comm lab: response to the ecstasy of influence, molotov man, & cardiff

The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

on collaging and objects in/out of context:

“Heidegger believed that art had the great potential to reveal the “thingness” of objects…

The surrealists understood that photography and cinema could carry out this reanimating process automatically; the process of framing objects in a lens was often enough to create the charge they sought. Describing the effect, Walter Benjamin drew a comparison between the photographic apparatus and Freud’s psychoanalytic methods. Just as Freud’s theories “isolated and made analyzable things which had heretofore floated along unnoticed in the broad stream of perception,” the photographic apparatus focuses on “hidden details of familiar objects,” revealing “entirely new structural formations of the subject.””

on copyright:

“Rather, copyright is an ongoing social negotiation, tenuously forged, endlessly revised, and imperfect in its every incarnation…

Thomas Jefferson, for one, considered copyright a necessary evil: he favored providing just enough incentive to create, nothing more, and thereafter allowing ideas to flow freely, as nature intended.”

to which i’d add astra taylor’s comment from the people’s platform:

“Jefferson was, in Lewis Hyde’s words, “a commonwealth man” who made his invention available to all and promoted the progress of science over personal gain. But what open culture advocates fail to acknowledge, even in passing, is that Jefferson was able to distribute his ideas for free because other were working to feed his belly (in his case, slaves).”

there are some delicious ideas and sentences here: the recasting of “copyright” as government-granted “usemonopoly” is so good. and this description of market rhetoric, “a tide of alienation lapping daily at the dwindling redoubt of the unalienable.”

at the same time, this piece sets off some alarms for me. it touches on but mostly ignores the reality that “open culture” rhetoric exposes rather than protects small artists’ and makers’ creative practice by taking away their ability to make a living from their work through licensing fees. it feels a little like the way “free market” rhetoric sounds really good, even though it screws everyone who doesn’t get to determine which forces are “natural” market forces and which ones should be regulated (i.e., most of us).

starting from the position that we need something to ensure that small-scale makers get paid for their work, how do we decide who gets paid and how? if copyright laws are the answer, who is small enough that their contributions to a commons should be protected, who is contributing by drawing on others’ contributions, and who is simply using copyright regulations to profit from the hoarding of valuable information? if copyright laws are not the answer, how do we pay artists when we’re so accustomed to free content?

also, what of assholes like richard prince?

On the Rights of Molotov Man

context matters. my inclination is to side with susan meiselas, but mostly i’m grateful that harper’s exists to publish the dialogue.

Her Long Black Hair by Janet Cardiff

this is neat. a wonderful illustration of the power of sound to do stuff to space, to let you be in multiple places at once: central park in 2015 and central park in 1890.

i like the way cardiff asks you to keep pace with her as a way to keep you generally on the right track, since you’re not actually together and she can’t guide you in person.

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