Monday, April 28, 2008

collage is art, not theft

From Negativeland:

[F]rom an artistic point of view, it is ponderously delusional to try to paint all these new forms of fragmentary sampling as economically motivated "theft", "piracy", or "bootlegging". We reserve these terms for the unauthorized taking of whole works and reselling them for one's own profit. Artists who routinely appropriate, on the other hand, are not attempting to profit from the marketability of their subjects at all. They are using elements, fragments, or pieces of someone else's created artifact in the creation of a new one for artistic reasons. These elements may remain identifiable, or they may be transformed to varying degrees as they are incorporated into the new creation, where there may be many other fragments all in a new context, forming a new "whole". This becomes a new "original", neither reminiscent of nor competitive with any of the many "originals" it may draw from. This is also a brief description of collage techniques which have developed throughout this century, and which are universally celebrated as artistically valid, socially aware, and conceptually stimulating to all, it seems, except perhaps those who are "borrowed" from.

No one much cared about the centuries old tradition of appropriation in classical music as long as it could only be heard when it was played live in front of your ears. But now all music exists as a mass produced, saleable object, electronically frozen for all time, and seen by its owners to be in continuous, simultaneous economic competition with all other music. The previously interesting idea that someone's music might freely include some appropriated music of another has now been made into a criminal activity. This example is typical of how copyright laws now actually serve to inhibit or prevent the creative process, itself, from proceeding in certain interesting ways, both traditional and new.

This has become a pressing problem for creativity now because the creative technique of appropriation has jumped from the mediums in which it first appeared (principally in the visual fine arts of painting, printmaking, and sculpture) to popular, electronic mass distributed mediums such as photography, recorded music, and multimedia. The appearance of appropriation techniques in these more recent mass mediums have occasioned a huge increase in owner litigations of such appropriation based works because the commercial entrepenours who now own and operate mass culture are apparently intent on oblitering all distinctions between the needs of art and the needs of commerce. These owners of mass produced cultural material claim that similarly mass produced works of appropriation are a new and devastating threat to their total control over the exclusive profits which their properties might produce in the same mass marketplace. They claim that, art or not, an unauthorized appropriation of any kind can not be allowed to directly compete in the appropriated material's avenue of commerce, as if they were equal in content, and equal in intent. The degree to which the unique nature and needs of art practice do not play any part in this thinking is more than slightly insane.

Consider the starkly stupid proposition that collage has now become illegal in music unless the artist can afford to pay for each and every fragment he or she might want to use, as well as gain permission from each and every owner. Consider how this puts a stop to all independent, non-corporate forms of collage in music, and how those corporately funded collage works which can afford the tolls had better be flattering to the owner in their usage. . . .

Please consider the ungenerous and uncreative logic we are overlaying our culture with. Artists will always be interested in sampling from existing cultural icons and artifacts precisely because of how they express and symbolize something potently recognizable about the culture from which both they and this new work spring. The owners of such artifacts and icons are seldom happy to see their properties in unauthorized contexts which may be antithetical to the way they are spinning them. Their kneejerk use of copyright restrictions to crush this kind of work now amounts to corporate censorship of unwanted independent work.

1 comment:


the use of the internet has opened a whole new can of worms. images go on forever and ever on the world wide web.