Photography has been a topic that has sprung up quite a bit in the discussion of today’s remix culture. We’ve had multiple readings that go into how modern photography has changed the emotion behind the picture and how reproductions in general are changing the culture of art. We’ve also looked at how free use can be used to create new, albeit controversial, art in itself. With all of these readings and discussions in mind, I decided to try and flip it around a little for my first remix. I wanted to make pictures that focus more on how the art is being consumed rather than the art or reproduction itself. Also, I wanted to look at free usage of images along the way. So, I believe that looking at the consumption of art rather than the art itself is creating new art all its own and restoring the feel or emotion behind the original pieces in the process.
To execute my remix I used images from two different sources. Primarily, I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown and tried to make my own pictures. My plan was to casually walk around the museum and take pictures of people looking at the art on the walls on my iPhone. This worked for a while until I noticed that some people saw that the casual pictures I was taking were focusing on the people instead of the art. I started getting some odd and sometimes offended looks and decided my time at the museum was probably up for the day. I pulled in seven pictures at the MCA. After that, I decided I needed more. So, I thought back to when we talked about Penelope Umbrico and how she pulled images off of Flickr to create new art. I went onto Flickr and searched for “people looking in museums” and pulled some more off the site. Not only did this provide me with some more actual material in my remix, but it will also let me take a look at fair use in addition to the emotion and feel behind the art itself.
The first reading that I applied to the remix was Benjamin’s “The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Benjamin says that “the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space.” I can understand his point and believe that the essence of a piece of art, regardless the medium, is the emotion and thought that the artist puts into it. That can be lost when a piece of art is reproduced over and over again. I wanted to take this point and correct it in a way. I think that taking pictures of people enjoying the reproductions they are seeing in a museum is putting a new essence into the art. It’s no longer the artist’s feelings alone that are shaping the art. Now, we have the reactions and expressions of those consuming it. It almost adds a second essence to the piece that wasn’t there before. It’s taking the art a slight step further and adding something to the reproduction that I think makes it a piece of art all its own. Viewing it as a new piece of art, though, raised a question that I didn’t anticipate in my mind: should I feel any certain way about using someone else’s art to create a new piece of my own?
That question led me to look back at the reading from Aoki, Boyle, and Jenkins and look at the point they made with the documentary filmmaker. Even though the film’s intent was to capture a story all its own, it ended up also catching other people’s work as well. They raised the question of whether or not that should be used without consent. I think that if you’re taking the focus away from the original piece and putting a spin on it or simply using it to get your desired effect, it shouldn’t matter. As long as the art that was captured wasn’t the only thing in the reproduction, I think people should be free to use whichever pieces of art they please.
When we read Flusser, he said that modern photography and reproduction stifles some of the freedom in imagination and creativity. Essentially, since reproductions and photography is becoming so advanced, the quality of the reproductions leaves little to no room for a viewer to imagine their own telling of the story being shown to them. I think he’s overlooking the imagination of the viewer. Sure, the viewer won’t have the same story as the author of the photo, but that story will get infused with a little piece of the viewer. When they go to tell someone about something they saw in a museum, they won’t just tell them about the picture, they’ll talk about what they gathered from it as well. That is their own story. It’s a new story layered onto the story originally presented by the author and it presents something very new and slightly more complex. The piece is suddenly becoming the conglomeration of the people who are consuming it. To me, that’s the point of art in the first place; creating something that people can identify with and form their own experiences around. The art shouldn’t only speak for the artist, but for a wide range of people in different ways.
The final point that I wanted to make with this remix was similar to what Umbrico did with the sun photographs she pulled from Flickr. I pulled roughly half of the pictures in my remix from Flickr. I think the site lends itself to being included in other people’s projects in addition to the people who upload them onto Flickr. I feel like pulling pictures from the site adds an interesting new dimension to pieces of art. It shows the same thing from many varying perspectives. It not only shows you what one person thinks represents the point they are trying to make, but it extends to the views and opinions of many others. It adds a deeper layer and one that isn’t as visible on first glance as the immediate message from the artist.
After looking at the pictures pulled from Flickr, another thought occurred to me. Just like Benjamin said, the photograph’s presence in time and space seems to have been lost. All of the Flickr photos seemed very posed to me. It was as if they weren’t even taken in a museum but a studio designed to make a statement about art rather than capture people’s reaction to the images they’re seeing on the wall. It was more like the photographer told the people to pretend to be looking at art rather than capturing them in a natural state of consumption.
Seeing how people consume art is a way to see how the heart is conceived by the masses. What pieces are people dwelling on? What does their expression say about the essence of the piece? These are questions that can’t be answered unless we see how people are taking in the art. Plus, seeing people in museums gives a foregone assumption of silence. Museums are peaceful because of the quiet. To me, that knowledge adds to the beauty of a photograph. It’s almost as if you’re taking in a serene moment being experienced by someone else. In a way, you’re experiencing it through them. That’s what remix should be. Remix pieces should take people somewhere that they normally couldn’t go and open them up to an experience that was previously never even thought of. Remix is opening up new worlds. Or, as we’ve said in class, remix is like opening a door into something unknown and seeing where it goes. That’s the beauty of remix.
Ayoki, Keith, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins. “Bound By Law?” Duke University. Web. 15
Mar. 2011. <http://www.law.duke.edu/cspd/comics/zoomcomic.html>.
Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Marxists
Internet Archive. Feb. 2006. Web. 17 Mar. 2011. <http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm>.
Flusser, Vilém. “Towards A Philosophy of Photography.” Archive Filter. Web. 15 Mar. 2011.