I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

120 Megabytes: An Interview with curator Mark Brown

by A Wolfe
Jan. 26, 2012

If you know anything about Network Awesome, it's that we love stuff that's a little avant-garde, a little retro, and a little just plain weird. With those values in mind, we'd like to introduce you to Mark Brown, a Baltimore-based video artist, musician, and lover of the psychedelic. He's the curator of 120 Megabytes, where he shares his passion for video and music with the masses. From unearthed  multi-colored dance attacks to trippy animations of “Junk Spirals,” the program is a wealth of cultural knowledge and vision. We interviewed Brown about this treasure trove of cultural trippiness and specifically last week's episode, themed around Pills. 

NAmag: First off, tell me: what is 120MB, anyway?          

120 Megabytes is Network Awesome's spin on the MTV Classic underground music video program 120 Minutes.  The program focuses on highlighting psychedelic, experimental, and visionary interactions between sound and vision.  A roughly half-hour episode, culled from the ever expanding YouTube Consciousness, emerges every Thursday on NetworkAwesome.com and 20JazzFunkGreats.co.uk

NAmag: How did you come to be involved in such a titularly awesome network? With a thousand places on the internet that can claim to be awesome, why this one?

I had met NA founder Jason Forrest at a show I hosted for him at the warehouse where I currently live in Baltimore last December and had always been a fan of his work.  When I heard he was launching an online television network, I almost immediately pitched him on the idea for a music video and video art themed show to round out the network's already stellar programming.  As video networks like YouTube continue to expand, curatorial projects like Network Awesome are going to become increasingly important and necessary for delivering well-considered and crafted programming to video consumers.  Of all the sites out there, I have yet to encounter one with the level of dedication and uniqueness of vision as the team behind Network Awesome.

NAmag: Were you a fan of 120 Minutes? What were your favorite videos from that time/Why?

Definitely.  I have a massive affinity for the avant-garde and cutting edge programming MTV was doing in the early to late 90s.  120 Minutes, Liquid Television, even just the bumpers and ad-blips, all left a pretty lasting impression on my developing brain and future creative identity.  However, being born in the mid-80s, a lot of these nostalgic feelings have developed in the space between my hazy adolescent memories of what I consider to be MTVs Glory Days and by (re)-discovering things after they were already aired, which I think is one of the most valuable elements of cultural archiving / excavation projects.  Videos that stood out would have to be Chris Cunningham's videos for Bjork and Aphex Twin, however I wasn't so much struck by the videos from that era as I was the general vibe of MTV before it made the shift from music-focused programming to reality based drama and lifestyle content.  Aeon Flux blew my mind wide open the first time I saw it, Bevis & Butthead, Daria, etc.  You really felt like you were taking in something unique, exciting, and culturally relevant when you tuned in.

NAmag: Yes. I very much understand this. I remember having a sleepover in my parents' basement and stumbling across Cibo Matto's "Know Your Chicken" video, then asking everyone I knew if they had heard of MSG. For several years, I thought I dreamed it all up. I have to say that your current programming for 120MB—inspired by narcotics, pills, specifically—is dreamy as well. Can you talk a little bit about what went into this episode?

When given the theme of Pills as a part of Network Awesome's Salute To Drugs, the obvious response was to delve into the depths of rave / electronic music related culture by exploring the influence chemically enhanced cultural experiences can have on art. The Drug Week episode explores the arc of experiencing electronic music while high to finding a New Age center of peace and tranquility through chemical / visual enhancement.  From 808 State to The Light Freedom Party's psychedelic salute to living waters, from Stellar Om Source to tripping in the woods losing ones mind to The Art Of Noise, tangents are drawn and explored, bound together by a potential for indulging in synthetic substances.  I also rooted the episode in the personal belief, inspired by films like Videodrome and Enter The Void, that video itself can produce unique psychedelic, euphoric, and mind / mood altering experiences.   

I believe the Network Awesome Salute to drugs came about as an homage to the effects (for better and for worse) mind altering substances have had on many generations of artists, cultural icons, scientists, and humankind in general.

NAmag: The way you describe the experience of watching psychedelic experimental video as creating a similar effect to actually consuming mind-altering substances seems akin to the phenomenon of the act of smiling actually bringing about happiness. It's like a chicken and the egg kind of thing. Do you create your own experimental video projects as well as curating them? Do you feel this type of euphoria in their creation?

I am indeed also an experimental video maker.  There is definitely a feeling of euphoric release / elation that can come from discovering a new mode of creation / expression and executing and sharing the results.  You can see some of my work on my website @ http://markcharlesbrown.com.  I feel like the fact that a lot of my videos are sample-based plays a significant role in my experiences as a curator.  I've experienced similar feelings to the excitement that goes along with finding the perfect clip to manipulate and transform to the ones that can be experienced when discovering a new video to add to an episode of the show.

NAmag: After watching a few of the newest episodes of 120MB, it has occurred to me that curating this type of show is a lot of work. How much time goes into programming a whole episode and how do you find the perfect content for the form?

A lot of the time that goes into curating an episode is spent tumbling around the net, scoping video blogs, falling in and out of related search wormholes, and peeping Favorites of like-minded video creators and hoarders.  I've also been spending a good amount of time crafting unique credit sequences for each episode to add to the overal experience of the show as a whole program to be ingested in a linear fashion.  Eventually the goal is to have the program turn into a hybrid of commissioned works created uniquely for the show appearing alongside the found clips.  This is something we're going to be looking into as Network Awesome and 120 Megabytes continue to evolve.  Stay Tuned!

NAmag: Network Awesome seems to have a movable home base, with founders, Jason Forrest and Greg Sadetsky, living in Berlin and Canada, respectively, NA Magazine editor, Ben Gray, over in Boston, and you in Baltimore. Another entity I can think of with worldwide tentacles is Virtue Worldwide (Vice), which seems to tackle its fair share of international stories and has a built-in globalized artistic community. In what way do you think an undefined home base will affect a curated internet television network like NA? Where can an internet television network exist? 

I think having an undefined and widespread home base is fairly important for an entity that currently exists exclusively on the World Wide Web.  However, there have been some copyright related issues that have come up as a result of our worldliness.  For example, I wanted to include a video by The Orb in last week’s episode, but due to copyright controls imposed by their label, the video is not allowed to be streamed in Germany, and thus I couldn't include the video.  There are service and content providers out there with self-serving / greed-driven motives that make currently annoying issues like this into serious roadblocks in the free flow of information around the world.  You can learn more about the fight to preserve net neutrality here: http://savetheinternet.com/. At least I didn't need The Orb's video to keep the show interesting; there are still plenty of great underground / self-released videos out there to discover that can be viewed almost anywhere an internet connection is available.

NAmag: Some of the featured content I've seen on Network Awesome ranges from the entirety of Naked Lunch to a collection of British nuclear war civil defense films and the pilot episode for the 70s cult classic The Prisoner . Can you give a portion of your fantasy programming list for 120MB? What would be the must-haves for your ultimate show?

If we're talking pure fantasy programming...a special feature length presentation of the, most unfortunately, never-made Chris Cunningham-directed interpretation of William Gibson's novel "Neuromancer."  A Wim Wenders-directed video for Britney Spears’ "Till The World Ends" set in the universe of his film "Until The End of The World." A transcendental David Lynch / Lil B collaboration.  These would be must haves for the ultimate episode.


A Wolfe is a writer and director in Los Angeles. awolfeswolfworld.wordpress.com