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Archive: May 2004

Remix Aesthetic

In my last Kill Bill post, I wrote “I much enjoy the collage aesthetic (I usually call it a remix or DJ aesthetic), but I prefer the playful expressiveness of, say, Moulin Rouge to the cynical play of Kill Bill.” Now, it’s possible I’m a little obsessed with Moulin Rouge, so I’d better say more about it!

Walter Benjamin, in 1935, wrote an essay called The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Here’s what he had to say:

The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced. Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter. And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.

One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind.

And a bit later:

Works of art are received and valued on different planes. Two polar types stand out; with one, the accent is on the cult value; with the other, on the exhibition value of the work. Artistic production begins with ceremonial objects destined to serve in a cult. […] With the emancipation of the various art practices from ritual go increasing opportunities for the exhibition of their products. It is easier to exhibit a portrait bust that can be sent here and there than to exhibit the statue of a divinity that has its fixed place in the interior of a temple. The same holds for the painting as against the mosaic or fresco that preceded it. And even though the public presentability of a mass originally may have been just as great as that of a symphony, the latter originated at the moment when its public presentability promised to surpass that of the mass.

With the different methods of technical reproduction of a work of art, its fitness for exhibition increased to such an extent that the quantitative shift between its two poles turned into a qualitative transformation of its nature.

Benjamin’s idea is that a work of art loses its intangible “aura” of authority and authenticity when it becomes mechanically reproducible—the Mona Lisa becomes a little less special when you can get it on a refrigerator magnet and don’t have to go to the musée du Louvre to see it. The quality of a work of art, which used to be all about its special aura of artness, now becomes much more a matter of its exhibitionary and entertainment value.

This may lead to one a big question of (post)modern thought: nihilism or anti-nihilism? When fundamentally authoritative things lose their authority, does that mean there is no authority—or that everything has authority? Nothing is worth anything, or everything is worth something?

There’s another consquence: if art loses its authority, we no longer have to ‘respect’ it. The original isn’t what’s important, what’s important is the exhibition of a reproduction of the original which “meet[s] the beholder or listener in his own particular situation” and “reactivates the object reproduced.” Interpretation may supersede original meaning. Recontextualization may supersede original context. The text stops being a cathedral and becomes a playground. We get Troy and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (hilariously referred to as Wiliam Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet).

And there’s another thing to consider: information overload! Meme invasion! Thanks to the Internet and mass media, we have access to a ridiculous amount of information. What do we do with all of it? There’s no way we can process it all. Things are decontexualized. A lot of kids probably think “Revenge is a dish best served cold” really is an old Klingon proverb. What to do?

Remix aesthetic is a response to all this. Mash-ups. The Grey Album. Moulin Rouge. For artists like Luhrmann, everything is worth something, but not for whatever it’s ‘supposed’ to mean. Decontexualization and crises of meaning provide opportunities to play in the text, recontextualize, make new meaning.

Oliver Stone’s Alexander

Oliver Stone’s Alexander: I'm waiting for the Baz Luhrmann version myself.

Via: Ken Lowery

26 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Onion Skinned Drop Shadows

Onion Skinned Drop Shadows: Drop shadows that look good in any browser and automatically expand and contract to fit objects of any size. Change the size of drop-shadowed boxes and the depth of the shadows with no image manipulation. The technique uses nested div elements to lay background images on top of one another.

26 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | 5 comments »

The Metamorpho Theme

The Metamorpho Theme: Listen and be amazed! Metamorpho Metamorpho! Metamorpho Metamorpho! This is the story of the Element Maaaaaan, Metamorpho Metamorpho!

Via: Milo George

26 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | One comment »

My Troy

As Steven said, we saw Troy this weekend, and my response is close to his. I’ve read portions of all the pertinent epics in the original, so I had strong feelings going into the movie and mixed feelings coming out.

My favorite part, as everyone knows, is when Hector was racing down the stairs To His Doom and was met by his stern-faced wife holding their lovely son. Poor heartbroken Hector peers down at tiny Astuanax, who promptly bursts into tears, terrified by his father’s hair-capped helmet. Hector takes it off for one last cuddle before suiting up again. Of course, this wasn’t in the movie, because somehow it doesn’t matter to other people as much as it does to me, but I was expecting that. At least all three of those characters got appropriate depth and screentime.

What impressed me most was the way all the characters who were relatives managed to look alike. I’m not sure about making Achilles and Patroclus cousins, but it explained the necessary resemblance well and allowed a palatable reading of Patroclus’s adoration, although the parallel to the similarly retconned Briseis cousin status seemed weird. The women were all excellent, which was a comforting surprise. I went in a Rose Byrne fan, which helped me avoid being too troubled by some of the stereotypes Briseis played out.

And the fighting! Well, all the one-on-one stuff wasn’t too impressive to me, but watching the shields collide and the blood flowing out to make the earth wet was just amazing and saddening. I know this is how it works, but it was hard to watch and harder to ignore. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such compelling battle. We watched like Priam’s family, gauging the trends while keeping our eyes on the heroes. The desecration of Hector’s body was similarly captivating and all the more poignant because I wanted Achilles to follow his lead and be a hero, treat him with respect and felt myself mentally urging him on to honor, even knowing how the story would go.

And then there’s all that stuff about not knowing how the story goes, but it wasn’t too much of a problem. It’s not as if I think Homer wrote a definitive history, and I’m quite sure there wasn’t a Homer, so while I think some of the changes didn’t work on a story level, I wasn’t hoping for a fully accurate translation. In fact, my favorite scene actually in the movie played on some of the ambiguity and conflicting stories and implications of choosing a focus. Helen tells Paris something like, “Every day I was with Menelaus, I was a ghost. Only now am I real.” And certainly that’s the sort of thing people say when they’re in love and when it’s true, but it’s made even better and truer by the story that Helen never went to Troy but was spirited off to Egypt while a war was fought for the sake of her ghost in Troy, and only later was the deception revealed. This made up for some of the lack of ambiguity and subtlety in much of the rest of the plot dealing with the motivations for war, and so I choose to believe it was intentional.

Creative Commons 2.0

Creative Commons 2.0: Announcing (and explaining) the Creative Commons 2.0 licenses. Mostly the same, but with some key changes you'll probably want to know about if you use a Creative Commons license.

25 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Chaotic Believability

Chaotic Believability: On the other hand, Steven Wintle calls the early Marvel Universe "chaotically believable": "...just when is the real world ever cohesive and consistent? The left hand rarely knows what the right hand is doing, and a variety of interpretations and slightly off-kilter continuity is the element of inadvertent, lo-fi surprise that can make shared universe superhero comics not only fun, but also somewhat chaotically believable." Now we can combine Paul O'Brien, David Fiore, and Steven and say that the Marvel Universe is like the real world because the real world is the Text that we all must interpret.

See also: “Continuity” Revised
See also: Crossover Appeal
See also: “Continuity” Revisited

25 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

“Continuity” Revised

“Continuity” Revised: David Fiore replies to Paul O'Brien's Ninth Art article on superhero-comics continuity. Does a shared universe continuity increase verisimilitude, or does it emphasize textuality with historiography and intertexual references? This question brings to my mind the No-Prize---if you, the reader, are given authority to contribute to the text by 'fixing' continuity 'mistakes' in the letter columns, this must mess with verisimilitude a bit, no?

25 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Web Developer extension for Firefox and Mozilla

Web Developer extension for Firefox and Mozilla: If you use a Mozilla browser and you're a web developer, you'll almost certainly find the tools in this extension useful.

25 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Virtual Dopers Crave High Scores

Virtual Dopers Crave High Scores: Developers of massively multiplayer online games introduce addictive substances to their game worlds. Hardcore stuff, too, like stuff that'll make you overdose and die! Can you imagine getting addicted to crack and becoming a junkie on the streets of Mos Eisley? Well, imagine no more, friends!

25 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | 3 comments »