THE CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSEUM (The CJM) PRESENTS
An installation of the YouTube mash-ups of Israeli musician and composer Kutiman
July 20, 2017–June 24, 2018
(San Francisco, CA, June 1, 2017) The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s soaring Stephen & Maribelle Leavitt Yud Gallery will be home for the next year to offgrid, a 38-minute-long, Internet-sourced audio visual surround sound meditation on the psychedelic jazz of the 1950s and 60s by one of Israel’s most celebrated artists. Kutiman (born Ofir Kutiel in Jerusalem in 1982) is a master of YouTube mash-ups, subtly and intricately knitting together snippets of everything from instructional music videos to amateur drum solos that others have uploaded. Many of the videos in his Thru You series have received millions of views and have earned him a devoted following and even a spot on Time magazine’s “Fifty Best Inventions of 2009” list.
offgrid is the final installment in the Thru You series and was developed for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and shown there in 2016 (curator: Tal Lanir). The immersive work, coming to the United States for the first time in this showing at The CJM, is comprised of twelve monitors equally spaced around the gallery on which various solo instrument players appear and disappear in thousands of combinations from 96 unrelated YouTube clips. The sound of an Indian tanpura mixes with saxophone, drums, synthesizer, and dozens of other instruments as the psychedelic palette of the colorized video shifts every few minutes.
The exhibition also includes a separate monitor outside of the main gallery that will show a compilation of Kutiman’s Thru You (2009) and Thru You Too (2014) videos including Mother of All Funk Chords, the work that started it all. “I was surfing YouTube and I came across a video of a drummer (the legendary session drummer Bernard Purdie) explaining how to play this funky groove and I had the idea of playing over the top of his video, so I did some tests,” said Kutiman in an interview with VICE’s The Creators Project on the origin of the piece. “I really loved the idea so I decided to do another one. I found another video of the same drummer and just before I plugged my guitar in to play over it, I thought to myself, maybe I can find someone on YouTube to accompany him instead of me playing the guitar or bass? And that was it. After that moment I didn’t get up from the computer for about two months.”
The 2014 Thru You Too project featured a piece entitled “Give it Up,” that turned a New Orleans nurse named Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery into a viral sensation and gave rise to a documentary film entitled Presenting Princess Shaw by Ido Haar about this unlikely relationship.
Kutiman has always made these videos as a labor of love, putting them back out on to YouTube for free. The musicians he has appropriated work from have never objected and are usually thrilled to be featured, especially given Kutiman’s penchant for eccentric and rarely clicked on original material. He provides links to the original videos as well, and often, if those have gone missing, commenters have combed through the web to find them in a crowd-sourced swell of enthusiasm for the works.
“It’s just a huge wave of positivity,” said Kutiman in an interview with Billboard. “People that really love it and go see the players, and they love the players and comment on them. Everybody’s really positive about the whole thing.”
“Kutiman is at the cutting edge of contemporary art practice, extending the traditions of assemblage, cut-up literary technique, appropriation, and found art into the realm of music and sound composition,” says CJM Chief Curator Renny Pritikin. “The Yud Gallery, the architectural gem of The CJM’s building, with its eccentrically-angled walls pierced by 36 windows, is going to be a beautiful setting and place for visitors to experience Kutiman’s state-of-the-art digital creations.”
Kutiman: offgrid offline opens to the public on July 20, 2017 in conjunction with two other exhibitions opening the same day, The 613 by Archie Rand and In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art—Allison Smith and Christina Zetterlund.
Kutiman (born Ophir Kutiel in 1982) lives on Kibbutz Tze’Elim in southern Israel. He studied music at Rimon Music College in Tel Aviv and in 2003, went to Jamaica where he worked with the Marley family. In 2006, he signed to a German label, Melting Pot, and began putting out recordings. In 2010 he won the ACUM (The Israel Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers of Musical Works) award for producing. Kutiman is best known for his viral video/audio mashup online albums Thru You and Thru You Too, the latter of which was awarded a 2015 Webby Award. Due to the success of Thru You, in October 2010, Kutiman was invited by YouTube to perform at the YouTube Play grand opening at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
(38 min.) 2016:
(3:36 min.) Part of the compilation Thru You, 2009:
(4:24 min.) Part of the compilation Thru You Too, 2014:
Kutiman: offgrid offline is organized by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel. Tel Aviv Museum presentation made possible thanks to the support of the Young Friends of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s presentation is made possible by supporting sponsorship from David Agger and the Ullman Family. Additional support is made by The Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest and The CJM Contemporaries Committee.
With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase L’Chaim (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.
Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by an Anonymous donor; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; Carbon Five; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Millennium Partners, the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Osterweis Capital Management; The Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund; RayKo; Dorothy R. Saxe; Seiger Family Foundation; and Wendy and Richard Yanowitch.
For more information about The Contemporary Jewish Museum, visit The Museum’s website at thecjm.org.