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“Learn to Say F*ck You”: Sol LeWitt’s Advice to Artists, Put to Music (Video, 2013)

Animated still from MOCAtv's "Learn to Say F*ck You", with words by Sol LeWitt and music by Rancid. (2013)

From MOCAtv’s “Learn to Say F*ck You”, with words by Sol LeWitt and music by Rancid. (2013)

Sometimes there’s a mashup so sublime, you just can’t resist. Modern art, punk rock, and good creative advice?  I’m on board.  I’m so behind that. Swirl some bright colors in my face, and the deal’s done.

MOCAtv, the digital channel of the Museum of Contemporary Art, writes this about their video:

In 1965, Sol LeWitt wrote fellow sculptor Eva Hesse a four-page letter of encouragement, urging her to stop doubting herself and to simply continue making her work. Despite the fact that some would consider their friendship unlikely, the two sculptors were close friends and wrote to each other frequently about their ideas, work, and personal lives from 1960 until Hesse’s death ten years later. Often quoted, LeWitt’s letter has become a source of inspiration and a vote of confidence for many artists the world over.
Producer Aaron Rose (Beautiful Losers, Become a Microscope) worked with punk rock band Rancid to remake LeWitt’s words into a bold and boisterous song. With wild and wavy LeWitt-inspired animation, this video energetically embodies the message of its writer.

Watch the video below, and if you’re up for a little hand-writing archaeology, you can also read LeWitt’s full letter.

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Intellectual property and physical objects

Johanna Blakely giving her TED talk on intellectual property in the fashion industry.

Johanna Blakely giving her TED talk on intellectual property in the fashion industry.

Johanna Blakely’s TED talk on the lack of intellectual property protections in the fashion industry, and why it thrives regardless, is an interesting watch for those interested in industries where copyright seems less enforceable than in pre-digital days.

The key quote, to my mind: “We don’t really recognize a book as something that sits on our shelf, or music as a physical object we can hold. It’s a digital file, it’s barely tethered to any sort of physical reality in our minds, and these things, because we can copy and transmit them so easily, actually circulate in our culture a lot more like ideas than like physically instantiated objects.”  Which is tricky; that’s a little unlike most of the industries she discusses like fashion, cars, and furniture, where the copying of objects isn’t done at the consumer level.  She’s discussing, in almost every case, industries that don’t protect creators from copying by other creators – designer versus designer, comedian versus comedian, musician versus musician – and how that spurs innovation, rather than industries that don’t protect creators from copying by consumers.  While her points are good ones – I certainly support them, as a supporter of open source, of remixing, and of the artistic and scientific leaps that happen in open environments – very few of her examples are discussing a creator-consumer relationship.  The bar to entry is different, for one thing.  Downloading a movie is very different than making a knockoff jacket.

Open source was a good call, though, because that is a case of consumers freely copying something provided by the creator.  Panera’s “pay what you want” restaurant experiment is another interesting data point, of a creator making their product freely available to the consumer.  I think there are very good reasons to rethink the role of intellectual property control in the creator-audience relationship, but I don’t view it as the same issue as protecting your creative work from copying by other creators. Continue reading


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Video: Journalists talk about their experience with collaborative remixing

Still from "Journalists on Working with Blank on Blank".

Still from “Journalists on Working with Blank on Blank”.

Last week, in the post on the Blank on Blank interview with Maurice Sendak, I mentioned how remixing is rarely discussed in the context of collaboration between artists, most of whom would like to see the extra bits and pieces they can’t roll into their own work take on a new life.  Blank on Blank beat me to it – they’ve interviewed several of the journalists they’ve worked with to bring forgotten pieces of interview back to life, to get their take on the process. Continue reading


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Blank on Blank: Maurice Sendak on Being a Kid (2013, PBS Digital)

Still from Blank on Blank's episode, "Maurice Sendak on Being a Kid".

Still from Blank on Blank‘s episode, “Maurice Sendak on Being a Kid”.

Maurice Sendak’s discussion of unhappy childhoods and how children survive terrible things is especially poignant combined with Blank on Blank‘s stark black and white animation.  As a creative documentary technique, it’s quite effective – perhaps especially for interview, where the subject’s words are unfiltered and uninterpreted in audio form, which leaves a lot of leeway for interpretation in the visuals.  (If this were used under a filmmaker’s narration, it might feel too created, rather than being this wonderful collaboration of art and fact.)

Blank on Blank is one of the series coming out of PBS Digital Studios:  “Vintage interview tapes. New animations. Our mission is simple: curate and transform journalists’ unheard interviews with American icons. The future of journalism is remixing the past.”  Aside from the value of preserving these small, often highly personal, pieces of interview that don’t fit into the print narrative, this is one of a rarely-discussed approach to remixing – the focus on remixing so often centers around the reuse of hits and successes, and the related intellectual property rights, that it’s rarely explored as a form of voluntary collaboration.  Every project, fiction and non-fiction, leaves little bits and pieces that just don’t fit into the finished work, many of them very good, and I suspect most writers and artists would rather see them used in other projects than never see the light of day.  Continue reading