Remix | Appropriation in the digital age

A few of this week’s articles touched upon the relationship between art and media technology, and specifically how media technology has transformed our encounter with art as an experience. When media technology was limited to scarcely distributed painting material, the production and dissemination of art carried with it a sense of “aura” – a space that through laborious procedure of rendering imagined concepts, allowed for a contemplative reflection of collective experience of human existence. The first industrial revolution significantly reduced the cost of reproducing and redistributing visual artifacts. As a result, individual imagery carries less representational, and more relational significance. Art becomes a much more collective experience, ladened with social and political issues that hasn’t been considered as part of the domain of artistic discourse until that point of history. Quite a few of this week’s readings talked about internet’s influence on remix and redistribution, and the originality of art – the origin of the creation of imagery artifacts. Some articles point out that a few net artists produce digital artifacts, the origin of which is meant to be questioned deliberately.

 

In another word, the question regarding net art is not about appropriating a certain abstract concept with formal elements, but rather to question the process of representation through certain medium. There is a shift of attention from the content, to the medium of artwork. What an artist draws takes a back seat comparing to the medium through which the artifact is depicted. In the case of net art specifically, we are no longer concerned about how concepts are visually represented through different aesthetic styles, but why the content was chosen in an environment of hyperlinked information elements. An easy entry point is a more demographic viewing experience on the internet. Viewers choose to comment on content they personally feel more connected with, either through positive or negative influence. Another layer of internet based viewing experience is computational currency. Similar to how we might be influenced by friends who expressed certain interest toward a certain artists on the internet, computer algorithm now is increasingly dictating our chance encounter on the internet before we have a chance to reflect on certain content. Over 70% of today’s online traffic is controlled by one of the largest four internet technology companies in the world. It is extremely likely that the artwork we talk about based on friend recommendation has already been filtered through algorithmically based search engine optimization before our friends had a chance to recommend it to us. What makes the computational layer more complex is that different from the originality and association value of online art, the computational layer is much harder to talk about. Without a basic level of computational literacy, it is very hard to make this issue visible for the audiences that are affected by it.

 

Today’s online remix culture is layered, coinciding with the development of media technology. Individual voice, the voice of friends and acquaintances and the voices of networked intelligence are thrown together into a big melting pot, boiling, colliding and affecting each other. We live in a time and space where originality is no longer the center of the concern. Meaning and value are created not through original authorship, but through hyperlink and association. However, authenticity is still highly relevant. Even though content is remixed and reshuffled, the artist is still conscious. The space for distant contemplation is still needed for the artist to hear his or her own authentic voice, so that he or she may laugh, cry, think, reflect, and say – Here I am. This is my voice. Genuine and alive.

 

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