The Streamer is Online — History

A few years ago now, the MOMA in New York held a retrospective of work by renowned performance artist, Marina Abramović. As part of this exhibit, Abramović performed a piece called The Artist is Present, in which she sat immobile in the museum’s atrium while spectators were invited to take turns sitting opposite her. As luck would have it, PAX East 2010 was happening at the same time and after the convention, myself and several others of the LRR Crew took an extra week to visit New York and we went to the MOMA as part of our vacation. I didn’t get to sit with Abramović during that visit, as even at that point the line was several hours long, but I found the concept fascinating and was moved even just watching from the sidelines. What I find particularly interesting is the subtle emotions that can be communicated without speech or even movement when you are really concentrating on another person.

I feel that I have a somewhat unique perspective on this particular performance because of a project I did a year before the MOMA exhibit, called ThingsOnMyHead. Strange as it seems, this project consisted of a bunch of short videos where I silently looked into the camera while balancing objects on my head. It was supposed to just be a couple of silly shorts to make fun of the concept of pointless YouTube “viral videos”, but the first few got such interesting feedback that I decided to continue making them. In the realm of Internet comments, YouTube is often considered to be the bottom of the barrel, a cesspool of illiterate, offensive and insulting garbage, but for whatever reason, these videos of me just silently looking into the camera for a minute and a half seemed to affect people. The comments were not only almost universally positive, but many people would often “play along” with the concept and cite their favourite section or compare one almost identical video to the previous one. I ended up making over 80 of the ThingsOnMyHead videos, and they have been watched over 1.5 million times. The YouTube channel has over 17,000 subscribers and still gets comments.

A couple of months ago, I came across Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, a documentary about the MOMA retrospective and Abramović herself, which rekindled my interest in her work. I kept thinking about the way The Artist is Present affected the people who participated and comparing it to my own experiences interacting with the public through LoadingReadyRun and with ThingsOnMyHead. Finally, I have decided to stop just thinking about and to attempt my own project, inspired by The Artist is Present: The Streamer is Online.

Click here for more information on how the project works and how to participate yourself.