Doug Rickard Documents America Through Recreated Snippets of YouTube Videos

Y3Zwz, 2013#107

Photographer Doug Rickard is probably most famous for his series A New American Picture, in which he recreated images from Google Street View, resulting in a startlingly portrayal of the overlooked, often bleak, backroads of our American landscape.

His latest project, N.A., follows a similar themeRickard spent hours trawling amateur videos in the depths of YouTube and recreated the most striking moments he found. The fruits of his labor will be showcased at LA’s Little Big Man Gallery from September 19 to October 31, with an opening reception this Saturday from 7 to 9 PM. I spoke to the artist recently about how the project came together.

VICE: What moments are you looking for specifically when going through all that YouTube footage?
Doug Rickard: I had initially started N.A. back in 2009, at about the same time that I started A New American Picture but I decided to focus on the Street View project first (from 2009 to 2011) and then N.A. behind it (from 2011 to 2014). In both projects, I started with American city names and then went increasingly more granular “Not Applicable” on forms. The audio in my video piece that will be installed in exhibition form is the national anthem, a version that the US Army recorded, slowed down to a point of almost non-recognition. In the book, the voices in the videos from YouTube become a sort of poem.


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What made you jump from relying on city tags to darker subjects to searches like “Passed Out White Girl” and “Police Brutality”?
With N.A., I started finding that certain “silos” of content would emerge on YouTube related to the city searches and I looked for a visual aesthetic to emerge. In my work, a visual aesthetic is core, a thread to unify disparate pieceslight, shadow, color, mood. I soon started seeing that keyword searches were yielding larger groups of results (these results being limited to only amateur video). For example, “Memphis crackhead,” “Dallas police harassment,” “Oakland sideshow,” “Miami hood tours,” or “Cleveland hood fights” would yield thousands and thousands of videos. This dynamic shaped N.A., as it seemed that a darker element of social media itself emerged. The uploaded videos were often predatory and meant to elicit “likes,” “subscribes,” and “comments.” People might be paying people on the street to dance for a buck or allow them to knock them out cold with their fistor people were filming drunk girls being drawn on with sharpies, or illegal street races, or police beat-downs, or if a fight occurred, everyone would have their phone pulled out and filming. I looked for images then to emerge from these thousands of clipimages and and snippets of video that could tell talestales that deal with culture, politics, race, class, economics, gender, lack of powerand also technology, surveillance, and even photography itself as a medium, playing a part in the conversation.

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What role does race play in this project and A New American Picture?
I think that in both projects, the notion of race in America, is there and playing a significant rolealong with class and socioeconomics. We’re a nation of extremeseconomically we are radically divided in terms of wealth dispersion; racially we are shockingly separatedespecially when looking at white and African-American communities; politically we’re at a stand still and locked into a sort of quagmire of opposition, socially we are stratified, based on economic, racial and other criteria. Both N.A. and A New American Picture are dealing with this brutal machinery, and the implications that are baked into the fabric of the nation. The projects are art, not a document (if such a thing exists in a photograph) so the takeaways (if takeaways exist in art), are imprecise and at time opaque but the subject matter is there. Race is inseparable from this conversation.

Scroll down for more photos from N.A.

Doug Rickard (American, born 1968) is a photographer, curator, and founder of American Suburb X.

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Posted by: Unked1946

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