Field Notes: Wilmer Wilson IV’s Playlist

Wilmer Wilson IV: Quilt, 2015, lottery tickets and safety pins, 6 by 8 inches. Courtesy CONNERSMITH, Washington, DC.


In the First Look section of our May issue, Erica Dawn Lyle profiles Wilmer Wilson IV, whose work is included in the fourth New Museum Triennial, on view through May 27. Lyle describes Wilson’s practice of wandering city streets to make observations and gather materials that he then uses to produce “ephemeral sculptures.” Here, Wilson shares a YouTube playlist of videos reflecting his interests in alternative media and the textures of urban environments. —Eds.


When I look at my YouTube history, I see that, over the years, I have watched more clickbait videos than I care to admit, via the Recommended Videos column on the righthand side of the page. Most of that content was unfulfilling to watch. Some of the most generative videos I remember viewing have since been removed; I wish I had known earlier about tools like youtube-dl, a script for downloading videos. The surviving links included on this list point to my engagement with reorienting the entrenched social and material realities of urban centers, as well as my attempts at using absurdity to square with bodily discomfort.


SimCity 3000: Magnasanti. Do you ever feel like the city you’re in is actively working to kill you, waste your time, or generally undermine your life there? Architect Vincent Oscala designed a city in SimCity 3000 that looks perfect on paper but seems like it would be a chilling dystopia for its residents. The plan for his city, called Magnasanti, maximizes urban density by limiting amenities so that citizens die off before reaching retirement age, and removes incentives for people to leave their own block. The Magnasanti plan caters to the rules of the game while revealing potential discrepancies between a designer’s intentions and the wants, needs, and experiences of users.

The Game of War FULL SD. I am increasingly interested in the potential for games to make visible the lines of conflict that exist within everyday social, political, and economic conditions. Guy Debord created a board game meant to empower its players to engage with the principles of waging class warfare. The rules, pieces, and board all harbor in-game applications for Situationist concepts of psychogeography, détournement, and communication. This video by the collective Class Wargames contextualizes the game within Debord’s stances on revolutionary struggle.

Adrienne Brown, “Reading Red-Line: The Shape of Race in the Mid-Century.” YouTube is a trove of lectures by all sorts of thinkers, and I love using it to find out more about their work. Most recently I came across the work of Adrienne Brown, a professor of English at the University of Chicago who analyzes the interdependency of the built environment and social relations in twentieth-century America. In this lecture she teases out the mindsets and methodologies that constituted redlining, the Federal Housing Administration’s discriminatory denial of financial services. Brown examines how euphemisms like “social influences” entered official home appraisal guidelines, where they were used as carte blanche to devalue homes in areas populated by people of color. These appraisal values were subsequently adopted by the FHA to make decisions about neighborhoods where they would back home loans. She then turns to literary genealogies of racialized suburban life, via the work of John Cheever, to further elucidate the attitudes vaguely alluded to in the official documents.

Betsy DeVos booed at university (entire speech). This is a video of US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos getting booed through her entire commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University last year. At over twenty minutes long, it is truly one to savor. DeVos seems genuinely surprised and hurt by the sustained signs of disrespect from the graduating students. Perhaps she thought that if she stuck to the most forgettable, worthless, platitude-filled commencement speech, everybody would be indifferent enough to indulge her and smile and clap politely. Her face tightens the deeper she gets into her speech, and a few lines that come from some misguided notion of “respect” completely blow up in her face. These students’ resolve in refusing her a moment of gratification is moving.

Xavier Wulf x Black Kray x Dead Leaves – TAMAG0TCHi. I often use YouTube to listen to music, and I have a deep love of slapstick animation, so I thought I would end this list with the perfect combination of those two interests: an anime music video. Akin to fan fiction or custom Tumblr layouts, these videos are a vernacular form through which people manipulate the language of media and share the results with small audiences. The creator of this one, working under the name MASTA, uses a light hand in altering the videos, leaving full scenes largely intact. The visuals come from a sequence in the anime Dead Leaves in which two captured outlaws orchestrate a violent breakout from a notorious prison. The track is from Black Kray and Xavier Wulf, two underground rappers who were early adopters of platforms like Soundcloud and built engaged, active communities there.


Visit Wilmer Wilson IV’s playlist here.