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Cutting Across Media: Appropriation Art, Interventionist Collage, and Copyright Law

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In this collection of essays, leading academics, critics, and artists historicize collage and appropriation tactics that cut across diverse media and genres. They take up issues of appropriation in the popular and the avant-garde, in altered billboards and the work of the renowned painter Chris Ofili, in hip-hop and the compositions of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, and in audio mash-ups, remixed news broadcasts, pranks, culture jamming, and numerous other cultural forms. The borrowing practices that they ...
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Cutting Across Media: Appropriation Art, Interventionist Collage, and Copyright Law

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Overview


In this collection of essays, leading academics, critics, and artists historicize collage and appropriation tactics that cut across diverse media and genres. They take up issues of appropriation in the popular and the avant-garde, in altered billboards and the work of the renowned painter Chris Ofili, in hip-hop and the compositions of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, and in audio mash-ups, remixed news broadcasts, pranks, culture jamming, and numerous other cultural forms. The borrowing practices that they consider often run afoul of intellectual property regimes, and many of the contributors address the effects of copyright and trademark law on creativity. Among the contributors are the novelist and essayist Jonathan Lethem, the poet and cultural critic Joshua Clover, the filmmaker Craig Baldwin, the hip-hop historian Jeff Chang, the ’zine-maker and sound collage artist Lloyd Dunn, and Negativland, the infamous collective that was sued in 1991 for sampling U2 in a satirical sound collage. Cutting Across Media is both a serious examination of collage and appropriation practices and a celebration of their transformative political and cultural possibilities.

Contributors
Craig Baldwin
David Banash
Marcus Boon
Jeff Chang
Joshua Clover
Lorraine Morales Cox
Lloyd Dunn
Philo T. Farnsworth
Pierre Joris
Douglas Kahn
Rudolf Kuenzli
Rob Latham
Jonathan Lethem
Carrie McLaren
Kembrew McLeod
Negativland
Davis Schneiderman
David Tetzlaff
Gábor Vályi
Warner Special Products
Eva Hemmungs Wirtén

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Spanning media from visual art to popular music, literature to culture jamming, this series of essays challenges the litigious environment in which copyright is used as a blunt weapon to prevent reinvention of existing works and the transformative process of reuse to inform the creative cycle of ideas. . . . Advanced undergraduates through faculty in art, art history, media studies, film, literature and music will appreciate the interdisciplinary treatment of collage.” - Cara List, ARLIS/NA Reviews

“I believe this is an important book, specifically because the issues discussed affect much of our future artistic creations; as mentioned this has profound social and cultural ramifications. As such, this book should be at minimum included as a recommended text in a variety of applicable tertiary education courses. The stakes are too high to ignore the erosion of artistic freedom brought about by ignorant and greed driven application of copyright law.” - Rob Harle, Leonardo

“Where the most prominent works on the subject tend to dwell on digital’s infinite capacity to reproduce and share itself freely and its current kowtowing to corporate rights management, this book begins by situating appropriation art and collage in the earlier recesses of the twentieth century with Walter Benjamin, the Surrealists, and Dada. Along the way, it touches upon zine culture, audiotape collage, street art, and new wave science fiction; it critiques the international outflows of copyright-subject culture and then it critiques the debate itself.” - Allie Curry, Rain Taxi

“Communication is much like a work of art—it is a process of copying, repeating and varying what we hear. There is no originator or owner of that which shapes our very being, and Cutting Across Media demonstrates how placing restrictions on creative commentary can stifle our cultural development.”—Vicki Bennett, aka People Like Us

Christine Masters Jach

“Reflecting both McLeod’s spirited cultural critique and Kuenzli’s interdisciplinary approach to the arts, Cutting Across Media explores diverse forms of collage and appropriation in music, painting, publishing, spoken broadcasts, poetry, and narrative. In this collage of essays, readers are challenged to rethink notions of intellectual property and to consider the complex political and cultural issues that accompany collage and appropriation aesthetics.”
James Meese

“What separates this volume from other contemporary works around sampling and intellectual property law is that research in this area rarely attempts to marry aesthetic and political concerns so overtly. . . . [A]n edited collection that successfully manages to explore the political and artistic imperatives that inform the practice of collage and appropriation.”
Rob Harle

“I believe this is an important book, specifically because the issues discussed affect much of our future artistic creations; as mentioned this has profound social and cultural ramifications. As such, this book should be at minimum included as a recommended text in a variety of applicable tertiary education courses. The stakes are too high to ignore the erosion of artistic freedom brought about by ignorant and greed driven application of copyright law.”
Cara List

“Spanning media from visual art to popular music, literature to culture jamming, this series of essays challenges the litigious environment in which copyright is used as a blunt weapon to prevent reinvention of existing works and the transformative process of reuse to inform the creative cycle of ideas. . . . Advanced undergraduates through faculty in art, art history, media studies, film, literature and music will appreciate the interdisciplinary treatment of collage.”
Allie Curry

“Where the most prominent works on the subject tend to dwell on digital’s infinite capacity to reproduce and share itself freely and its current kowtowing to corporate rights management, this book begins by situating appropriation art and collage in the earlier recesses of the twentieth century with Walter Benjamin, the Surrealists, and Dada. Along the way, it touches upon zine culture, audiotape collage, street art, and new wave science fiction; it critiques the international outflows of copyright-subject culture and then it critiques the debate itself.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822348221
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 5/30/2011
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 993,227
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Kembrew McLeod is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Freedom of Expression®: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property and Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership, and Intellectual Property Law, and co-creator of the documentary film Copyright Criminals. McLeod and Peter DiCola are the authors of Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling, also published by Duke University Press.

Rudolf Kuenzli is Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of Iowa, where he is the Director of the International Dada Archive.

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Read an Excerpt

CUTTING ACROSS MEDIA

APPROPRIATION ART, INTERVENTIONIST COLLAGE, AND COPYRIGHT LAW

DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2011 Kembrew McLeod and Rudolf Kuenzli
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4822-1


Chapter One

KEMBREW McLEOD AND RUDOLF KUENZLI

I Collage, Therefore I Am An Introduction to Cutting Across Media

"A good composer does not imitate, he steals," Igor Stravinsky once remarked, expressing a sentiment that many well-known artists have shared (quoted in Oswald, 1990, 89). Whether we are talking about Dada, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, Situationism, or Pop Art, creators across artistic movements have long acknowledged the centrality of appropriation in their creative practices. Collage was an essential method used to create literary works like T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School, William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, James Joyce's Ulysses, and Marianne Moore's poetry. In the world of audio, collage practices played a key role in the development of avant-garde music, as well as the birth of hip-hop—a largely African American musical genre responsible for popularizing remix culture within the mainstream, perhaps more so than anything else.

Innovations in communication technologies (the phonograph, radio, magnetic tape, and, later, digital media) gave people new ways of capturing sound and image, which fundamentally changed their relationship with media. Starting at the beginning of the twentieth century, newspapers were the dominant media outlets that circulated cultural and political texts, acting as ideological gatekeepers that shaped popular culture. For artists armed with scissors and paste, the messages in newspapers' pages could be literally cut up, rearranged, and thus transformed with available household tools and technologies. Later, magnetic tape and celluloid were subjected to the hands-on manipulations of artists who critiqued the dominant culture.

Collage is not merely a technique that characterizes a series of artistic, literary, and musical movements, for it can be much more than that. In his essay, "Modernism and the Collage Aesthetic," Budd Hopkins emphasizes that it is "a philosophical attitude, an aesthetic position that can suffuse virtually any expressive medium" (1997, 5). Cutting Across Media explores that philosophical attitude. The chapters included here implicitly or explicitly treat collage as a cultural practice that can intervene within mass media, consumer culture, copyright regimes, and everyday life. This book historicizes a wide range of appropriation tactics—ones that cut not just across media but also through national borders and human history. In doing so, it addresses a variety of media and genres: from poetry, literature, photocopied mail art, and "modified" outdoor advertisements to pop music, sound collage, and visual art.

This Ain't Just a Digital Thing

Cutting Across Media starts from the assumption that culture is a complex process of sharing and signification. Meanings are exchanged, adopted, and adapted through acts of communication—acts that come into conflict with intellectual property law. In light of these legal constraints, it is important to emphasize that these appropriation practices are variations on behaviors that make us, well, human. As children we learned to speak our native language by imitating the sounds heard around us, and as adults we often repeat pop culture catchphrases and songs drilled into our heads by the culture industry. In this way, people are organic, flesh-and-bone sample machines.

New technologies simply made it possible for people to engage with mass media in ways that echo the dialogic exchanges that occurred in more private, interpersonal settings—and in art scenes that existed at the margins of the mainstream. The Dadas showed us how appropriation could be a potentially powerful strategy for intervening in mediated representations of reality in the 1910s and 1920s. At that time, intellectual property was not a concern for Dada artists like Tristan Tzara and Kurt Schwitters. During the First World War they cut out the words of (copyrighted) newspaper articles and rearranged them according to chance, thus rendering war propaganda nonsensical.

In the early twentieth century, there was no equivalent of Gannett, NewsCorp., or any other powerful media conglomerate that might file a lawsuit against these art pranksters. Copyright also was not a concern of John Heartfield, whose later anti-Nazi photomontages decontextualized mass-media photos and pulled back the ideological veils of fascism. Similarly, the Berlin Dada artist Hannah Hoech critically juxtaposed the mass media's constructions of the "new woman" in an attempt to expose these media images as yet further commodifications of women. Later in the twentieth century, Barbara Kruger's collages similarly questioned the media's more recent constructions of woman-as-consumer, as shopper, by repurposing mass- produced imagery.

The experiments of Tzara, Hoech, and Heartfield are also akin to the sign-scrambling work done by the Situationists—an anti-art movement inspired in part by Dada that emerged in 1957. They would, for instance, take a Hong Kong action film about gang warfare and replace the dialogue with one about class warfare, or they would alter comic strip speech balloons to subvert the original message. Situationists called this technique détournement. The closest English translation of détournement falls somewhere between "diversion" and "subversion." Another translation might be "unturning" or "deturning"—where culture is turned back on itself, against itself. Détournement is a plagiaristic act that, like a martial arts move, shifts the strength and weight of the dominant culture against itself with some fancy linguistic and intellectual footwork. This method was also a unique merging of art and politics. Situationists believed that the truths revealed by détournement, which lifted off "the ideological veils that cover reality," were central to their revolutionary project. Guy Debord, author of the influential Society of the Spectacle, insisted that a "Dadaist-type negation" must be deployed against the language of the dominant culture (Plant 1992, 86–87).

This impulse has manifested itself in popular music as well. Back in the 1930s, the politically active American folk singer Woody Guthrie used appropriation tactics to comment on the deluge of consumer culture in his songs. Guthrie once noted that "the Rich folks must have some way of making us poor folks believe their way, so they put out radio programs, sermons, moving pictures, books, magazines, and all sorts of silly advertising." He continues, "This junk is piled around every house in the world like a big pile of trash, but most folks believe it, and are sunk in it" (1990, 31). The impulse to appropriate from and intervene within popular culture was a key dimension of the folk music movement that emerged in the first half of the twentieth century.

By recycling folk melodies and adding his acerbic words to them, Guthrie used music to fight for the rights of workers, battling the rich folks' "silly advertising" through song. For example, he wrote in his journal of song ideas: "Tune of 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken'—will the union stay unbroken. Needed: a sassy tune for a scab song." Guthrie also discovered that a Baptist hymn performed by the Carter Family, "This World Is Not My Home," was popular in migrant farm worker camps, but he felt the lyrics were politically counterproductive (Klein 1980, 120). The song didn't deal with the day-to-day miseries forced on them by the capitalist class and instead told the workers they would be rewarded for their patience in the next life:

This world is not my home I'm just a-passing through My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue Where many Christian children Have gone before And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Guthrie understood this hymn to be telling workers to accept hunger and pain and not fight back. He mocked and parodied the original by keeping the melody and reworking the words to comment on the harsh material conditions many suffered through:

I ain't got no home I'm just a-roaming round I'm just a wandering worker, I go from town to town And the police make it hard Wherever I may go And I ain't got no home in this world anymore. (Klein 1980, 120)

Guthrie was affiliated closely with the labor movement, which inspired many of his greatest songs; these songs, in turn, motivated members of the movement during trying times. This is one of the reasons he famously scrawled on his guitar, that "This Machine Kills Fascists." For Guthrie and many other folk musicians, music was politics, and he recognized the power of language and culture. Long before he appropriated his first tune, the International Workers of the World, or the Wobblies, were borrowing from popular melodies to write the songs that were published and popularized in their Little Red Song Book (officially titled I.W.W. Songs, and subtitled To Fan the Flames of Discontent). These songs also parodied religious hymns, such as "In the Sweet By-and-By," which was changed to "You Will Eat, By and By" (Klein 1980, 82), with another sardonic line thrown in for good measure: "You'll get pie in the sky when you die" (Nelson 1989, 58).

In his book, Repression and Recovery Modern American Poetry and the Politics of Cultural Memory, 1910–1945:, Cary Nelson argues that this songbook was "designed as a deliberate cultural intervention." He adds, "most of the songs in the Little Red Song Book are set to well-known existing melodies, a practice reinforced through much of the nineteenth century in American labor songs" (59–61). As for the songs contained in the Little Red Song Book, their appropriations served a double purpose, according to Nelson:

First, it ensured that people could sing many of the songs whether or not they read music. But it also had a more subversive aim: to empty out the conservative, sentimental, or patriotic values of the existing songs while replacing them with radical impulses. People in one sense, therefore, already knew the songs they would encounter in the Little Red Song Book, but they knew them falsely. The contrasting titles alone suggest the countervailing value systems.... "Take It to the Lord in Prayer" becomes "Dump the Bosses off Your Back," turning patience into impatience and replacing religious consolation with practical action.... Sometimes the confrontation between the two songs continues throughout the text. "The Battle Hymn of the Workers" rewrites "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" while retaining many of its phrases: "Mine eyes have seen the vision of the workers true and brave ... their hosts are marching on." (61)

Nelson continues, "the authors of these songs mount an opposition from within the commonplace forms of the culture, thereby winning back both tradition and common sense from their articulation to conservativism" (61). Guthrie and other folk singers drew from the culture that surrounded them and transformed, reworked, and remixed that culture to write songs that motivated the working class to fight for a dignified life. Instead of passively consuming and regurgitating the Tin Pan Alley songs that were popular during the day, they created, recreated, and commented on culture in an attempt to change the world around them. This kind of sharing, adapting, and transforming is an integral aspect of how culture works; it is not an anomaly.

Confronting (and Cutting Up) Consumer Culture

Newspapers, television, popular music, roadside billboards, comics, and films (the "junk" that Guthrie was referring to in the previous section) supplied a new vocabulary for artists to express themselves. They remixed these raw materials using vcrs, digital audio recorders, spray paint, silkscreen machines, photocopiers, digital scanners, personal computers, and—significantly—tape recorders. This analog medium embodied, and anticipated, several of the cultural and technological characteristics now attributed to digital media. Long before the rise of online file sharing and even home computing, the cassette tape facilitated the same kinds of decentralized cultural production and distribution common today. Magnetic tape technologies greatly lessened the cost of reproducing, copying, and circulating sound recordings, a breakthrough that is also ascribed to mp3s and other digital media.

Magnetic tape allowed ordinary people to make copies of sound recordings and disseminate them through formal and informal social networks. Rather than using computers, as is the case today, these exchanges happened face to face, through international postal services and other physical means. Much like digital distribution—which, for instance, now allows a Brazilian DJ to quickly access and remix a popular Nigerian song and upload the results to YouTube for anyone throughout the world to hear—cassettes knew no national boundaries. The existence of cheap, portable cassettes facilitated the cultural flows described by scholar Paul Gilroy in his book The Black Atlantic, in which musical recordings circulated throughout the Caribbean, West Africa, Brazil, the United States, and Eng land. With tapes, people of the African diaspora could listen to and appropriate from musical styles developed in other countries, despite being separated by long distances and great bodies of water.

In addition to facilitating musical- cultural flows across borders, tape technologies allowed artists to edit and reorganize sound in ways that anticipated "the remix" (which rapper Sean Combs claims to have invented, but didn't). Engineer and radio announcer Pierre Schaeffer coined the term musique concrète after experimenting with recorded noises captured on magnetic tape shortly after the Second World War. This sound collage technique became prevalent in avant-garde circles in the following decades, helping fuel a fascination with tape technologies. Douglas Kahn's contribution to this collection, "Where Does Sad News Come From?," provides an illuminating genealogy of the cultural and critical uses of magnetic tape technologies. He does this through a case study of a largely forgotten work of audio art titled Sad News. Answering the question posed in his title, Kahn writes, "Sad News comes from a combination of the schooling unwittingly served up by the inundation of the daily glut of the barrage of cuts for what appears to be news—as well as by the creative effort to deflect and delectate it in the best traditions of satire, semioclasm, political critique, and a healthy curiosity and humorous disrespect."

Another invention that emerged in the same era as magnetic tape was the photocopier—a product of the military-industrial complex that, like the tape recorder, was introduced commercially after the Second World War. We can locate Lloyd Dunn's sound and visual art at the nexus of photocopy and magnetic tape technologies. He was a founding member of the sound collage group The Tape-beatles—originally based in Iowa City, but which has since relocated to Prague. (The group's mock-trademarked slogan is, fittingly, "Plagiarism®: A Collective Vision.") In addition to being a founding member of this notable sound collage group, Dunn was an influential participant in the mail art and zine publishing worlds, which the Xerox Corporation helped make possible.

"There's always been this very problematic but very interesting and fruitful relationship between culture producers and devices for reproduction," says Dunn in "Plagiarism® 101: An Appropriated Oral History of The Tape-beatles," another contribution to this book. "The Hungarian and graphic designer László Moholy-Nagy," he continues, "was a great champion for using devices of reproduction for productive ends. And so when you turn a photocopier into an art-making tool, basically you're détourning a business machine into doing something that could be very easily anticapitalist or antibusiness—or even revolutionary—in the right hands." Among the most important publications to emerge from the zine scene were Dunn's PhotoStatic and Retrofuturism, which date back to the 1980s. We are honored to reprint selections from PhotoStatic, along with Dunn's commentary written for this book.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from CUTTING ACROSS MEDIA Copyright © 2011 by Kembrew McLeod and Rudolf Kuenzli. Excerpted by permission of DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

KEMBREW McLEOD AND RUDOLF KUENZLI I Collage, Therefore I Am: An Introduction to Cutting Across Media....................1
MARCUS BOON Digital Mana: On the Source of the Infinite Proliferation of Mutant Copies in Contemporary Culture....................24
CARRIE MCLAREN Copyrights and Copywrongs: An Interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan....................38
DAVID TETZLAFF Das Plagiierenwerk: Convolute Uii....................51
LLOYD DUNN PhotoStatic Magazine and the Rise of the Casual Publisher....................57
KEMBREW MCLEOD Plagiarism 101: An Appropriated Oral History of The Tape-beatles....................76
JOSHUA CLOVER Ambiguity and Theft....................84
DOUGLAS KAHN Where Does Sad News Come From?....................94
NEGATIVLAND Excerpts from "Two Relationships to a Cultural Public Domain....................117
DAVIS SCHNEIDERMAN Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Lawsuit: William S. Burroughs, dJ Danger Mouse, and the Politics of Grey Tuesday....................132
KEMBREW MCLEOD How Copyright Law Changed Hip-Hop: An Interview with Public Enemy's Chuck D and Hank Shocklee....................152
WARNER SPECIAL PRODUCTS Hip-Hop Meets the Avant-Garde: A Cease and Desist Letter from Attorneys Representing Philip Glass....................158
PHILO T. FARNSWORTH Getting Snippety....................160
KEMBREW MCLEOD Crashing the Spectacle: A Forgotten History of Digital Sampling, Infringement, Copyright Liberation, and the End of Recorded Music....................164
CRAIG BALDWIN Billboard Liberation: A Photo Essay....................178
PIERRE JORIS On the Seamlessly Nomadic Future of Collage....................185
LORRAINE MORALES COX Cultural Sampling and Social Critique: The Collage Aesthetic of Chris Ofili....................199
GÁBOR VÁLYI Remixing Cultures: Bartók and Kodály in the Age of Indigenous Cultural Rights....................219
JEFF CHANG A Day to Sing: Creativity, Diversity, and Freedom of Expression in the Network Society....................237
EVA HEMMUNGS WIRTÉN Visualizing Copyright, Seeing Hegemony: Toward a Meta-Critique of Intellectual Property....................252
DAVID BANASH Collage as Practice and Metaphor in Popular Culture....................264
ROB LATHAM Assassination Weapons: The Visual Culture of New Wave Science Fiction....................276
KEMBREW MCLEOD Free Culture: A Conversation with Jonathan Lethem....................290
JONATHAN LETHEM The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism....................298
Bibliography....................327
Contributors....................341
Index....................345
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