TV boxer
Photo by bwalsh.

Last night, the Palais de Tokyo staged its first “YouTube battle.” It’s a promising idea that needs some refinement in the execution. I left feeling a little disappointed but hoping that they’ll keep at it.

Here’s the deal. Two competitors square off on separate computers, selecting YouTube clips that are displayed side-by-side on a giant screen. Each person becomes a video DJ, mixing their favorite videos into their own unique work. After five minutes, a jury selects the best mix and thus the winner of the battle. Last night, 16 YouTubers participated in a round-robin tournament of head-to-head battles.

In theory, this should be a slick, fast-paced presentation of the weirdest and wildest from YouTube’s bottomless sea of videos. In practice, it turned out to be a bit clunky. A lot of time was spent watching the competitors browse their YouTube accounts to find the next clip (it would be great if each could have a pair of machines so that they could “cue” the next video on a separate screen). One hapless battler never got started; he couldn’t seem to remember his YouTube login.

Still, the event’s amateurish nature lent it a certain charm, and the organizers didn’t take themselves too seriously. A pair of lingerie-clad young women stumbled around the room on roller skates waving pom-poms and holding signs announcing the current stage of the competition (“Round 1,” “Round 2,” etc.). Ah, Paris.

Unfortunately, the video compilations were not particularly inspired, and only a couple of the participants seemed to bring a cohesive creative vision to their mix. As a result, some of the most entertaining moments came not from the individual genius of the competitors but from the serendipitous interplay between their side-by-side video streams. Particularly disturbing: The juxtaposition of this clip from ABC’s “Wife Swap” reality series and this clip of a two-faced cat. Yikes.

I can imagine this thing shaking off its growing pains and becoming a really creative media smorgasbord, combining the campy fun of karaoke with the insider cool of DJ mix culture. If they stage another one, I’ll be there.

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