Everything Is a Remix is a web video series that touches on the nature of art and creativity – claiming and even proving that life, creation, and culture isn’t much more than pastiche. This thesis makes perfect sense – and the videos go into extreme detail about how music, movies, technology, literature are never wholly original. Rather, everything is a combination of influence, of knowledge taken and transformed.
I enjoyed watching this series immensely. It definitely complicates the ideas of copyright to be shown how some of the most renowned pieces of art, from Led Zepelin to Star Wars to Macintosh, took so blatantly from other sources – and from these sourced created things that were amazing.
According to this series, everything is borrowed. And I agree – it goes right along with Jonathan Lethem’s argument in The Ecstasy of Influence – A Plagarism. Lethem states that “Neurological study has lately shown that memory, imagination, and consciousness itself is stitched, quilted, pastiched” and asks “If we cut-and-paste our selves, might we not forgive it of our artworks?” This, along with the videos, leads us to really question how much of ourselves is merely borrowed knowledge – and how much of what we create is actually original. One could assume that we are all plagiarizing unconsciously, all the time.
One of the great things about the video series and Lethem’s essay are that neither claim that there is anything wrong with this intentional and unintentional borrowing and transforming. It is natural to the human condition, therefore we should not beat ourselves up over lacking originality when we become interested in ideas that are not wholly our own. Neither do they encourage us to question our art and label it as plagiarism; instead, they ask us to question the negative connotations that come with the term and recognize that our lives and our art must be this way to learn, develop, and make progress in the world.