ART THOUGHTZ is a video series on YouTube, by artist Jayson Musson under the pseudonym Hennessy Youngman. Wearing clothing stereotypically associated with rap culture–snapback baseball caps, chains, large tee shirts–Jayson Musson appears as his character, Hennessy Youngman. Musson’s videos focus on his personal criticisms of the art world. His language is littered with profanity, hip hop slang, and slurs. At the end of one of the videos in the series, he even makes a plea to “Kara” to presumably get back together with him, kissing and winking at the camera at the end. The videos are not particularly elegant or pristine; the audio and picture quality are fairly low, with an opening containing the title of the series and episode, all in different fonts and with rap music playing in the background. The editing can be choppy. Pictures and videos are often shown on the screen of the people, artwork, movies, etc., Musson is talking about.
Musson plays on the dichotomy of acting as a character American society would commonly assume to be unintelligent, while also making conversation about the philosophy of art and the art world/industry. Throughout the series, Musson takes ideas branded by society as near opposite, and fits them together to create a striking contrast. One video nonchalantly compares rap artist Jay-Z to acclaimed artist Joseph Beuys. As a character representing nearly every gangster stereotype, Hennessy appears to be unintelligent, like he should know nothing of the prestigious art world. In the presentation of Musson’s How to be a Successful Artist, Hennessy’s lack of professionalism gives the impression that the video is directed at a friend, someone without college education.
Austine Considine reported in The New York Times:
““Everyone sees it as a real, critical performance, and a lot of that is because most of his audience is right here in the art world,” said Naomi Beckwith, a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, which has twice invited Mr. Musson to lecture in character. “They get it,” she said. “They understand that the character that’s speaking shouldn’t have access to that knowledge, so therefore there must be some kind of subterfuge going on.”
The videos are funny partly because they are incongruous: insightful jabs made by a hip-hop personality whose faux-outsider perspective is intended to challenge the art world’s pretensions and inaccessibility. In his most-watched video, “How to Make an Art,” Hennessy sarcastically criticizes his audience for using terms like “talent” with regard to art — while wearing a baseball cap depicting Ernie from “Sesame Street” and an outsize medallion of a pharaoh.” Considine, Austine (2012, Feb. 29) Hennessy Youngman Offers Offbeat Art Criticism
ART THOUGHTZ brings the art world an important discussion of bias, race, gender, and shallow appearances. Many topics in his videos are extremely relevant not only in the art world, but in the modern day USA as well. Because of his character’s appearance and language, many people might dismiss his words and not bother with the video series, even if they are relevant and intelligent. It explores the expectations society puts on appearances, especially race. Musson created a thoughtful multi-level deep series of videos, but one can be left questioning what constitutes this piece as art, rather than a clever series of videos–particularly compared to other similar YouTube channels. Throughout the ART THOUGHTZ video series, Musson questions various parts of the art world, including questionable pieces of art. However, his video series also can be subject to his own criticisms.
One similar channel on YouTube is the TVFilthyFrank channel. Created by George Miller in 2011, “Filthy Frank” is a character who does extremely repulsive things and says even more demented things, often using surrealistic humor to unapologetically joke about controversial and taboo subjects. He mimics internet culture in order to mock not only that same culture, but modern day society as well. He uses layers of irony to play with themes of racism, sexism, and various taboo subjects in society. If ART THOUGHTZ is considered art, then TVFilthyFrank can arguably also be considered art.
In terms of acclaimed video art pieces, ART THOUGHTZ is similar to Alex Bag’s The Van, created in 2001. In her work, three female artists try to appeal to their gallerist, who is dressed is a pimp, by describing the sexy clothing they will be wearing to their exhibition, after their gallerist guarantees fame and designer bags. Bag’s piece also uses satire is used to expose criticism directed at the art world. The piece shows the greed of the art world. Another similar piece of video art is Easternsports, by Alex Da Corte, Dev Hynes, and ART THOUGHTZ’s Jayson Musson. The two and a half hour video’s imagery was created by Corte, then scripts were written by Musson, and Hynes created the soundtrack. The scenes in Easternsports are abstract and make use of striking colors; they depict everyday tasks with a playful spin, and many other odd scenes not seen in everyday life. The script in Easternsports, like in ART THOUGHTZ, comments on the art world, but also expands to many other aspects of life, utilizing Mussons clever sense of humor.
Jayson Musson performed ART THOUGHTZ live at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in September, 2011.
Cavaluzzo, Alexander (March 20, 2012). Interview Magazine. Jayson Musson is More than Hennessy Youngman
Edler, Don (June 8, 2012). Hyperallergic. The Problem with Hennessy Youngman