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I’ve been listening to The Range lately (Brown’s very own James Hinton!), and this week’s lecture about poor images got me thinking about how Hinton uses YouTube and poor images as an integral part of his music. As context, for his new album Potential, Hinton dug through the depths of YouTube to find amateur vocalists to sample on his own tracks. Usually these videos are low quality, often times a little out of pitch–poor images–but they exhibit a sense of “unvarnished humanity,” he says. He found each using a specific set of queries to YouTube. It’s interesting to think about the juxtaposition of the indifference and machine-like nature of a search engine’s algorithms with the unfettered humanity he’s looking for. The videos Hinton samples from reveal the conditions of existence and creation of poor images that Steyerl describes–how the video was circulated and dispersed on YouTube, the fractured performance of the song to the re-fracturing of the video by uploading to YouTube. For Hinton, the imperfections of the videos is precisely their appeal, as they evoke something more “instinctual and empathetic.” I want to think about what it means for Hinton to sample these videos in his music. Is he appropriating the cultures and conditions from where the videos originated or is he privileging the poor image as a higher form of art? Steyerl’s conclusion is particularly apt in understanding Hinton’s music: “it is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation. In short: it is about reality.”


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