No contemporary filmmaker has captured the absurdity and fragmentation of our postmodern condition better than 5-Minute Crafts (5MC). The YouTube channel and Facebook page are best known for producing short video compilations of “life hacks,” typically named something along the lines of “Brilliant hacks and crafts for your home that you’ll want to try right away!”
Although this description may sound innocuous, viewers will quickly find that these hacks are, at best, an inspiration for better DIY projects, and at worst, simply unhinged. For example, in the aforementioned video, 5MC recommends tucking in bedsheets with a spatula, turning a plant pot into a fully functioning sink, and using a drill to clean glassware. But as bizarre and impractical as these videos are, I can’t help but watch them in their entirety every time. Like their 90 million Facebook followers and 69 million Youtube subscribers, I am completely and utterly engrossed by the absurdity of 5MC’s DIY transformations.
Believe it or not, 5MC videos are not made by aliens who are poorly attempting to replicate human activities and hobbies. The channel is owned by TheSoul Publishing, a studio based in Cyprus, and the company produces over 500 original videos each month. The strategy of quantity over quality works well with social media algorithms, making 5MC currently the fifth most-subscribed channel on YouTube. With this in mind, it’s no wonder the team at TheSoul continues to churn out increasingly crazier DIY ideas—all of their feasible ideas were used up long ago.
The name of the channel itself is mysterious—I have no idea where the “5-Minute” part comes from. The length of the videos range from three to 15 minutes, and crafts like making an epoxy table or an edible coffee mug take much longer than five minutes to make. Much like the breakneck speed at which the crafts are presented, the “5-minute” idea rejects realism and the idea of linear time in favour of simplicity and productivity.
Most 5MC videos use a point-of-view shot from the perspective of the anonymous life-hacker. This format is commonly associated with cooking channels like Tasty and beauty channels like MetDaan. I’d venture to guess that this format’s popularity on social media lies in the feeling of personal productivity that is evoked by merely watching the video. You might be goofing off during a lecture and scrolling on Facebook, but at least you’re learning how to make a lamp out of ping pong balls in the meantime!
My favorite part of the 5MC video is the short skits that come before the crafts, particularly common in their “sewing” videos. They usually play out something like this: A girl spills wine all over her shirt, so she makes a face, wags her finger at the camera, then proceeds to cut up the shirt—while she’s wearing it!—to create a hideous off-the-shoulder crop top. As much as I love seeing the final result of these crimes against clothing, I appreciate 5MC’s attention to plot and character.
Oddly enough, I have never actively sought out to watch a 5MC video. I don’t subscribe to their YouTube channel, and I haven’t liked them on Facebook, yet these videos constantly appear on my timeline. This is probably due to the algorithms of social media websites, but then again, I actually watch the full videos every time. They appeal to my short attention span, seeking instant gratification through endless scrolling, but the content itself resonates on a larger scale of our culture of productivity and efficiency. 5MC could be read as a covert parody of the neo-liberal idea of maximizing productivity and capital, wasting no materials or time in an attempt to be endlessly thrifty and useful. The videos show you supposedly practical ways to recycle and save money, but making a chair out of egg cartons rather than simply buying a new chair is an awe-inspiring level of insanity. The resulting feeling of disgust and wonder at this absurd spectacle is well worth the watch.