Unlikely Inspirations: Andrew Ross’s Playlist


Brooklyn-based artist Andrew Ross is the subject of the “First Look” column in our October issue. “If politics is theater,” Sean J. Patrick Carney writes, “Ross is constructing the sets for a pulpy, sci-fi production somewhere off-off-Broadway.” Ross’s solo exhibition, “Iceman Returns,” was the first at American Medium gallery’s new Chelsea location. Here, Ross introduces a compilation of his favorite YouTube videos, many of which are quirkily uplifting. —Eds.


I look at YouTube for tutorials, news, recipes, stand-up comedy, artist talks and inspirational speeches. I like hearing voices converse while I’m in the studio, even if I’m not exactly paying attention to them. I find myself half-listening to a lot of inspirational speeches on autoplay, in between research on DIY tutorials and 3-D modeling tips and tricks. Occasionally I’ll run into a speech that I’m actually inspired by.


Henry Thomas auditions for the role of Elliot, the lonely protagonist of E.T. (1982). My friend sent me this one in a text. It’s a gut-wrenching performance. Thomas’s eyes well up with tears, and he addresses a voice off camera with the expression and cadences of an honest child caught in a lie. I’m just affected by how real it feels—how he locks into character at the moment the audition starts, and right back out as soon as he gets the part.

KRS-One, “Fifth Dimension Explained.” KRS-One is a rap icon, well known for such classics as his 1993 song, “Sound of Da Police,” and is frequently a guest speaker at colleges. His talks are essentially philosophy lectures, even when the topic is the history of hip-hop. Though I believe that he teaches great lessons in these videos, I find them most interesting as extensions of his practice as a rapper.

The Roots, “You Got Me,” featuring Erykah Badu. This is first of all just an amazing song. I revisited it recently because I asked Google to find me syncopated songs, and it was high up on the list. The video is interesting as well: first, everyone but Black Thought (the group’s vocalist) and Erykah Badu are lying immobile on the sidewalk. Then, toward the end, just as the drums become extremely syncopated, they all wake up and it’s just Black Thought who is immobile on the ground. Everybody is running around at that moment as if Black Thought had just collapsed or been shot, and I also feel the movement in the sound.

Aimee Mullins, “It’s Not Fair Having 12 Pairs of Legs.”
Mullins is an American athlete, actress, and fashion model who had to have both her legs amputated below the knee when she was an infant. I love the way she spells out the shift from being seen as disabled to possibly super-abled when a student asks her why she would settle for cheetah legs to leap over buildings when she could just fly. It’s as if they make her more than human. Mullins also discusses her work in Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle (1994-2002). She played a variety of roles in his multidisciplinary project, including one as a half-woman, half-cheetah creature, and used prosthetic legs for each part. As a sculptor, I find it exciting how Barney’s props from those films take on new meanings in Mullins’s life.

“Time—Inception [Piano Tutorial] (Synthesia).” Piano tutorials are animated videos that teach you how to play songs. I listen to this one somewhat often. It’s a song by Hans Zimmer from the soundtrack of Inception (2010). I love movie soundtracks, especially those from movies about redefining space and time. There’s something about the increasing volume and complexity over the course of this song, made visual by the tutorial, that makes you feel conscious of your own movements.

“Flat Earth in Television Commercialsâ??Apartments.com.” I initially wanted to share an obscure YouTube video in which a YouTube user analyzes an apartments.com commercial for their “free rent for life” sweepstakes promotion, featuring Jeff Goldblum. But I think the video must have been taken down due to copyright infringement. In the featured commercial, an old man sits in front of a large window which shows a futuristic city behind him. He explains that he won the sweepstakes and that everyone lives in apartments and that people will live for twice as long in the future. The YouTube user argues that this is subliminal advertising for Agenda 21, a popular conspiracy theory that the government wants to move the majority of the population into apartments and tiny homes in megacities. Since I can’t find that video, here is another apartments.com commercial. In it, two actors pluck people out from “a firmament,” an invisible, dome-shaped barrier apparently mentioned in the Old Testament and often referenced by conspiracy theorists who believe that the earth is flat. Near the end, Goldblum also makes a complicated joke about voodoo, saying that he studied rainmaking at the University of Port-au-Prince. It does seem that apartments.com aims to provoke confusion and intrigue through their marketing schemes.


Visit Andrew Ross’s playlist here.