Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ryeberg Live Tonight! Interview with Erik Rutherford

Share |
Ryeberg Live Tonight! Interview with Erik Rutherford

If you haven't already checked out Ryeberg Curated Video, we recommend you do. It is a fantastic concept and a fantastic site. Tonight is Ryeberg's very first live event and we expect that room to be packed. Open Book caught up this week with Erik Rutherford, the creator and editor of Ryeberg, about his project, the event tonight and a couple Toronto questions, too.

Open Book: Toronto:

Hello! Tell us all about your project, Ryeberg Curated Video. What, when, why, where?

Erik Rutherford:

I first had the idea for Ryeberg in early 2007. Friends and I were gathered around a laptop and showing YouTube videos to each other. We started to feel a little self-conscious about it. As a joke, someone quoted the Ginsberg line: “I saw the best minds of my generation…” It got me thinking about how video-sharing was becoming a habitual part of our lives. What significance? What if I invited a whole lot of smart, distinguished people from different backgrounds and disciplines to choose YouTube videos and write about them?” A year later, I got round to building the site.

There were already a few video aggregation sites ranking and categorizing clips. With Ryeberg I wanted to put the emphasis on the contributors, to let their enthusiasms and interests guide the way. A kind of show and tell for writers and artists.

I was also very careful about the look of the site - about what font to use and so on (and a lot of credit goes to Monnet Design). Text is generally not very respected in Internetland; good writing can feel as evanescent and disposable as everything else; it gets decontextualized, washed away. Pasha Malla puts it really well in a recent curated video (“Among Little Instruments”):

“With the internet there’s always that nagging urge to get on things quickly, because they expire so quickly: something interesting pops up and prompts a sudden, always fleeting rush of attention—if you have anything to say, say it fast!”

I wanted Ryeberg to preserve that sense of intent that you feel with a printed magazine or a book. I hope the way the pages are organized, you feel urged to read and watch curated videos in the order given by the author, and not too easily drawn away. There are hyperlinks of course, but I hope pages are not too porous and you feel a little cosseted from the frenzy of the rest.
Why? Online video doesn’t speak for itself. Let’s make use of it, surround it with intelligent discourse, figure out what it all means.

OBT:

And, may we ask about you?

ER:

Just another liberal arts service provider stitching together enough gigs to survive.

OBT:

How do you choose/find/curate your curators?

ER:

I think of the people I admire and ask if they’ll be willing to become a curator. Sometimes people are recommended to me. Other times, I will receive an email from someone who has found the site and likes it enough to want to contribute.

OBT:

Favourite moments?

ER:

That’s easy. When I open up a newly received essay from one of the curators, or from a new contributor. I read it through, watch the videos, it’s good, it’s great. That’s when I feel most excited about the project, most convinced of its value.

My least favourite aspect of Ryeberg is anything to do with promotion or publicity. It’s definitely not my bag. But I’m now enlisting help from a pro.

OBT:

The project is named after your great-grandfather, Rudolf Ryeberg. Tell us about him.

ER:

Rudolf appears in plenty of old black in white family photos, usually with accordian in hand and women and children gathered round. As a kid, my sisters and I would dance as he played for us. He worked in a metal factory most of his life, but was known for his distinctive style. He dressed above his class so to speak. I suppose it was his special distinction that made it feel right to take his name. Good name too.
 
The crown in the logo comes from the Swedish coat of arms, and it is not only to signify that Ryeberg is slightly upscale within a universe of flashpan pop. It’s an oblique reference to the fact Rudolf wrote to the Swedish king for permission to marry Anna Hansonn. He was 17 at the time (she 19), and anyone under 18 was not allowed to marry. He got what he asked for.

OBT:

Current Top Ten Wishlist for curators (dead or alive)?

ER:

There are so many! Well, here are ten.

Andy Warhol
Sigmund Freud
Bob Dylan
Edith Wharton
David Cronenberg
Miranda July
Slavoj Zizek
Ricky Gervais
Kenneth Clark
Christopher Lasch

OBT:

You have your first live event, including a “video dance party,” coming up tonight and we are excited. Tell us what to expect.

ER:

Expect conviviality and a sense of occasion. This is the first time Ryeberg has left cyberspace and there’s a lot of excitement. Russell Smith has given his talk the provocative title of “Die Hipster Scum.” I won’t say more except that Lady Gaga is involved. Sheila Heti has found a fascinating video that will be of special interest to Torontonians. Mike Hoolboom will speak lyrically of Patti Smith. Jon and Sholem have a few truly amazing clips to show under the title of “The Gays of Tomorrow.” And there will be a couple surprises.

After the show, we’ll keep the music and videos going. Everyone will have plenty to talk about. I suspect I’ll be drinking and dancing.

OBT:

Out of curiosity, what’s the last book you read and loved? Why did you love that book?

ER:

A collection of writings by Sir Thomas Browne. What an unusual, exquisite mind, and his prose makes your spine tingle: “Be deaf unto the suggestions of tale-bearers, calumniators, pick-thank or malevolent detractors, who, while quiet men sleep, sowing the tares of discord and division, distract the tranquillity of charity and all friendly society. These are the tongues that set the world on fire—cankerers of reputation, and, like that of Jonah's gourd, wither a good name in a single night.”

OBT:

Favourite bookstore?

ER:

This Ain’t the Rosedale Library.

OBT:

Favourite Toronto spots, literary or not?

ER:

Robarts Library, Communist’s Daughter, Oyster Boy, the AGO, Coach House Books, Cameron House, Grenadier Pond, a certain Portuguese sports bar, Queen’s Park…

OBT:

Indulge us and please answer a classic Open Book question: if you had to choose three books as a "Welcome to Canada" gift, what would those books be?

ER:

Who We Are: A Citizen's Manifesto by Rudyard Griffiths: Welcome to the Canadian psychodrama!

Consolation by Michael Redhill: Nascent Toronto beautifully evoked.

Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy: Beer and flowers.

OBT:

Merci, Erik! See you tonight!

***

Erik Rutherford is the creator and editor of Ryeberg. He has written for other Toronto-based publications including The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and two of the Utopia anthologies published by Coach House Books. He has also worked in radio broadcasting; while in Paris (1997 – 2005), his radio programs were broadcast on several French stations including Radio France Internationale.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications

Dundurn

Open Book App Ad