The video for Oneohtrix Point Never's "Still Life (Betamale)," a Jon Rafman-directed dicing-up of Internet subculture detritus, furry footage, fetish anime art, and retrolicious video game graphics, "premiered" on 4Chan. One 4Chan user commented, "No way this is official," and that's about the best compliment this collage of a clip, which invokes awe, empathy, sadness, and horror all at once, or one after another or who even knows, could receive, right?
Unveiling the footage to 4Chan is a bold move because it meant taking this video (first posted on YouTube but removed, then uploaded to VIMEO and pulled there as well, and currently housed on 0PN's website), which is in part, an act of Internet culture vulture co-opting and readjusting, right to its "source." That stands in sharp contrast to say, Rihanna scooping up some #seapunk signifiers and sending them straight to Saturday Night Live, skipping every rung of the underground-to-mainstream ladder and pillaging an entire Tumblr community. 0PN and Rafman's decision to feed message board curiosities in the form of a video back to the collators seems like a far more ethical, and implicative approach. And it also pays lip service to the take-and-give spirit that's inherent to any Internet scene (when it comes to the ethics of grabbing junk from the internet and how, read this and make your own decision).
For so long, aesthetic worlds were created out of limitations and mistakes, but now that the Internet enables access to damn near everything (and makes it easier to closely replicate something you just discovered), the goal of the interesting, engaged artist should be wrestle with it all being a little too much to handle. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you'll always have your Jack White-style curmudgeons who want to kick against it all and feel good about themselves, but they're not only farting in the wind with that stance, they are upholding conservative values that need to go. Engaged art embraces and reconfigures the present, it doesn't declare it a scourge.
In 2013, the move is to turn say, the sterile sheen of CGI, or the maximalism of the impending Internet singularity into something transcendent and true. This is what Oneohtrix Point Never's stunning, addictive new album R Plus Seven does. Daniel Lopatin splays apart silly-sounding synth presets and grooveless grooves and molts them into deeply considered, quite moving music. "Still Life" director Rafman then, is an ideal collaborator. Rafman is best known for his "The Nine Eyes of Google Street View" project, that pulls stunning, arresting, and absurd shots from the navigational tool and isolates them; the utilitarian screenshot as high art photograph. Another project of Rafman's is the short film "A Man Digging," a stitching together of footage from the video game Max Payne 3 into Alan Clarke-esque objective images of death and destruction.
"Still Life," by culling from the unlimited, curates the "it's all too much" of the Internet for maximum emotional impact: A photo of a man with pink panties on his face, guns jammed into each side of his temple, popping up more than once, becomes a pathos-filled refrain; the accumulation of food-encrusted keyboards and spartan, lonely workspaces becomes hard to shake and they go from funny, to fascinating, to strangely moving and personal. The 8-bit imagery (recalling the digital pixel art of Uno Moralez) brings with it an ambiguous menace. Moments of joy and humor creep in as well: Can you deny that a guy in a bunny suit bouncing up and down in his ground floor apartment isn't having the time of his life?
The more you sit with this collection of clips and images, the harder it is to LULZ away. You gain empathy even as you grow more creeped out. The combined pile-up of seeing suicidal panties dude a few times, and the long-as-hell clip of someone in a fox costume, stuck in a mudpit in the middle of the woods, is mind-cracking. A sense of overabundance sits in your gut long after "Still Life (Betamale)" (which climaxes by finding infinity in piss-soaked panties) ends. You're overwhelmed and engulfed by the unlimited. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a furry flailing about in quicksand—forever.