This is a mashup about mashups. A mashup takes separate preexisting parts and mixes them together to create a novel hybrid entity. Or something like that.
This was a theme of postmodern art throughout the 20th century, stretching back to Picasso's early experiments with collage (such as his Still Life seen on the right, from 1914). It's also become an important hot button issue today as the forces of culture and creativity clash with the world of corporations and copyright law.
The following resources almost all came through my Facebook feed at one time or another, and I've collected them in my e-dragnet to be reproduced here. So here goes. First up, the trailer from the 2008 documentary RIP!: A Remix Manifesto, which should set the tone for what follows. Among others, the film includes interviews with Lawrence Lessig, a law professor and activist that's one of the leaders of the Free Culture Movement.
Next up is a pair of statements from a couple of high profile (postmodern) artists. The first is from Banksy, the famous graffiti artist and provocateur from England. He writes:
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are “The Advertisers” and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.
And then there was this passage from the filmmaker Jim Jaramush that made the rounds recently, mainly with positive response, although not only. (When I posted this on my FB wall there were two objections, one from a PhD student in philosophy and one from a woman who is a musician. There's obviously still grey areas and conversations to be had around this evolving topic).
Fred Von Lohmann, chief copyright counsel for Google, told attendees in The Hague, copyright holders should embrace new technologies rather than fearing them. And governments should introduce as much copyright flexibility as possible to allow creativity to flourish.
The political theorists Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt are keenly aware of the importance of this issue for contemporary political economy and, for them, for cultural evolution and emancipation too. In their latest work Commonwealth they write:
In the realm of the information economy and knowledge production it is quite clear that freedom of the common is essential for production. As Internet and software practitioners and scholars often point out, access to the common in the network environment- common knowledges, common codes, common communication circuits- is essential for creativity and growth. The privatization of knowledge and code through intellectual property rights, they argue, thwarts production and innovation by destroying the freedom of the common. It is important to see that from the standpoint of the common, the standard narrative of economic freedom is completely inverted. According to that narrative, private property is the locus of freedom (as well as efficiency, discipline, and innovation) that stands against public control. Now instead the common is the locus of freedom and innovation- free access, free use, free expression, free interaction- that stands against private control, that is, the control exerted by private property, its legal structures, and its market forces. Freedom in this context can only be freedom of the common (p.282).
Neil Young caused a big stir recently when he came out in support of file sharing. "I look at the Internet as the new radio. I look at the radio as gone", said Young. "Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around".
I think continuously innovative people are not just taking raindrops, they are living in a waterfall [of creativity]. So some people when they are creative they collect once a drop of light, that is a new idea, and then they say 'Oh I copyright this'. Then they put a copyright on it and they make a business from it. I believe copyrights are actually a reduction of our intelligence. We need copyrights because many people are not able to honor and respect the things that people bring into life. But actually it reduces our intelligence because so many people are stuck on their copyright that we miss the point--that no idea belongs to nobody and when we bring fruits it's not a personal thing, it's an impersonal thing. So there is no one there who needs to take a copyright.
But as long as we are motivated by our existential fear we are living in the world of the taking people. Taking people are people who constantly look at situations for what they can get for themselves. In this [taking] world you will never have enough because everybody is always looking for what they can get. In the giving world, which is the next level of evolution, people, because they are so rich from within, they become creative wells, like pools where water comes out. If you live in a world of giving people you will always have enough because everybody is just overflowing...But if we are so separate like we are today, in this hyper-individualized, postmodern society then it's a problem. But it's not a problem of the outside world, it's a problem of our consciousness.
And to wrap up this mashup about mashups, the fourth and final video in the Everything is a Remix series. As always, feel free to share your thoughts on anything you've read or heard in the comment section!