How do we (re)act when the camera´s on us? In RIHACTION, Neil Young invites us into the private spaces of 37 YouTubers each performing their own unique reaction to a single video: Tom Holland´s viral performance of Rihanna´s "Umbrella" on the American musical-reality competition show Lip Sync Battle.
Pulling directly from the internet´s content ether, Young aggregates a collage of YouTube videos, collating them in a hypnotic elucidation of online reaction culture. Young offers little instruction on how to process the collection of clips, but as they coalesce into something beyond their individual parts (and as the infectious melody of "Umbrella" coaxes its way comfortably into the brain) one begins to discern the film´s intentions: an interrogation of virality, performativity, reception, fandom, marketing and masculinity in 21st century digital media.
There´s a temptation to classify RIHACTION as "post-cinema": as a film that probes at and embodies the proliferation of new media forms that have displaced cinema as the dominant medium — or even as a cousin of the burgeoning desktop film. But there remains a distinction in its modalities of viewing: whereas the conventional desktop film benefits glowing from a laptop, RIHACTION demands the big screen. Young generates a glimpse through the internet´s façade by removing these reactions from their technological context and blowing them up, stripping away the interfaces and metadata that govern their video files until all we see are the people at the centre. No longer do we watch in isolation, nor intimately over one´s shoulder. Instead, we see vicariously through the performance of another — a mediated audience member swept up in a stream of online content, endlessly proliferating, endlessly regenerating, always reacting. (Samuel Harris)