Excerpts from "Pop Penetration: Appropriation, Avatars and Alternative Worlds", 2009

Research paper.




Excerpts from "Pop Penetration: Appropriation, Avatars and Alternative Worlds"


Living in an immersive society means that we are contributing to the history of art without consciously doing so. There isn't much down time to consider the fact that we are jumping from bandwagon to bandwagon on any given day. When researching my own participation in popular culture, it occurred to me that I'd represented very strict manifestos from art movements of the past without any knowledge of what those movements were until attending graduate school. As a first year performance grad, I've spent valuable time during advising sessions and seminars fighting for the right to maintain an apolitical stance in my practice, only to realize that the things that inspire me are overtly political. For example, I rushed out to see James Cameron's AVATAR movie this weekend, after which I contacted my advisors (Wilding and Sifuentes) to tell them of my newly discovered and clarified statement of political understanding, an understanding which they already knew I'd naturally come to. This prompted me to ask myself why I hadn't seen the forest for the trees all of this time. Nothing about what I'd ever done was anything other than well thought out. The graphic novel and short stories I'd authored were based on identity politics and had undertones of emancipation from some evil dictator. This theme of independence was apparent in my constant and openly discussed loathing of all things "community" based this semester. I am, and always have been, fighting for control over my own life. But as a pre-graduate school artist, I was in a constant cycle of exposure/regurgitation without any historical or conscious political reference. This is not to suggest that artists who don't have access to a shot at an advanced degree are lacking in substance. This is only to say that my own exposure to clear political ideas was lacking before attending graduate school. There's a step missing from the exposure/regurgitation cycle, as I see it. Digestion. At best, without a conscious agenda, my cycle was based strictly on producing visual imagery with only partial absorption. My only purpose was to create imagery that hadn't been seen. Ultimately, I intended to create altered states, alternative races and alternative nations by way of creating a neo-mythology and imagined avatars. I've used the canvas of popular American culture because that is what I know. How then, is the work informed? The inhabitants of a culture inundated with constant streams of data become tethered to one another through the collective subconscious. We succumb to the vocabulary that is marketed to us. As I look from an "out of body" perspective for the sake of this essay, I realize how streams of data can miss the mark of productive connections if they aren't accompanied by some idea of cultural commentary."

Fast forward. If, 200 years from now, someone comes across the art work of our time, what will they extrapolate about our culture? When I wrote my essay to attend SAIC, this was a question that I chose to address. I wanted my ideas to be included in the story of human evolution from the early 21st century perspective. One of the essays that we read during this semester, The Cannibalist Manifesto (Oswald de Andrade), resonated with me. Had we all become cannibals? Contrary to the idea of cannibalism as a form of assertion against cultural domination as in The Cannibalist Manifesto, I felt that we were choosing to consume from a buffet of stock images, just for the sake of being satiated. With the introduction of easily accessible ways to self-publish and preserve(i.e. blog sites and YouTube), there is a "manifesto" driven video mash-up or blog for every person that has a personal computer. It represents the creation of content without context. Most of this self-published documentation is at best, the appropriation of images and sound repositioned with the intent to represent a fleeting and uninformed thought. I can't help but wonder if we will be known as the cultural representatives of people who have everything but time enough to clarify what we are attempting to say. Will art historians take into account the vacancy of content that they will inevitably come across when they are sifting through this huge pile of documentation? With so much information at our fingertips, literally, will future art historians realize that some art has been created based on one particular blog site found in the top three hits as a result of a google search? Of course, everything is cyclical in nature and there are periods of action and incubation. In light of this statement, I'd like to write on selective topics of collage as a tool of pop culture activism from the 80's to the present.

As excited as I am to write about the things that inspire my own practice in the context of the things we've discussed in this class, I must come full circle to my own challenge to stop and smell the historical roses. The real must trump the illusionary for the sake of correct anthropological record. It's important to me now to consider the political commentary behind my own work. The fact that I type this essay with 4 other applications running in 6 separate windows supports the incredible amount of data that we Americans are privy to. With so much information and stimulation, it is easy to value quantity of data over quality research. Study becomes increasingly difficult because it requires single point focus. This type of concentration is easily lost on us as we are always "plugged in". The best of us have become conditioned to withstand a type of multi-channelled focus. However, it is inevitable that the downfall to this will be shown to reach beyond the mere loss of 20/20 vision. I say all of this to say that my challenge in creating work that can be easily accessed on and offline, is that it must employ the focus that will clarify my contribution to culture. It is, however, a pleasant challenge. As a person who daydreams about and performs the mind of the "future human", I am accessing a training ground that will dodge the losses associated with the evolutionary gains associated with multi-channelled focus. The more accessible we are to each other (i.e. globalization), the more responsible and effective we must be in translating our individual and cultural ideas. Quoting pop icon Stan Lee, 'With great power comes great responsibility.'"