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pointing to things of interest

April 25, 2012

Majority of videos posted online could be summarized as pointing to things of interest. Videos of rockers rocking out on stage, children crying, performances, skateboarders falling, car crashes, cats doing cute things, babies doing cute things, dogs in action, people having sex in unlikely places, food, violence, etc. These images are index fingers pointing to what we find interesting and want to share with others who might also find them interesting. What used to be a mere gesture of the hand, has turned into pointing a lens and hitting a button, and it could instantly be “shared” with friends online.

Experts pointing to the video of beating of Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, youtube still frame

Interest becomes the currency of the web, quantified by likes and dislikes, thumbs up and thumbs down. In her article Merely Interesting, as part of her larger project exploring minor aesthetic categories, Sianne Ngai writes “far from being an ahistorical abstraction, the interesting is a specifically modern response to novelty and change (which is a noticeably irrelevant issue when it comes to the beautiful)—and, more precisely, to novelty as it necessarily arises against a background of boredom, to change against a background of sameness.” Further, discussing Ed Ruscha’s Various Small Fires and Milk Ngai notes “…the judgment of interesting is underwritten by a realization that the object is meaningfully different from others of its type—an emphasis on the general and schematic that only superficially seems to contradict its concomitant emphasis on difference.” John Baldessari’s A Person Was Asked to Point (1969), is a series of photographs of a male hand “pointing to things that were interesting to him.” He later made the series Commissioned Paintings (1969), where hired amateur painters, painted images of a hands pointing to things. Ngai notes that these works are instances of merely interesting conceptual art’s prompting the look of public exhibition as such. “The problem of providing interesting subject matter . . . was solved by a series I had just finished which involved someone . . . pointing to things that were interesting to him,” Ngai quotes Baldessari.

John Baldessari, A Person Was Asked to Point (1969). Color photos mounted on
museum board

While due to [financial, technological and temporal] constrains of the medium, film was more associated with intentionality; sentimental, political, aesthetic or otherwise, digital has made it possible to simply point to things of interest.

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