Thursday, October 28, 2010


Remix, by Lawrence Lessig, is a compelling peek into the politics and controversy surrounding the modern form of multimedia collage. I brought this point up in a previous post, however Lessig goes into much greater detail. He includes the origins of citation in text and how that carries (or doesn’t carry) over to the technology and digital arts of today. I see the same contradiction in the rights to cite text versus audio and video use. If students are allowed to quote other literary works without contacting the author, then where is the harm in sampling (mind you, sampling, not using an entire piece) of another form of media? The freedom to do so has come about in this age of read/ write media and technology. The level of ingenuity in some contemporary examples of remixing media does not necessarily surpass the genius of the crafters of the original products. The approaches are significantly different. As Lawrence Lessig mentions, the two spheres of innovation are dependent upon each other in a sense. Without original materials, remixers would have no raw material. Remixes inspire other artists to evolve and create new forms of original work. Also, what I've personally discovered is that many remix artists like Girl Talk, Super Mash Brothers, and Max Tannone (Jaydiohead) offer their end products free of charge. Given the prevalence of the legal system in the music industry since the Napster fiasco, I don't think any remixers would be so foolish as to try to pass off obviously sampled material as original nor would they require payment without seeking legal rights to do so.

The recontextualization of the material is, to both Lessig and I, the most important aspect of remixing. If someone has the ability to alter, pervert, and juxtapose preexisting media to convey an original idea, I believe that artist has a truly original creation on their hands. I'm currently working on my first attempt at video and audio remixing and I must say that I admire those who can make it look easy. It's a delicate process, just like many other art forms. And those who are not aware of the intricacies of the process should not write off the end product as plagiaristic simply because the raw materials used can stand alone as art.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Self Limitation

In his article, The Technology and the Society, Raymond Williams discusses the invention and eventual widespread use of the television in our society. The demand for a way to network entertainment, news, and art that seemed to drive the development of television still is the driving force behind many technological innovations today. The technology of our time, as Williams mentions, can never be ideal to our wants or needs. I agree with this and still see it today as I'm sure Williams saw in his era. Our resources and advancement are almost never at the level that can most efficiently broadcast everything in the way we would like to have it be broadcasted.

This issue of technological competence is really only a drawback for news and entertainment, rather than art. In fact, a shortage of material or easy production processes can bring forth a truer sense of artistic vision I think. Stan Brakhage has a series of video consisting of entirely organic materials adhered to film. He literally took parts of his environment and combined them in such a way as to give the viewer the feeling of flight and frenzied movement.
Probably due to my history with graphic design, the Adobe Creative Suite, and the like, I always found my artistic needs to be synonymous with my technological needs. I was inspired by those able to separate the use of tech and their creative prowess.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Evolving Collage

Collagea. An artistic composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface, often with unifying lines and color.
b. A work, such as a literary piece, composed of both borrowed and original material.
Picasso “Still Life with Chair Caning”
What does it mean to collage? Let's examine it's use in a few different contexts. Pablo Picasso was one of the first artists to utilize collage in his art, placing his use under definition a. However, Picasso was using the art and resources of the time. The new mass culture that was readily available was physically tangible. Later in history see the emergence of DJs producing so called "mash-ups", essentially cutting and pasting parts of different songs to create a new overall piece. They use the mass culture (in this case, music as opposed to Picasso's use of advertisements) and create something of their own design. Bill Morrison's film, Decasia, is a film collage. He used pre-produced materials and rearranged them in such a way that they formed a new and unique entity, completely different from their previous incarnations as separate films. Added to the images, Morrison's choice of audio helped further the individualized nature of his film, giving it a distinct eerie tension.

 Each artist has had their own specific way of twisting what is available to them in order to concoct a slightly altered and personalized end product. To bring the art of collage up to speed with the modern age, where do we drawn the line between pirating someone's materials and simply using a small part of their materials in order to birth a new creation? As I mentioned in a previous post, it's hard to make this distinction due to the constant stream of media and the availability of these materials. As the current generation, we have more access than ever to mass culture. We are all potentially one mouse click away from creating a YouTube masterpiece, but that can come with a price. It boils down to the politics of fair use. This trademark law states that individuals are allowed to use copyrighted materials for certain purposes. Personally I find this to be a huge limitation of artists, yet also necessary to make sure the right people get credit for their work. So what do you think is more important, artistic freedom or adhering to the laws of copyright infringement? And,should limitations continue to crop up, do you think these restrictions could effect the future of collaborative art like collage?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Missing: Panopticon

In my study of the panopticon, I found that I was more interested in what people would attempt when they thought they weren't be observed rather than what they attempted while under surveillance. For this reason, I chose to photograph three different, but still interconnected, subjects: drinking, smoking, and partying. As a college student, these activities are something that I and my peers experience on a daily basis. Taking these photos gave me an opportunity to position myself behind the lens and observe the people and activities in a more detached manner.

The nature of my photo shoots displayed a definite progression from formal to informal. The first set of ten photos that I took, 12 Steps, was very contrived and staged. I helped the model pose and essentially fabricated the scenes in order to get the picture that I wanted. My model was also not actually an alcoholic, so there was a certain lack of emotional involvement with the focus of the shoot. The second set of photos, entitled Fixation, dealt with a real person with a real addiction while still being slightly staged. I basically asked him if I could photograph him while he was smoking and he agreed. In this set, I did very little handling of my subject. I think as a result of my distance, the pictures ended up with a more relaxed mood, rather than the structured feeling of my first set. As a side note, I chose to name this set "Fixation" because it is obviously such a thing for my subject, but also by the end I found myself enthralled with photographing the act of smoking. My final set, A Foni Sin (a play on a fraternity's name), was photographed from the kitchen counter of a fraternity house on the night of one of their parties. This was the most candid of my shoots. Subjects, either out of ignorance or inebriation, didn't know or question that they were being photographed. I played around with the shutter speed of my Nikon D40 to achieve the blurred effect. I felt that the look was cohesive with the atmosphere of the party and also drew the viewer into the space by making them an active participant.

Overall I feel that because of the progression of the nature of my sets, my project may lack aesthetic cohesion. Had I planned my shoots more carefully, there might have been a better sense of connection between the sets. However, I feel at the same time that the appearances of the photos are directly related to the environment in which they were taken.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Technological Quicksand
As a society, we're constantly caught in this game of catch-up when it comes to technology. Before your brand new laptop arrives in the mail, there's already a new operating system being released. When discussing her viewpoint of Web 2.0 and technology in general, Rachel Crowl, the New Media Coordinator here at Lawrence University, shared her experiences with the progress she has witnessed in her career.
Rachel started off as a programmer when the internet was a fledgling network with something around 1,500 pages and few embellishments. Roughly 15 years after she started in the media field, Rachel (just like everyone else) is stuck in what I'll call technological quicksand. The rate of progress exceeds our abilities to output products with the new capabilities. By the time the next big thing comes out, there's already buzz about an improved generation on the horizon. This kind of slippery slope of expedited headway has been the trend in many forms of media, making it more difficult to close the gap. Photo editing, video editing, social networking sites, and others have all experienced this boom of progress.
When we combine that with the steady integration of all these technologies and you will find yourself in the very crux of what I mean by "technological quicksand". No matter what we purchase, download, or update, we are perpetually behind simply because there is no way to receive real-time versions of all the emerging technologies and their applications as they are combined with other programs.
Does that mean we should wallow in our eternal technological lag? Rachel says no, and I agree. You have to make due with the tools you have in the moment. You don't have to be loyal to Apple or Windows or Linux. An efficient individual takes what is at hand and makes it work for their purposes. I personally find that trying to keep up with the most current versions of software and hardware is expensive and can be confusing. Using what is familiar, as long as it gets the job done in the manner necessary, is what I find helpful in order to avoid feeling suffocated by the steady flow of new materials.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Impulse vs. Persistance

I personally found Dan Leers's lecture very inspiring and helpful. As an art history major, I have found myself constantly questioning wat I would do with my degree, if I would go to grad school, where I would go to grad school, and so on. I had lunch with Dan and attended his lecture and learned quite a bit that I would not have otherwise known. It was surprising to me that he took almost 4 years off between graduating from Lawrence before deciding to attend Columbia University for his masters in curatorial studies. I was under the impression that most students went more or less straight to graduate school from undergraduate. After talking to Dan, he said that taking time off to discover his passion was one of the most important steps he took in his career path. Now Dan is working at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and recently curated a collection of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who we read about in class. Cartier-Bresson's main focus was the "decisive moment" in photography, which was the new spontaneity in photography facilitated by  hand-held cameras. I found the obvious patience and calculation Dan put into his life to be a nice contrast to the impulsive nature of Cartier-Bresson, whom he studied so closely.