July 14, 2010

A Little More On The Remake

I really loved Lynne’s terrific post about the remake, the remix, the mash-up . It’s interesting on one hand to consider how gestures of appropriation, participation, relationality are present across so many genres, from the blatantly mainstream allegiance of the pop song to the indie band translating punk or 70’s soul. These questions have also come to be critical for much experimental writing.

What especially interests me about her conversation with Eugene Cheung is Cheung’s insistence that the production of these videos is an artwork, and an artwork of which he is the “author.”  I wrote a post here for Open Space considering Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Cliff Hengst’s interventions into both private, institutional and public space. The Internet is a material space for “exhibition,” one that absorbs and complicates both private and public.

I think it’s easy to forget that the Internet, like the museum requires a ticket for admission: the machines that load this blog seem pervasive to many of us, but neither the means nor the content of the Internet are totally accessible for everyone.  And so I hesitate in calling these internet mash-ups “gifts,” as they arrive out of a culture so far estranged from any authentic experience of gift-giving. But obviously, as Lynne points out, generosity is built into the piece and its distribution, which makes it quite a bit different than the conventional art object in its commodity form.

Still, the videos Lynne posted  are comfortably understood by their makers as works of art. I also wonder about works that aren’t consciously made as art objects, but enter into our culture as viral videos. I’m not sure if terms like “art brut” or “outsider art” have an agreed-upon meaning anymore or have a lot of use for us now. But I do think of some of these pieces as being both like and not like traditional “artworks”. So check out the clips below:  the somewhat notorious clips made by actively serving American soldiers, scored by contemporary popular dance music, in this case Lady Gaga and Ke$ha.

There’s a lot, of course, to say about all of this and I don’t mean to wield “outsider art” as a reductive trope. But in thinking about the popularity and importance of so-called “relational” and “participatory” art practices, could we think of these videos in those terms? Obviously they aren’t conceived to be shown in the museum, the gallery, the institutionalized art space. Although they’re built on a major cultural phenomenon, the pop song, their makers have not attempted to assimilate them into the discourse of art, exactly.

That said, the makers of these videos do seem to be extremely conscious of the wider scope of their works. Lady Gaga and Ke$ha are extremely different artists, but both songs fit into the world of the endless party, the club scene that can’t be interrupted by romantic obligation or traditional courtship. Contrast this club scene with its carefree alcohol consumption and sublime flirtiness to the scenes in which these videos are made: boot camp and a base in Afghanistan, respectively. The irony is privileged, weird, funny, and fucked up all at once.

They’re also both heavily feminized; the irony of these voices being appropriated by male soldiers is not lost on the authors and actors. They might not finally appear redemptive or progressive, but they’re not ignorant of their codes and messages either.

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