Welcome to the 4th of our 12 weeks of Artful Summer!
Art Idea #4 – I don’t know if Miley Cyrus and Notorious B.I.G. would have been friends.
As I noted last week, Ralph Waldo Emerson died in Massachusetts 110 years before Miley Cyrus was born in Tennessee. Unlike Emerson, Notorious B.I.G. and Miley Cyrus were alive at the same time. They could have met. They could have walked down the same street. But they couldn’t really have sung together.
I’m not sure if Biggie would have wanted to be in one of Cyrus’ Happy Hippie Foundation’s Backyard Sessions. But I am sure he couldn’t have been. He was murdered in Los Angeles when Cyrus was just 4-years old.
Party and Bullshit in the USA is a mashup of B.I.G.’s Party and Bullshit with Cyrus’ Party in the USA. I’m sure you are not surprised that a video like this exists. And, for our topic this week, that’s the most important thing to say. None of you will be surprised that with a laptop, an internet connection, some editing software, and a bit of time, someone could make two people sing together, even if one of them died when the other was 4. Whether or not either of them would have wanted to participate in such a project.
Our topic this week is The Mashup. Remix Culture.
As far as I know, every art medium that has ever existed is still being practiced by some artist somewhere. Writing, and therefore history, has only been practiced by human beings for about 6,000 years now. But we’ve been painting for 40,000 years. Artists are still making paintings today, 40,000 years later. And some of those paintings are completely contemporary, relevant, and powerful.
Every photographic process that anyone ever invented. Even if it never worked all that well. Even if only a small number of people used it for a few years. There are artists today working with that process.
All media can be relevant and powerful. Whether it is 1968 or 2020 or 2068. However…
The Media of Your Time
While past media can still speak. Even loudly. I believe that there is something uniquely powerful in speaking with the media of one’s own time. With media that previous generations could not have spoken with. And, I believe that the media of your time is Remix.
Yes, you could argue that art and culture have always been remix. When a haute couture fashion designer takes the culture of the street and puts it on Rodeo Drive, that’s remix. When Pablo Picasso took African masks and incorporated them into his paintings, it was remix. When someone takes video of Bush, or Obama, or Trump, and edits it to make a political or humorous point, it’s remix.
Our activity this week is Remix! You can remix anything with anything. Words. Sounds. Images. Anything.
Digital. Analog. Anything.
You could remix your childhood diary with the notes you keep today. On paper. Or online. You could do a sound mashup. You could remix photos of your earlier self with photos of you today. You could find 2 pieces of video and make your own Party and Bullshit in the USA. Those of you who are CECS majors, or otherwise technical, could also think about a data mashup.
There are endless possibilities for mashups in the Coronavirus pandemic and the protests after the murder of George Floyd.
Most of you will not be mashing up data. But that’s a huge topic. At it’s best, it can empower people. Create useful tools. Maybe even help cure disease. At its worst, in the hands of companies like Google and Facebook, it can literally, I fear, mean the end of free will and the end of democracy. That’s a deep rabbit hole, and I’ll spare you the gory details, except to note that there were 2 super-important books on the topic in 2019: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, and Zucked by Roger McNamee.
Girls Around Me
Rather than dive into all of Surveillance Capitalism, here’s a simpler example, the 2012 app Girls Around Me. The app upset a lot of people and was quickly pulled from the Apple iTunes store. While the app developers did something that seemed wrong and upset a lot of people, they didn’t actually violate anyone’s terms of service. What they did was take publicly available Facebook and Foursquare data and mash it up with Google Maps and phone GPS location data. All the elements they combined consisted of information that users had (in theory) known they were making public.
What users in 2012 didn’t realize, but you probably do, is that combining multiple pieces of information, each innocuous by itself, you could create a data mashup that would be upsetting and creepy to a lot of people.
Here’s an interesting article on Girls Around Me by Kashmir Hill.
Enough about data! Most of you will be making collages of words or images or other things. Although, again, if you are CECS or technical, I do encourage you to think of some sort of data mashup. It’s a powerful space both in terms of appreciating the ramifications, and also as a potent career skill.
When you put two things next to each other, we call that juxtaposition. If you tear a page out of Time magazine, and a page out of Vogue magazine, and juxtapose them, your juxtaposition, or your diptych, will say something different than either of the pages would have said by itself. That power of juxtaposition, in aesthetic terms, in data terms, in many terms, is part of the power of your remix project.
From Picasso to Haute Couture to Party and Bullshit in the USA to Girls Around Me to Google & Facebook’s Surveillance Capitalism, the many faces of remix culture are determining the world we live in today and the future you will inhabit. Technical skills in this are will be powerful for those of you entering technical fields. For all of us, understanding how remix culture develops and how the tools of mashup can empower or enslave us should be valuable both for a life lived well, and as a key perspective to bring to a workplace.
For your blog post on this activity, include:
- Photos or video of your project. Or audio or data or whatever is appropriate.
- Describe what you tried to do
- Do you think you were successful? Why or why not?
- Did your project come out somewhere other than what you expected when you started? Or did it go mostly as you envisioned?
- Can you think of examples of mashups you have experienced or noticed out in the world?
- What do you think of the Girls Around Me app? Is it cool? Is it creepy? Should it be illegal? If it is not illegal, who should protect us from software that many people see as predatory?
- Name your Medium post: Week 4 – Art Activity – Remix
Our artists this week are Molly Soda and Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis).
- Describe Gregg Gillis’ work
- Should his work be illegal? Should it be legal?
- If his work is illegal, does that stifle creativity?
- If his work is legal, does that steal from other artist’s livelihoods?
- Describe Molly Soda’s work
- Could her be work have been done in any earlier time? Or only in our present technological moment?
- How are Gregg Gillis’ and Molly Soda’s oeuvres similar?
- How are Gregg Gillis’ and Molly Soda’s oeuvres different?
- Is the work that artists like Gillis and Soda do connected to work by past masters like Mozart or Picasso or Warhol? Or is it of a fundamentally different nature and not connected to past art and artists? Explain.
- Name your post: Week 4 – Artist – Molly Soda & Girl Talk
Once again, please comment on 5 classmate’s work on Medium this week. Try to move around the roster and make sure that everyone gets a little bit of feedback. Make sure you have enough time to get your 5 comments + 2 blog posts in on Medium. Has anyone figured out what their daily limit is? They have not responded to me so far. Hopefully you’re getting the hang of fitting everything in.
Be sure to email me when you’ve posted your comments.
Have a good week this week! I hope you enjoy thinking up a Remix project! LMK if I can help with anything. Email me at email@example.com or LMK if you’d like to meetup on Zoom some time.