Lethe the trailer all done and complete! Thank yous to Adam, Brett, and Sanniti for making this project happen
Cats like to eat lentils
My Immediate response to these materials is to agree with the ideas illustrated in Lethem’s, Ferguson’s, Christie’s, and Garnett’s work. I agree that we are influenced by the discoveries and revelations of our predecessors. I agree that we should be allowed to freely borrow, remix, and appropriate as we see fit. However as Susan Meiselas points out this means that can our creations have the potential to become so decontextualized that they become commodities. Tools to be sold, purchased, appropriated, and wielded by anyone for any purpose.
In the case of the Pablo Arauz, his image was taken by Susan Meiselas, then reinterpreted by Joy Garnett, then eventually adopted by many different parties, including the party he originally fought against, the Contras. Like Meiselas, I too want to resist the “diminishment of his act of defiance.” We should not forget his bravery or the circumstances for his defiance, otherwise we are be doomed to repeat them. Right?
But how do we preserve the identity of our works once they are in public domain? Can it be done without stifling the creativity or ingenuity of those who we’ve influenced or those who have influenced us?
The looming lawsuit against Joy Garnett did not preserve the identity or the spirit of the Molotov Man photograph. Garnett and others reacted strongly to Meiselas’ lawsuit, perceiving it as act of greed. It had the reverse effect of sparking a movement dedicated to the appropriation of the image, and the decontextualization of it’s meaning. A movement dedicated to ensuring that no one monopolized the usage or distribution of Arauz’s image.
Of course this also propelled his image into the public consciousness. Giving Arauz, Garnett, and Meiselas global exposure that he none of them might have received otherwise. If not for the lawsuit, would any of us even be discussing the Arauz, or the Molotov image? I’m not sure.
This image and its various uses are intertwined with discrepancy over ownership, appropriation, copyrights, etc. We as creators cannot control what people think about any given image or situation. Our constitution protects our freedom thought and expression. A right we fervently protect with respect to non-commodifiable forms of expression. But when there is money to be made, we want to control the work and the cash flow associated with it.
The gift economy that Jonathan Lethem describes seems like a great alternative to the current system. If we can eliminate the Usemonopolies and democratize creation, distribution, and payment it should make it easier to collaborate, share, and borrow ideas without worrying about any perceived lack of equity. And I would hope that this equality would encourage people to engage with a given artwork and its history.
Is this acutally possible? Again, I’m not sure.
I still feel like the idea of enabling a person’s story and life to be warped from the truth is disheartening, but more so I think that neither I nor anyone else should be telling someone how to view a piece of art or news or other piece of public work/ information.
I think that ultimately making changes in our currently broken system will lead to further evolution, progression, and creativity for all artists. And hopefully it will enable all of us as creators and consumers to develop as conscientious scholars, historians, and moral beings without having to be forced into any specific mode of thinking for fear of legal action (or any other social construction).
For my free-association exploration of these issues in contemporary society see this post.
The readings this week also made me think about examples of the intersection of art, life, originality, appropriation, and commerce:
Caines arcade: “A carboard arcade made by a 9-year-old boy”
Campbells soup releasing limited edition Andy Warhol soup cans
Kyle MacDonald’s success with Oneredpaperclip
And finally my own most recent artistic contribution