Saturday, February 13, 2010

ugh whatever.

Okay, so the story about the AUTHENTIC little girl has been circulating around more than I realized and some people are pointing out its relation to the loosening of intellectual property laws and theories.

I disagree. I think credit is highly important, and maybe this is a result of studying history (or any academic subject rather than aaahhhrt), where it is essential to trace sources and ideas in order to form a coherent and valid argument. I don't have a problem with copy & paste if it is done in a manner that recalls citation. Properly sourced, properly credited. I'm not talking about payment and royalties. I'm talking about the necessity of acknowledging your place in an intellectual or artistic tradition. To eschew this is arrogant. You are not special. You are not unique. You are doing what you did when you were five an didn't realize it-- gathering up things, ideas, phrases, shapes verbatim is what children do as they begin to form their own modes of storytelling and ideas.

If you're gonna do it and be dumb enough to get caught, that's your own fault, and a different issue altogether. If you are not willing to admit up front that you brought together a bunch of others' works, you have no firm ground to stand on when you try to argue that you were doing something purposeful and for the sake of art-- all you did was half of the legwork, and then you hid behind the assumption that others wouldn't inquire further and will think you are magical and original-- it's not about the work, it's about you. Also, if you truly respected those ideas and words you stole, wouldn't you want to share this admiration by naming the sources and individuals? Wouldn't you want to bring your use up for comparison, so that each piece might illuminate something about the other that is only revealed through side-by-side observation?

One comment at The Nervous Breakdown points out the cento-- a form of poetry that is based around taking lines from other works. I'm glad I know about this now, because I think it helps indicate what the girl claims she was doing. The cento is different because by adhering to the form, you immediately disclose to your audience that there are lines borrowed-- borrowed, not stolen, because you have via the cento form the implicit permission. Same with collages-- the moment you see a collage you know that it uses objects culled from other sources. The collage artist is not trying to pretend otherwise. Nor the mashup artist, the MC, the DJ. The originality of the work is half based on the ability to bring disparate parts together. It is nothing if you do not recognize what those parts are, if not necessarily where they come from.

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