Maybe I’m a troublemaker; maybe I want to salve some deep guilt born out of my “free love” Napster college years. (I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my profound apologies to the network administrators at Xavier University during the spring of 2003… We certainly weren’t downloading PDFs of Aristotle.) But whatever the reason, I confess to loving our remix culture with all its copying and post-modern creativity.
If his recently completed Internet film Everything is a Remix is any indication, NYC Filmmaker Kirby Ferguson apparently loves this stuff too. How so, you ask? Good question. Ferguson uses his film to argue that creativity itself is rooted in remixing the materials we happen to find around us. Genius apparently lies in the new way we mix all of our old materials.
Ferguson (at the outset of the 3rd part of the film) says that:
The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths. Myths that creativity comes via inspiration. That original creations break the mold, that they’re the products of geniuses and appear as quickly as electricity can heat a filament. But creativity isn’t magic, it happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials. And the soil from which we grow our creations is something we scorn and misunderstand, even though it gives us so much, and that’s copying.
Keeping this fact in mind provides me with a rather large (and probably healthy) dose of humility. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we stop giving credit where credit is due or supporting artists, but if artists really want to inspire others to be more creative maybe they ought to prescribe more copying.
After all, I only know of one being that creates ex nihilo, and, I must say, that being is neither you nor me. (God, if you are reading this, then obviously I wasn’t referring to you. Sorry, please don’t smite me.) While we can still call ourselves creative, apparently we humans are remixers and copycats all.