Finalist in Guggenheim’s YouTube Play competition finds a use for WikiLeaks

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WikiLeaks, the website that publishes leaks from sources in the government, corporations and other institutions, has been in the news a lot lately for the headaches it is causing the Pentagon on information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of that published military material has now found its way into an unexpected format -- a work of art. ‘Post Newtonianism,’ by Josh Bricker, is a two-channel video work that uses audio from a WikiLeaks video released earlier this year documenting a U.S. military offensive in Iraq that is believed to have resulted in the deaths of two Reuters news staffers, among others.

The artwork recently was selected as one of the top 25 videos from a field of more than 23,000 submissions in the Guggenheim Museum’s YouTube Play competition.

In the piece, the screen is divided into two panels, one of which features actual wartime footage while the other shows scenes from the war-themed video game ‘Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.’ On the soundtrack, audio from the WikiLeaks video gradually merges with audio from the video game.


Bricker, 30, lives in New York, but he grew up in Southern California, in the town of Fillmore in Ventura County. In a phone interview this week, he explained that the artwork is intended to explore the increasingly blurred boundaries between military technology and video games. It also serves as a commentary on the way people experience warfare via television and online.

‘I wanted it to be a catalyst for conversation,’ he said. ‘Obviously, I have my own political agenda, but I wanted to give it wiggle room so people can argue about it and not be didactic.’

The artist created the piece as part of his graduate studies at Parsons design school in New York. He said that prior to the work being selected by the Guggenheim/YouTube, it had generated only about 60 views on YouTube. Since then, it has logged more than 30,000 views. ‘Post Newtonianism’ (the title was inspired by the writing of Edward Said) is close to six minutes in length and features footage that the artist culled from the Internet. The video was then edited together using Final Cut on a Mac.

The artist served for two years in the Air Force before pursuing degrees at Cal State Channel Islands and Parsons. He describes himself as a video game fan, including first-person shooter-type games like Halo.

When not making art, Bricker works as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He said video is an important medium for him, but he also creates paintings, sculptures and works in other forms.

You can learn more about Bricker’s work and the other top videos at the Guggenheim site.

-- David Ng