Jubal Brown Comes Up for Air with Videodrome

Jubal Brown Comes Up for Air with Videodrome
(Sarin, "Hit Me" (video still))

Multimedia artist Jubal Brown doesn’t do a lot of shows. Since earning himself a credit of notoriety in the international art world, in the 1990s, he has largely shied from creative platforms, preferring to selectively attend them instead, or host one-off DJ nights at little-known clubs. Which is why his annual  and very public, I might add  VIDEODROME tends to bring people out in droves. That, and it’s just about the only event of its kind.

Initiated in 2004 by Brown and his then-collective, FAMEFAME, VIDEODROME is Canada’s foremost A/V event, and endeavors an envelopment of sensorial confusion and mash-up culture. Hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and featuring video, rhythm, and remix sampling, Brown highlights hybrid A/V media in an environment that reads like a dance party. He drives the curatorial ethos like a sinister esthete, remotely citing David Cronenberg, Brian Oblivion, and J.G. Ballard as he spans breakcore and electro, relational aesthetics and installation, experimental video and cut-up.

The evening’s climax arrives in the “Video Battle,” where Brown and a select jury judge short works competing for top honors. Picture must match sound, “cut for cut, beat for beat,” in a “semi-Gesamtkunstwerk for the Youtube generation,” Brown writes in his press release. Prizes are awarded to the best short works on an intuitive criteria of intensity, excitement, and audio/visual link.

In a conversation with ARTINFO Canada, this week, Brown described his desire to drive “an intense, overwhelming, all-encompassing, surrounding experience. It will have a physical impact,” he said. “It’s not like viewing an artwork in the traditional sense, but rather an experiential overload of sensory input.”

With staged performances and installations by Brown, Istvan Kantor, Sarin, Augart, Ouananiche, Nwodtlem, Skeeter, and ?†N?, among others, the one-night event has the appeal of bringing a subculture up for air — in the white cube, of all places. “It’s intrinsically wrapped-up in MOCCA, who have been hosting the event since we began. I can’t think of any other venue taking on something like this. I’ve reached out to others, but there’s no enthusiasm like there is at MOCCA. I credit [artistic director] David Liss, really. He’s a cool guy and he’s willing to take chances.”

Interested in “misusing” technology, and intent on crashing club culture into the museum, Brown regrets VIDEODROME’s singularity. “This sort of work is a genre — a very young genre, only ten or fifteen years old — and there are scenes in London and Paris, for instance, but it’s more associated with the club scene than the art context. Having a past as an artist, I have an artistic approach to it, where it’s about making rhythmic, dance-oriented media works that also have aesthetic conceptual concerns. And you’ll see a lot of alternative music producers developing more visually-oriented presentations. But in art contexts, I don’t see this kind of thing happening very often, and I’m surprised it hasn’t had more support.”

When asked about video art’s short legacy, Brown cites Youtube as both a liberator of underground talent, and the offending medium that short-cut the medium's potential. “Youtube basically killed it. Video used to be a place to show alternative things that were not on TV. Video art used to be a specialized, privileged, imaginary community or subculture. But with Youtube, it became unavoidably obvious that anyone can make stupid shit and post it. The criteria for whether something is successful or not has totally changed.”

VIDEODROME will be held at MOCCA on Friday, June 7, from 8pm – 1am. Tickets can be purchased at the door.