Magazine article Art Monthly

Cutting across Media

Magazine article Art Monthly

Cutting across Media

Article excerpt

As its subtitle suggests, Cutting Across Media--appropriation art, interventionist collage, and copyright law casts its net wide across different facets of both contemporary and historical cultural production. Its emphasis veers more towards the latter part of the subtitle, with various essays addressing musical sampling, literary collage, social intervention and their skirmishes with copyright law. Very little addresses the visual traditions of appropriation art, apart from a rather isolated essay on Chris Ofili, passing references to Picasso and Braque, and a concentration on more peripheral activist practices. This may well reflect the immediate concerns of the editors: Kembrew McLeod, an important writer on intellectual and international copyright, and Rudolf Kuenzli, a scholar of Dada and Surrealism, both of whom hold posts at the University of Iowa. More likely it directly reflects the symposium that generated this book--Collage as Cultural Practice--held at the university in 2005. As always, the development of a book compiled from the contents of a symposium is generally problematic, and what might work as a diverse set of papers in a conference day may not possess the desired thematic architecture that a book requires to substantiate its claims and arguments.

McLeod and Kuenzli infer this in their introduction to the volume and attempt to turn this lack of inner coherence into a positive gloss by claiming a convergence of form and content: 'It is arranged much like a hip-hop mix tape' they say, drawing as it does on previously published work, newly commissioned pieces and papers from the original conference. Their introduction to the volume operates at this level too, whereby we jump from a discussion of Walter Benjamin's Arcade project to Alan Lomax's seminal folk collections of the 1930s and 40s, and rather abruptly to various examples of copyright infringements, culture jamming and interventionist practices.

What Cutting Across Media attempts to bring home is the current asymmetrical contradiction between growing public access, usage, and the tightening grip of international and intellectual copyright. This has been underlined since the formulation of this book by the recent SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) initiative, which resulted in a 24-hour offline protest by Wikipedia and other websites to raise awareness of the draconian and censorious measures proposed by the bill which would affect the flow of information offered by such online resources. Useful in this context is an interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan, who soberly and pragmatically looks at the contradictions in the field of 'fair use' and the behaviour of corporations. While clearly on the side of the 'users', Vaidhyanathan also warns against 'copyright nihilism', whereby challenging copyright and corporations would appear, in its worst caricature, to hit out at the sources of all evil.

Unfortunately we get our fair share of this in some chapters of the book, although another counterpoint is to be found in Eva Hemmungs Wirten's 'Visualizing Copyright, Seeing Hegemony', which surveys a male-dominated frontier-style landscape of 'freedom' where, she says, 'It is difficult to argue with words like "free" and "remix". They tap into the wishes of a generation of users for whom any suggestion of discussing rights and obligations, sustainable use, or even the remote possibility that authors/composers/ artists might want copyright, is archaic at best and treasonous at worst.' Prioritising usage over rights lies, ironically, at the heart of capitalism itself--which adds to the current contradictions of perceived digital freedom. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.