Convolute U ii
, Connecticut College
"Collage as Cultural Practice" Conference, Univeristy of Iowa, 3/26/05
Method of this project: montage. I needn't write anything. Merely read. I
shall purloin no valuables. But the rags, the refuse --these I will allow,
in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them.
All creative works-books, movies, records, software, and so on-are a
compromise between what can be imagined and what is possible-
technologically and legally. For more than two hundred years, laws in
America have sought a balance between rewarding creativity and allowing the
borrowing from which new creativity springs. The original term of copyright
set by the Constitution in 1787 was seventeen years. Now it is closer to
two hundred. Thomas Jefferson considered protecting the public against
overly long monopolies on creative works an essential government role. What
did he know that we've forgotten?
Any knowledge of social and cultural changes is impossible without a notion
of the way media woek as environment.
As a scholar who studies the way copyright often constrains certain kinds
of creativity, I feel a responsibility to demonstrate that fair use--which
allows people to use a copyrighted work for the purposes of journalism,
education, criticism, parody, etc.--exists in practice, not just theory. As
Kembrew McLeod once said, " A good theorist does not imitate, he steals."
As society congeals into a system of total interdependence, those works
which store up the experience of this totalizing process become the
antithetical other of society.
But you don't have to listen to this work to understand the main idea: The
world is shaped by powerful forces that nobody can control. And so, we are
forced to concede to these primal elements. Since prehistoric times, one of
man's greatest problems has been his ceaseless search for nourishment. All
too frequently, however, ignorance and superstition have played major roles
in determining our taste. we seek to rectify this historically identifiable
pattern. Steady progress continues to be made in every form of cultural
production and although the spectre of ignorance has not yet been banished,
it is beginning to fade. That, above all else, is the core of our promise
for today's children and for the generations of all tomorrows.
Creativity and innovation always builds on the past. The past always tries
to control the creativity that builds upon it. Free societies enable the
future by limiting this power of the past. Ours is less and less a free
Do you think the creators of the originals should be paid again by me, for
what I have done with their work? No. There is no way to make this ittle
presentation legally, and there is no way for you to hear it legally. A
more generous and enlightened approach to copyright law would have it
prohibit straight acrosss bootlegging, provide cover version royalties, and
practically nothing else.
Everyone has access to capturing devices now, audio, video all sorts of
things where you can at home grab culture out of the airwaves and do
whatever you want with it. I think that's great. I think that gives us more
of a folk culture in which things evolve by stealing from other things.
Eveything that we see today and that we do today has been marketed to us
and overmarketed. Ideas are commodities to be consumed in much the same
way one would consume frozen string beans. It's an empowering act to take
this stuff that comes out of the pipe like running water, hot and cold
running culture, and using it as an in ingredient in a recipe we've come up
with on our own.
Food manufacturing company Mrs. Smith's fires off cease and desist letters
to bakeries that dare to infringe on its trademark, "home style."
University of Massachusetts ex-basketball coach John Calipari trademarked
"Refuse to Lose" and charges the school royalties to use his slogan. And
Ohio University and Ohio State engaged in a lengthy, expensive battle over
the word "Ohio."
For most of American history, copyright has not only reflected democratic
principles. It fueled the engines of democracy by rewarding the efforts of
both producers and consumers of information and cultural products. Now,
copyright is tilted to favor the powerful at the expense of the people.
How can we possibly teach our students to do their own work when it is so
easy to simply grab bits and pieces of others' work off the web,. I don't
think they even think they are "cheating." I believe that what we would
absolutely call plagiarism is what they call "research."
I keep seeing over and over that without copyright protection, people
wouldn't have incentive to create. What a load of muck. Creative people
NEED to create. They also need to not starve to death, of course. But
creating things in and of itself is rewarding. If money is what motivates
someone, they should become stockbrokers or something that more honestly
reflects their values. Once money becomes the motive, creativity is dead.
I would just like to say thank you to Turnitin. I know it is not a perfect
world, but your company has made it a better world. Just the threat of a
plagiarism system has forced a change in my students' behavior.
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea,
which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to
himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the
possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispose himself of it."
If you care about art, literature, music or culture, you need to hear this.
If you believe in democracy, you need to hear this. amazon
If you plagiarize, you are cheating yourself. Plagiarizing is like
sending a friend to practice tennis for you - you'll never score an ace
yourself! Plagiarism is dishonest because it misrepresents the work of
another as your own. Plagiarism devalues others' original work. It is
wrong to take or use property without giving the owner the value due.
Further, copyright violations uc davis
Pedagogic side of the undertaking: To educate the image making medium
within us, raising it into a stereoscopic and dimensional seeing into the
depths of historical shadows.
In this increasingly brand conscious world, it's the corporations that
exercise the real censorship power over free speech. Corporations make
their brands ubiquitous and then complain if anyone uses the brands to
criticize the resulting crass consumerism. Unlike a public figure like New
York Mayor Giuliani, corporations proceed quietly, below the radar of
public scrutiny, merely by making a business decision to throw their
intimidating wealth in the face of hapless artists. It's almost an
Orwellian double bind that our culture is so sensitized to official
censorship that the very real censorship by the truly invidious goes
unnoticed and unchecked.... the legal system is little more than a boxing
ring for the rich with the common people not even invited to experience the
proceedings on pay per view. We may be free to express ourselves, but if
that expression involves offending a rapacious corporation, they're equally
free to sue; and unless we have the wherewithal to fight off high powered
attorneys, that's where our free speech ends.
Information is frequently thought of as raw material, something that is
neutral and ubiquitous. However, information is very much a social
product, reflecting the social conditions under which it is produced. The
current transition to an information-based economy has resulted in enormous
corporate monopolization of broadcasting, cablecasting, printing,
entertainment, film production, and other media.
It is in the spirit of promoting conversation and debate about an illegal
artwork (and a broken copyright regime) that I have engaged in this act of
copyright civil disobedience.
It's insane. It's extreme. It's controlled by political interests. It has
no justification in the traditional values that justify legal regulation.
And we've done nothing about it. We're bigger than they are. We've got
rights on our side. And we've done nothing about it. We let them control
this debate. They win because we've done nothing to stop it.
Just like hacking into websites, plagiarizing can be something of a thrill
in itself. For many, it becomes a question of ingenuity.
Montage shuffles and reshuffles elemenets of reality as seen by healthy
common sense so as to wrest from them a change in direction, or, at best,
to awaken their native language. What makes montage feeble however is its
inability to explode its individiual elements. By adapting the ready-made
material from the outside , montage reveals a certain tendency to
More and more of our social, political, and religious activities are
modeling themselves after the World Wide Web, along the lines of either
anarchy or oligarchy, total freedom vs. complete control. On one side,
trying to maintain control of information, are corporations, judges, the
military, and global institutions. This battle will define one of the major
fault lines of twenty-first century civilization.
Never in our history have fewer people controlled more of the evolution of
our culture. Never. Today, your life is perpetually regulated in the world
that you live in. It is controlled by the law. Creativity depends on
stopping that control. They will always try to impose it; we are free to
the extent that we resist it.
The old prehistoric dread already envelops the world because we are no
longer bound to it by tradition. The perceptual worlds break up more
rapidly; what they contain of the myhthic comes more quickly and more
brutally to the fore; and a wholly dfferent perceptual world must be
speedily set up to oppose it. This is how the accelerated tempo of
technology appears in the light of the primal history of the present.
Not only did the students whose work I had discovered to be plagiarism come
forth, but several others as well. It was a valuable learning experience
for the students involved. They actually reported being unaware that they
should not COPY web materials. They said they had been trained that things
in the internet are for public use. We had a good class session after this
on what intellectual property is.
Perhaps it would be nifty-keen to track in some giant database every
cultural atom nicked from some other cultural molecule. But the cultural
worker in me doesn't give a hoot. The important thing is what the new piece
means. Sample-sleuthing for its own sake is pointless, or at best banal,
like searching through bags of potato chips for the one that looks like
richard nixon. And of course what follows from this is that for music
that's never about anything, it never matters. Too often the appreciation
(and even production) of sample-based music is like shopping.
Plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's
work and lying about it afterward. But can words and ideas really be
stolen? According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of
original ideas is considered intellectual property. Almost all forms of
expression fall under copyright protection.
PlagiarismR is the notion that recontextualization of previously 'finished'
works can be done ethically and can in itself constitute authorship; and
making use of contemporary media to critique culture and social milieux.
This work aims to develop to the highest degree the art of citing without
The ability to comment on the ideas, images, and words that saturate us
daily by parodying, criticizing or using them as examples has been stolen
from the arena of free speech and recast as an economic issue. Much of our
cultural heritage has been the result of artistic exchange (i.e.,
borrowing): blues, folk music, painting, collage, architecture, verbal
imagery, all have benefited from the hijackings of, among others, T.S.
Eliot, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Marianne Moore, the Dadaists, the
Situationists, and digital samplers.
The forges, rolling-mills, furnaces and smelters are gone. We process data
-- extracting it, molding it, combining it, shipping it, adding value to it
and extracting profit from it like any other industrial product. As we
approach the end of the century, information is the basic resource, the
primary commodity on which the advanced capitalist economy depends.
The general rule of law is, that noblest of human productions-knowledge,
truths ascertained, conceptions and ideas - become, after voluntary
communication to others, free as the air to common use."
The idea of montage and that of technological construction are intimately
bound up with each other. Together they are becoming increasingly
incompatible with the notion of radically elaborated art, with which they
used to be identical. The principle of montage was supposed to shock
people into just how dubious any organic unity was. Now that the shock has
lost its punch, the products of montage revert to being indifferent stuff
or substance. adorno at
The music industry, entertainment industry, software companies and even
medical research companies are restricting access to information and all
kinds of things. These companies are stopping the development of our
culture. We need to insist on companies providing us with the truth and not
just what they want to tell us. We need to send a message to these
companies that we are not going to accept these restrictions. We need
people who can change the way information is processed and distributed.
The social moment attains aesthetic relevance not by being imitated but by
being directly injected into art through an act of sabotage. adorno at
There are some professors who will tell you that plagiarism is a chimaera.
There are no original ideas left anyway, and all we are doing is
manipulating sets of symbols.) Such philosophical positions
notwithstanding, plagiarism is a reality if you don't cite the sources.
It's that simple.
There is an obvioius continuity between between the concept of the new and
that of originality which rose during the age of individualism. In the
meantime, however, those who are against the new oppose it by invoking
originality. They argue that the new lacks originality.
They frame this as a massive battle to stop theft, to protect property.
They extend copyrights perpetually. They don't get how that in itself is a
form of theft. A theft of our common culture. We have failed in getting
them to see what the issues here are and that's why we live in this place
where a tradition speaks of freedom and their controls take it away.
They put it out there, then it's ours to claim. It's part of the
environment that we're living in, and just as an artist may pick up sticks
and rocks to build a sculpture, we pick up the garbage of culture.
The 'copyright cartel' is quickly and quietly turning us into a 'pay per
When the mass media are controlled by the few, that makes media piracy a
form of criticism, even dialogue.
While information has become an important commodity in this modern age, it
is important to recognize that information is also much more than that.
Information, media, "knowledge" products and data are the means by which a
society stays informed and exchanges thoughts, ideas, beliefs and values.
All communications systems have a strong ideological component, conveying
images, narratives, news, and information that can perpetuate or challenge
ideological outlooks. Western notions of democracy, from Paine, to de
Tocqueville, from Locke to Habermas, are premised upon the freedom to
communicate, upon public access to information, and upon the ability to
disseminate ideas. This freedom is increasingly jeopardized by the actions
of corporate conglomerates.
While new technologies always lead to new laws, never before have the big
cultural monopolists used the fear created by new technologies to shrink
the public domain of ideas, even as the same corporations use the same
technologies to control more and more what we can and can't do with
culture. As more and more culture becomes digitized, more and more becomes
controllable, even as laws are being toughened at the behest of the big
media groups. What's at stake is our freedom-freedom to create, freedom to
build, and ultimately, freedom to imagine.
Work the sewers. Know your enemy. Craig Baldwin said about Douglas Kahn,
"He knew how to hate well."
You can put a bunch of things that are not necessarfily related to each
other at all in connection with one another and if there's any way to do
it, people will make a conection in their minds, and they'll make it have
a meaning. Often you'll have just little bits of content and the meaning of
the piece is built out of the juxtaposiion of all these llllitle things.
The way we use the media is a totally nautural response to growing up in a
media saturated world. In your little psyche all day long is coming all
this advertising all this media. You didn't invite it. These things are
coming in on you, but you turn the barrage back on itself in some way.
There's channel surfing. There's a lot of things that are intrinsic to the
culture of recording, that teach people about it just by watching it. by
operfating the technology. It's part of the vernacular.
How this work was written: rung by rung according as chance would offer a
You can spot jam art easily. It always supercedes found content as it
What matters are never the 'great,' but only the dialectical contrasts,
which often seem indistinguishable from nuances. It is nonetheless from
them that life is always born anew.
You're out there in the public making media, that should be one of the
prices of being out there, is being rearranged and reorganized.
It is good to give materialist investigations a truncated ending.