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Crowded Canvas

Video artist Max Juren stakes his claim in the YouTube nation

By Ashley Moreno, Fri., April 10, 2009

Crowded Canvas

Local multimedia and video artist Max Juren has to compete with the best of Internet memes. Primarily publishing his commercial parodies, short narratives, and other video clips on YouTube (and under the pseudonym of his video-artist persona, Jax Neuron), the 1980s-nostalgic, feather-haired, and white-suited Juren must jockey for space and attention with the likes of "Kittens, Inspired by Kittens." So how does a serious, Web-based humorist interested in the effects of modern consumerism and the absurdity of cultural norms emerge in a community ruled (for the moment) by such viral hits as the Techno Viking and a recording of Larry Williams giving directions to a Motel 6? With a series of shorts that contemplate the complexity of our modern condition, that's how. Of course, photos of Juren riding a windup penis and footage of a half-naked man face-planting into a hamburger cake from the roof of a house probably help, too.

In many ways the Internet serves as an appropriate medium for the kind of work Juren produces. "In the ideal sense, [YouTube] has given people a forum so they are not making videos only their family and friends can see. And that can have an impact if you are sharing legitimate new ideas," Juren says. As a humorist, he also appreciates the "lowest common denominator" aspect of many YouTube clips and believes that his favorite video, "The World's Longest Fart," has a unique ability to connect people. "Everyone laughs at it," Juren says. But YouTube's unchecked accessibility has its limits. And Juren appreciates that YouTube's convenience and anonymity, which scored his shorts such as "Falcor Jovialized" more than 3,700 hits, fosters a level of vulgarity as well. "[YouTube] comments are always someone airing their angry, critical first reaction in five words or less with no potential for negative repercussion," Juren says. "I just think it's cowardly."

In the interest of reaching new audiences and as a step toward his goal of a feature-length narrative, Juren spent the past few weeks working with friend Drew Liverman to compile a collection of his favorite online pieces for a DVD. Monofonus Press, the Austin-based record label and multimedia press, will release the collection April 10. The shorts range in length from a few seconds to a few minutes and span roughly five years of Juren's work. The absurd (and borderline ridiculous) nude, violent, and silly images associated with online clips mark most of the collection's shorts, including "Irene Douglas," Juren's first short narrative. "I look for a hidden path to something beautiful by means of the absurd," Juren explains. "['Irene Douglas'] follows a day in the life of a man who, for whatever reason, perpetually has feces covering both his hands. I went into this thinking that the absurdity of his condition would just present one funny situation after the next. But when the project was finished, I saw that the loneliness he was condemned to was, somehow, beautiful."

Monofonus Press and Domy Books will host a DVD release party and screening for Max Juren at Domy Books (913 E. Cesar Chavez) on Friday, April 10, 8-10pm. For more info, see www.monofonuspress.com.

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