Right, well, first blog entry as it were; let’s see what I can remember.
Notions of Originality
I find this issue quite interesting, and nowhere is it more prevalent than in the art community, where creative bodies fight tooth and nail over copyrights, infringements and appropriate source citation. As a human, one consciously remembers a tiny percentage of all that we take in, some estimates being that as little as two percent of what we take in we actively remember. This is a fact that advertising agencies know only too well, and exploit to great effect. But it just goes to show the almost oxymoronic incongruity of the concept of originality. Having the same ideas, or drawing inspiration from the ideas of a past master and representing them in a choice of media you choose almost gives the work a sense of validity, mostly to you as the artist: The act of assimilating work, deconstructing it and then reforming it in a method that harmonises it for you, gives the work of the past a venerability, and it also opens up a greater level of understanding towards it. For example, a pin-up illustrator may cite Salvador Dali as one of his main sources of inspiration: His models may not be dressed in clocks, but multiple light sources; the 9, 10, 11 sources of direct, reflected or refracted light are a facet of that artists work he has incorporated: Through deconstructing Dali’s works, his processes and his style, then reconstructing these fundamental aspects in a style personal to the artist.
Can recontextualised ideas be contemporary?
This I touched upon in notions of originality, and I think it’s quite useful I did, as this goes some way to assist in reinforcing what has previously being mentioned. Calling an idea, or a piece of work, or a concept contemporary is, I think, inherently wrong. The works themselves have no intrinsic property of ‘contemporary’, it is merely an opinion the viewer attributes to the work they’re perceiving. To really get at the core of this idea, if we strip down, say, a painting, to its prime components it would hold up better to analysis. Firstly, there is the idea, and, as mentioned before, ideas are the result of a percolation of sensory inputs, so ideas may be directly drawn from past works, as the question focuses on, or from the surroundings, et cetera. Secondly, there is the way the ideas are represented. The media one uses to represent the idea will lock it into a certain time frame, sometimes so completely, that the idea will appear to be borne of that context, and not a previous one from hundreds of years ago. For example, Mondrian’s paintings were so new, and so different that many people overlook the fact that his ideas and concepts were no different than Cezanne’s or Constable’s. Thirdly there’s the title. A title can completely change the meaning of a piece of otherwise oblique meaning. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce is an interesting example; as the title has always been scrutinized, sometimes with the addition of an unnecessary apostrophe, this is so the reader doesn’t know whether it’s focussing on several Finnegans’ waking up, or a singular (dead) Finnegan’s wake. So, in terms of execution, presentation and exhibition, an idea as old as the hills may well be presented as a fresh and startling new concept, the older ideas, and possibly sources, merely adding a sturdy foundation to work off of.