Appropriation and Remix Culture in our Technological Times

The project discussed in John Michael Boling’s article, The “Microsoft Songsmith” seems to be a pretty advanced and interactive invention. It is an intriguing gimmick to the public, almost like a toy, at which they can play with over and over again at their disposal. I do like the inventiveness of this, however, this still taps into the idea that automation and art can be declared as one. I do not object to automation being a part of art, but this project to me seems more like a software, if anything else. As I just looked up a basic definition of computer software, Wikipedia says they are: “instructions telling a computer what to do and how to do it”. I suppose, if the instructions originated from the artist, then the conceptual idea can be granted, but then, are the results after using the product the artist’s work as well? People who use software could not conceivably be artists at all, but after going through a simple process, like using Microsoft’s Songsmith, they can create and be surprised by the result of what a software has made for them.

Re-cut trailers is certainly a viral cult that has become widely popular over YouTube, and other websites. I do find these highly entertaining and amusing, which reminds me of the “Rose Hobart” project in 1936. Using material and appropriating it with your desired meaning or message is a very concept-driven process. It could nearly borderline story-telling if anything, because of the recreation of stories, and the way they are delivered to an audience. Copyright is certainly neglected when making re-cut movie trailers, because I’m sure the re-cut creators could care less; they just want to get their idea across and amuse the world.

In the third article, I was surprised to see so many references to the moon! I suppose.. I never speculated that graphs could be artworks. It’s a format we are all so familiar with from school, that it almost seems like a joke to present it in a completely different way. Many of these graphs are even playing off the visual aspect of being a graph. The “Mr. T” graph was the one that caught my attention right away! Witty? Definitely. But, for some reason, I still have a problem in declaring something containing vast amounts of wittiness to be taken seriously as art. I suppose this is the battle that many New Media artists are facing, but they don’t seem to let it bother them.

I had seen one of my teachers use the “YouTube Cross-fader” last semester, and it was certainly a riot to experience. I’ll admit, these YouTube manipulating devices are highly intriguing to an average internet browser. The concept of using somebody else’s creativeness has to be 99.9% of the internet today. The amount of original content-driven ideas seems to find its place in a small small distant land with not many others.

Alternating content in a movie by replacing just the audio is another glory of YouTube. All these topics that Boling discusses are all vastly known amongst the mainstream, but the fact that it does adapt to the mainstream could give New Media artists a lot of power and forefront. The idea of getting a video to become viral these days is hard to predict. It seems like the owner of the original video has no say in how the internet audience will respond. This is where it all boils down to a mystery, but also, it takes some studying of the new-generation ways of interacting online. Like many acknowledge, cats or locates have an automatic boost in the amounts of views they receive, just for being… Well, cats. The impact that the internet has had/and is having on the art world is continuously becoming more and more prominent in our culture; it’s hard to avoid it for just one day!

-Nicole R.

In “Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative” John Oswald disguises the technologies that are changing the way we see piracy. As I read this essay I couldn’t help but think of the fact that this essay was written in 1985. In 85 I was a young child and totally obsessed groups like Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy. The hip-hop music of that time was heavily sample driven music and now from this class I realize what has caused the death of the music I loved as a child. If I start to think of some of the best albums of that time (Bestie Boys “Paul’s Boutique”) I know that albums like that will never made again because I would be too expensive to get all the rights for the samples. I also see that the main difference now is that they stopped going after the artist for a cut of their new art form and started going after their fans.

This essay makes me sad because the optimism that Oswald has that laws will change with the growth of technology.But here we are over twenty years latter and it has not happened. It has only escalated to turning ordinary every day people into criminals for downloading or sharing the music that they love. I agree with Oswald that music is pounded into or heads without our consent yet, if we happen to take it in and use it we are wrong. I also agree with the idea that someone owning a sequence of note is just ridiculous.

On a completely different note I just say a mash-up on the Oscars. I will try to find it and post it on the blog.


Steal this Film

As I read through this article, I took notes/thoughts along the way, which sort of fall in order of appearance.

My first thought regarding Lethem’s mentioning of movies and their use of appropriation, was the use of music accenting a movie. Actually, music can sometimes play a crucial role to a movie as it commonly succeeds to add an atmosphere to the experience with a strong emotional grab. If a movie chooses to use a song that was prior created to the production of the movie, they often try to apply this song as an alluring aesthetic to the events that occur in the story so. A clear example I thought of off the top of my head was the soundtrack to the movie “A Clockwork Orange”, where director and producer Stanley Kubrick choose to blend contemporary instruments of the era with classical compositions written by famous composers. This obviously was a vision that Kubrick saw to add a significance of emotion to the movie, and because of such a selection, it obviously had an impact on the cinematic world.

Moving further along in the essay, the topic of Jazz and Blues music were presented. When we listen to Blues and Jazz music, often we sort of sink into the sounds because of our familiarity with the loose direction of both genres. Most of the time, Blues and Jazz music maintain an openness throughout their play. If anything, we as listeners can picture such compositions going on and on, infinitely, because of the act of improvisation.  Musicians grab from any sound or source that can blend or transition into another realm of the song so that they can keep the melody going.

Two lines really struck my attention later on:

“Most artists are awakened by the work of a master.”

“Inhaling the memory of an act never experienced.”

Both lines seemed to compliment one another in a way of describing inspiration as a powerful, perhaps unstoppable force. There are certain stages of absorbing inspiration, and it can also depend how engulfed and true you are to the original source material.

I also thought is was interesting when Lethem dated back to Walt Disney, and his first published character Steamboat Willie who came to life after Buster Keaton’s act of Steamboat Bill Jr. in the 1920′s. This was an obvious representation of a parody; however, the cartoon gained popularity because of the audience’s prior familiarity to Buster Keaton’s act. The new art of animation allowed the possibility to insert more imaginative ideas because of the capabilities of cartooning vs. real life. Walt Disney probably saw Steamboat Wilie as, what we call today, a “demo”; or a pre-interlude to his future career as an animator.

Reading further along, the mentioning of YouTube culture caught my attention. It undoubtedly has become an open-source pool which viewers take on sub-cultural roles remixing music tracks, putting videos to music, or just re-arranging a music video, reinterpreting something that is well known to the world and filtering it through your own perception as a viewer. You could then possibly declare yourself as an artist, but this statement could be widely objected to amongst the rest of the world’s standards.

The allowance of open-source and hacking culture provides artists with a new hope to bring their remixing ideas to life instead of being restricted to create them by an authoritative demand.

To me, I draw the line somewhere with appropriation. If I sense an overly abstracting nature from an artist’s delivery, then I see their use of appropriation as an insult. Before winter break began, there was a show at the Art Institute Museum’s Modern Wing, which I found myself troubled to understand and appreciate due to the crudeness of the artist’s choice to messily cut and paste photos of male models from Japanese magazines to blank surfaces, and then around them, applying illustrative lines, and smears of colored paint. To me, this was hard to declare a professional status, or even deserving of a large gallery space. The message wasn’t clear, and the evidence and absurdness of directly applying magazine cut outs to a surface did not suit the concept of “remixing” per se, but rather embraced the bare bones act of thievery from a publication.

Re-envisioning is the key to remixing or remastering. It’s a responsibility, once you have the original source in your hands, to do something of your own will with it.

However, the allowance of modifications done to that original source provokes a scale of judgement amongst viewers and listeners.

Also, the idea of “commodity” and tainting of a previous work of art is something of the artist’s choice, and perhaps, their own prejudgement. Remix culture branches in a couple different directions. Either one could adoringly admire the original creation of an artist and want to use their ideas as an ode to their utter genius, or one could think to remix or recontextualize a past artwork and give it a whole different meaning, most likely insulting or distorting the artist’s original vision.

Anyway, these were some of the thoughts I had through reading this article. If the act of appropriation is becoming a more common theme in the art world, I think it may open up to new categories that maybe none of us have even imagined yet ourselves. There is a lot of exploration to be done through this new culture in which we refer to as “New Media Art”, but the resonance of the past will forever remain, and evidence of it is hard to eliminate through the culture of remixing.

-Nicole R.