of this kind of stuff because I’ve just gone through my Liked Videos tab and I have the receipts. What a weird way to start on the internet though. Is that when young boys are googling boobs? Idk. I then realised people were making skits, like tiny standup-slapstick on the internet, and i watched videos made by the boys from smosh, Nat on Communitychannel or the awkward british legion of charlie day and crabstickz ;; the start of the ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I made a video doing X,’ challenge videos, cinnamon in ur mouth, chubby bunny, WEARING ALL MY CLOTHES AT ONCE. I was also coming to youtube in my teens for music videos once I realised I didnt have to wait for the three i desperately wanted to see come around on music channels. that was the era of emo and bands with good names like panic at the disco and cute is what we aim for and I remember sitting in the COMPUTER ROOM upstairs in my auntie’s house in Runcorn watching Fall Out Boy’s This Aint A Scene for the first time, absolutely gripped but also not understanding the visual narrative or lyrics at all. that led nicely to fan-made music videos that had clips edited together with a moody song over them, liiike, this is in my watch history bc i must have loved Peter from Heroes at the time?? lol; and cousin of these were AMVs for the anime I was watching - the deviantART department of youtube if I might. After that, and this is where I stayed for a while, it was the youtubers themselves I became interested in. it was becoming frustrating I guess watching the ones that made skits only ever in the same room with the same background, and i’d b wanting to know what the rest of their lives looked like, as a viewer i was stir crazy. That new want and expectation for myself as a viewer (and I know a lot of people were needing the same) felt satisfied by daily vlogs. i followed the lives of shiny american families with loads of kids and dogs, for whom money never seemed to be an issue even though their jobs weren’t apparent (I would realise years later that youtube views could make you money in adverts and brand sponsorships! and everyone was getting rich!). The vlogs I followed weren’t with people I’d get on with in real life and I don’t remember a single conversation they had, but I liked spending time with them and I liked when they had a new baby, got engaged and married. I was in this phase of youtube long enough that I also saw their ‘WE’RE GETTING A DIVORCE’ videos years later, met the person they were dating now and the latest dogs they’d adopted together. The vloggers and I had the same distance as a human and a pet fish on the countertop. they were a strange constant in my life and also never really in it,, And it’s weird watching their videos now after a break, how it becomes a conversation with an ex-bestfriend.
2015-present, I’ve been here for the makeup tutorials and reviews of Jackie Aina and nikkietutorials; I like Samantha Ravndahl for being the moodiest beauty guru. i got into some Clever People youtube for the novelty and learnt a lot about the world; followed the up and down lifestyle channels of Canadian girls who live in Hong Kong and South Korea. In university, me and my best friend would watch 12 minute compilation videos of models falling over on runways bc it is just very very funny how their feet become wobbly cartoons. n When I started dating my boyfriend, we both became massive Failarmy fans which, tbh, I singlehandedly blame for my very serious anxiety problem and the fact I go about risk-assessing the world around me. When a fail army clip starts now I can see what exactly is about to go wrong. i do that now in my LIFE
But these shifts,, that is what I’ve come to love!, and I wanted to write mine out to prove youtube has the capacity to accommodate different moods / paces / relations. when I stop watching something and shift again, it’s not that I’ve lost interest but that my youtube mood has changed and maybe it’ll come back round again another time. it often does. my body and my attention go through seasons and I hav to find their equivalent: find content that is easy on my eyes, this light, like standing outside with bare arms and not feeling any sort of temperature because you two just match, realistically, somatically. i’m always seeking art that is on my level, whatever that is, whenever, coincidental and specific. (art yes but culture in general) that’s why when I was in the worst of my depression last year I watched all 13 seasons of the kardashians in one go (because they drone, they were optimistic and wealthy-healthy so they balanced me out); or when my anxiety was brewing I got so into Tap Tap Fish because it tethered me and taught me mindfulness.
my recent March April May youtube mood matched the one that landscaped Ruaidhri Ryan’s exhibition at CBS. First of all, the mood is: Recently, i have been spending time on Catch A Toy, where this couple from Hong Kong travel to different countries playing claw machines. I literally love these videos. they’re between 5-20 minutes, i have watched possibly all of them - and it’s because they play out in a way youtuber’s never let happen. other producers cut every empty second incase the viewer loses interest but for this i am here, staying. i am so involved and ready 2 witness these two stranger putting coin after coin in; n at first i thought I was into the videos because I have never felt I can afford to really have a go at getting good at claw machines because they are literally like a pound a go in this bastard country. but not a sob story no, it’s the atmosphere that I watch them for, how they’re allowing for so much time in a video,, because i match right now, my stomach has the space to eat and eat all day. My life is the busiest it’s ever been that a 20 minute video like this is relief. The Catch A Toy pair talk to each other in Chinese and I realise that not understanding them is a part of the reason i can watch so much - and u could replace it with any language i don’t know. There is space between the content and myself already because of the airiness of their repetitive actions and so I think them speaking in a language that is foreign to me protects the very distance that makes these videos feel so vast. They speak in English in two or three videos and I found with those i was too focused on their words, I couldn’t let go enough?, the same way right now I’m not really editing this paragraph as I normally would and it’s making my shoulders relax to just type these thoughts out bc tbh, I don’t have the time to go back and fix it. I need this exhibition review to start having the same posture
I need to float a bit so you know my mood, away from the very tight youtube production you might be more familiar with,
here think screensavers, brain fog, digital ambience
day off so u can have a lie in but you also have someone with you so it’s not boring.
softer thoughts until there are no thoughts and nothing is in your way
; so in the same stride, I am also currently into an american youtube channel called My Favorite Groomer where dogs and cats are made 2 look sharp and the youtuber shows you how to do it along the way. sometimes it’s with angry-scared dogs, others are calm and pliable, and the videos are often about an hour long (excellent). same deal: I zone out of the speaking, I’m just there for the action, how it looks, visual ASMR probably. I’ll honestly watch a full hour video of a dog’s matted fur gettin buzzed off its body and i won’t even be swapping to other tabs. these two channel examples of my youtube mood right now are just completely fulfilling to me.
and their parallel (FINALLY) is a small moment within Ryan’s exhibition. The exhibition is two videos and some film prints, and the whole story of the show is that when the artist recently visited Iceland he learnt that a lot of tourists were involved in car crashes after they’d learnt to drive using only computer simulators, not havin had any real lessons, and he was ‘determined to make a really clever film about that.’ the main piece is that really clever film: a 20 minute over-excited imagining of the feature film Ryan would make, with him on screen talking hurriedly about location porn and crash sites, simulation, and the image as something that can trick and kill us. This piece was something I could give a hard fast crit on, like: the font used is the wrong shape for my eyes and moves too fast, the self-aware cinematic moments are done well, and I often like the ‘I found out about this one thing and it made me think of this’ approach to art but the overall intention of boy filmmaker ironically dissecting the formal artistic process went too much on a tangent and came off a bit film/art-referential that it might not be as interesting for people outside of film/art schools which just always feels a bit pointless to me, too art world, not of this world, masturbatory.
but beside that main event video, on a smaller screen with headphones, there is a 54 minute video screen-recording of the artist playing the PC game Euro Truck Simulator 2, an example of the very thing those tourists are using in place of driving lessons. after making his own discovery of youtuber Squirrel’s v popular uploads using this game engine, Ryan follows suit and plays the game too. *this* is when i synchronised. The game allows you to pick a truck and drive through 16 european countries that hav sporadic traffic on the roads as ur company, as well as all the landscape and weather u might generally expect along the way. It looks as banal as any non-fiction RPG landscape, as in, incredibly rendered to the point of digital normality. U drive normal car speeds, it’s not a race, n there is a whole industry and set of goals like making deliveries on time, customising trucks, buying new ones etc. but u can also just freeplay which is what Ryan is doing here. he uses the game to re-enact a road trip he actually made in Iceland, a drive from Reykjavik to Hofn. that different mode from playing a game with intentions to playing a game freely and choosing ur own path;; ah. the video in the exhibition starts outside an ikea and we watch him trying to get to the destination before the sun goes down - but it’s not stressful, it’s just a ~ let’s see if we can ~. The sound is in-game, and his narration outside of it is mute and subtitled at the bottom of the screen - I’m able to detach, go completely outside of language. It’s like, I have -4.50 and -3.75 eyesight which is quite poor, and sometimes when i have my glasses on or I’m wearing contacts, I find myself letting my eyes relax into their natural blurriness like I can’t even be bothered to make the effort to see and I resign myself to clouds, which honestly is my authentic state. That is the somatic action of this driving video to me, leaning back into the natural passing of time and low energy. n I KNOW the piece might sound boring, especially 54 minutes of it, but i love it for its fixed endlessness, its few natural occurrences and trickling words as and when and if u want to pay attention to them. (it is too late anyway, you are too far into this 2000 word review and the joke is I love to academicise my basic thoughts. noooo i’m messing:) it is genuinely special to find a video, game, image, sound, shape or architecture that matches you - and also it is rare. in Accelerating towards a red light, though I felt myself having to acclimatise to the 22min video and i felt the fiction of it was jarring, I didn’t need to work at all for the 54 minutes of driving. I was already lying on the floor with it, fully set in a gallery beanbag and feeling that slow youtube mood.