DimensionalTelephone : remix, iteration, and originality

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Smith, Logan, M.F.A.

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People are creative. We shape the world around us and then share that with others. While people are creative, I would posit that people are not original. I believe that what we call originality is, in fact, when we create new, novel ideas from old ideas. The term remix follows an equivalent definition, utilizing what came before to create something new. This is how we create; we remix. Though this seems straightforward, we as a society have a continuous link to Romanticism. The artistic movement from the 18th century emphasizes inspiration, subjectivity, and individuality. In other words, originality is divined upon an individual, not through outside influence. Modern copyright law is this link to romanticism in our common era. The law causes tension with creatives stating that one’s works and ideas are properties that are not to be shared. Though copyright law’s initial intention is to protect a creator's work so that the creator can profit for a period of time, copyright law has instead evolved to protect corporate assets, locking out works from the public domain well over the lifespan of the average person. However, there are guidelines and affordances embedded within copyright law called fair use. The fair use doctrine is a set of guidelines written in a revision of copyright law in 1978 for creators to claim originality in their work and defend themselves from litigation. Inspired by the work of filmmaker, writer, and speaker Kirby Ferguson, I wanted to see if there was a way to practically test his three-part philosophy of remix and arrive at the romantic ideal of originality while only utilizing the work of others. His philosophy states that every creative work is a remix following the steps of ‘copying, transforming, and combining old works and ideas into a new creation. The result of this inspiration became my thesis project dubbed DimensionalTelephone, where 15 artists and I created works of art in a sequence, each iterating from the previous work. I hope to show you through this process that originality can come from what came before, giving you a new perspective on the term remix and what it can mean for creativity going forward.


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