In in the “Ecstasy of Influence” and “Everything is a Remix” Lethem and Ferguson discuss artists, authors, singers, songwriters, cartoonists, technologists and more, who have adopted their work from others. They both argue that even though we live in a world where plagiarism and copyright are considered “evil,” these works are a massive part of our cultural identity. Well, if you think about it, where would we be without Bob Dylan, Shakespeare, Walt Disney or Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream?”
This essay made me think about what are an artist’s goals. For an artist, influence is everything. Therefore, why do artists and writers rarely talk about how much of their work is borrowed from other artists? If you think about it, what would a piece of art be worth if it was not built on the ideas and movements that came before? We constantly build on something that existed before, in art, fashion, music, technology; Everything is just an evolution of something else. After all, this is how culture evolves.
In his discussion of the commons, Lethem made me view art in a different perspective, he talks about art adding to the public domain as “expanding the world.” This is an interesting idea- It makes me think about how everything grows when people connect and how every interaction and every little piece of information and experience contributes to your knowledge. It’s who you are, and, sometimes, we are not even conscious of all our influences.
So why have we imposed these legal and ethical cages around this level of sharing if influence is part of our everyday lives? These cages only result in limiting our creativity. In today’s post-modern, virtual, globalized world where most people have access to so much information, the term “original” seems outdated and pretty implausible. However, that doesn’t mean that someone is not creative or brilliant.
Ferguson explains perfectly his thoughts on creativity:
“Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self made, we are dependent on one another. Admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness — it’s a liberation from our misconceptions, and it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves, and to simply begin.”