Monday, February 15, 2010

In the Mix

Welcome to the 21st Century:

Author, 17, Says It’s ‘Mixing,’ Not Plagiarism (via NY Times)

Eureka! I've been waiting for something to replace postmodernism, and it looks like it's found me. Remember all that mish-mash about who owns a story? Evidently everybody does!




We live in a looped, remixed, reality-altered world, don't we? Reality TV? Sure...ever notice how, even though a "character" on a reality show sounds like they are saying a sentence, the film is obviously cut and pasted together? (One of my best buddies has a little brother who edits video in Orlando--he calls this "frankenlooping")

Same thing as the book, right? Ms. Hegemann was only "rearranging" someone else's art...mixing it...repackaging. Kind of the long hand version of a literary allusion, right?


How about a collaboration with a musician dead for forty years? Same principle?

New Louis Armstrong, by Way of Preservation Hall (via NPR)

Creepy, really.

Great power + great responsibility (evidently) = sweet remixes

So how do you feel about Ms. Hegemann? The Louis Armstrong "collaboration"? Are they the same thing? Is ownership an outmoded concept, especially with regard to art? The younger generation seems to lean this way, IMHO.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to toddle off and make a collage out of paintings from my encyclopedic copy of HW Janson's A History of Art. Do you think MoMA will be interested?


Jamie Eyberg said...

It is like saying, "his words were okay, but I could do it better." Now, if you will excuse me I am going to go hit myself in the head with a ball pien hammer and hope this goes away.

Joe L. Murr said...

It's an interesting issue. Writers, being the magpies that we are, have always appropriated shiny bits of prose for our own purposes. Some even plunder wholesale (like Kathy Acker, whom this German author claims as an influence). So where does one draw the line between intertextuality and outright theft?

For me, at least, it boils down to: does the author make something "new" out of the appropriated text? Does the author transform the material or shed new light on it? I realize this is a bit like the old definition of pornography: "I cannot define it, but I know it when I see it."

This case certainly sounds like the (underage) author flat-out stole from a club scene veteran mainly to add "authenticity" to her descriptions of the scene. It's definitely not "remixing", but stealing someone else's voice. Since she's the daughter of one of Germany's most respected dramatists, naivete is not a defense. In fact, her sociocultural status makes her actions that much more despicable - the privileged ripping off a subculture.

That Louis Armstrong definitely crosses the line into crass commercial exploitation, doesn't it. Very creepy.

Cate Gardner said...

I'm going to photocopy the Mona Lisa, add a moustache, and set up a studio in Paris - you're welcome to wallspace.

Jamie, can I borrow your hammer?

Brendan said...

It is merely the extension of the culture of artistic piracy and thievery, enabled by the Internet, on which a whole generation has now been weaned. One wonders where it might end.

Robert said...

What I find most fascinating is how the judges of that award KNEW about the plagiarism and still went and made her book a finalist. That, I think, is even crazier.

Fox Lee said...

What she did makes me angry in numerous ways. I can best sum it up by saying that she treats the written word as cheap. She clearly doesn't value the art of the story, or else she would understand how steeling someone's work is a low, dirty thing to do. To then allow readers to believe it was all her, is just another layer of bad karma.

Aaron Polson said...

Jamie - Hooray for hammers!

Joe - Entitlement, anyone? As for Armstrong, it's all about the money, right?

Cate - Didn't someone already do that? (you could give her a beard)

Brendan - They (the internet generation) won't be able to see the fault. That scares me.

Robert - Crazier, and lends the plagiarism credibility. *shudders*

Natalie - Bad karma indeed.

Alan W. Davidson said...

As Robert pointed out, it's sad that it was enabled by others. I liked Brendan's line about a generation being weaned on the Internet. Umm, what other comments can I copy...

I think that we're entering a brave new underworld. Sort of an 'unpoliced' wild west where folks can 'smaple' stuff from others (as we have seen a couple of times recently) and pass it off as original fiction.

Joe L. Murr said...

Just to clarify my earlier comment - what I meant by writers being magpies is that there's absolutely nothing new about "intertextuality". Writers have always parodied and quoted from each other and repurposed the ancient classics, etc. Nothing recent or post-modern about it. But there's a world of difference between the "sampling and remixing" legit writers engage in (whether consciously or unconsciously) and what Hegemann did.

Danielle Birch said...

Geez, maybe we could all mix a couple of classics together and create something big. Maybe she's trying to justify her lack of talent.

Joe L. Murr said...

Danielle, if we were Shakespeare, we most certainly could remix the classics (or whatever else is at hand). Or, for that matter, if we were John Webster, Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Alexander Pope or Lovecraft, who referred to his horror fiction as his "Poe stories". Samplers and mixers, all of them. (But let's not mention Oscar Wilde, that naughty boy, whose Dorian Gray is frankly full of plagiarism.) Still, those guys had talent - this Hegemann, I don't think so.

K.C. Shaw said...

I wonder if she would be claiming it's just remixing if someone had stolen part of something she'd written.

Katey said...

Yeah, like everyone's saying, there's a difference between inspiration (a few words here and there) and stealing. Like you say, I could steal from a dozen works of art and make a post post-modern (contemporary is the word, unless we're beyond that now. Being out of school for years has melted my brain) STATEMENT, devoid of originality but oh-so-authentic, right?

To cut right to the point: fuck that. Fuck it sideways.

Weird side note, when that Kavya Viswanathan thing happened, my father-in-law was complaining to high heaven. "Why is this girl making my name look bad!!" Don't worry, pops, I'm not using it for my horror smut either. ;) (er, in case it's not clear, my married name is Viswanathan. Right!)