A man wearing a red flannel shirt and brown suspenders walks into a clearing. His beard is well kempt, the same off-white as the snowmelt behind him. “Good afternoon,” he says to the camera. “It’s Friday, Oct. 12.” Slowly, he extends his arms. Two birds swoop down from the trees, alighting on his hands. “You can see how much I love my whiskey jacks. I’m feeding them my home-baked bread,” he says. The whiskey jacks peck, then take off with their spoils. “Gotta love it,” the man says. “They’ve been my friends for years.” A small wave at the camera: “I hope you have a great day where you live.”
That video is one of my favorite clips that I’ve seen while watching Default Filename TV, a website launched in March by artist Everest Pipkin. The site’s design is simple — a rectangular video embed floats in the middle of a black page1 and plays random YouTube videos that were uploaded straight from the camera, without an edit to the original file name. Most of the videos that I’ve watched on the site have fewer than 10 or 15 views. In “IMG 7313 Small,” a bear that seems to be in distress is tended to by a woman, who appears to be blowing air into the unconscious animal’s mouth. The video’s 34-second runtime leaves us no chance to process — “MOV 6092” begins to play, and we’re knee-high in a crop field watching what appears to be an industrial sprinkler sweep past the camera, a rainbow forming in its mist. When I watch the site, I am CCTV, omniscient and invisible. I am Superman hearing the cries of a newborn halfway around the world. I am the creep in “American Beauty” marveling at a plastic bag dancing in the wind. Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world … I feel like I can’t take it.