Friday, August 28, 2009

On Being Sampled

“Sampling” isn’t really the right word. My work was used with permission and I was paid a fee for use, so it doesn’t fit the controversy about music sampling. But I’ve come to think of sampling as the use of one person’s art in another person’s art. This is why I embrace the word. Sampling draws from the media environment in which we’re embedded, more pervasive than ever before in history, so ubiquitous as to often blot out the natural world. Images are an increasingly important part of that environment. Today the primary sources of inspiration and influence often arise from manufactured surroundings, real and virtual. Having the creations of others weave through new work feels like an honest reflection of modern experience.
When I worked on my interactive computer piece “CAVE”, I used snippets of radio broadcasts layered on top of each other because it felt like the most realistic soundscape to accompany the animations. We live in a background drone of radios, ipods, TV and movie sound, the sounds of machines, and hum of computers and fluorescent lights. Visually, besides multiple moving screens from palm size to giant plasma, we pass billboards, signs, iconic or flashing, displays of all kinds. Creative commercials make deep impressions, making their point in seconds then repeating it again and again, strengthening the neural circuits. The real landscape of our lives is not the ground beneath us; it’s the creative work of other minds manifest in the constructed environment. How can artists respond honestly without using what is most alive in their world. What I think is most alive is the outpouring of creative minds. The crowd at the Jason Mraz concert loved him, loved the feelings his music embodied, and it was thrilling to contribute something to the collective experience. It was like a group enchantment as everyone was lifted up by the focus on love and connection, an overall advancement of the collective mind. I feel honored to be in the mix, to be a building block for more art. Jon Marro, whose creativity flows through many channels, used our work for his materials, matched the sensibilities of a song to a feeling in an image and vice versa developing an expressive synthesis that was his creation and contribution to the whole. Not only did I get to be a part of Jon and Jason’s work, I got to see my images fulfill my own purposes in a bigger way.
The aspect of my work that matters most to me, showing how much more there is than can be known by our minds, so many levels to the mystery of being, was amplified by being a two to three story backdrop. Filling the visual space of the stage it carved the space open, folded it back and showed the dark behind the daylight-blue-sky of my image. Set design was one of my youthful pursuits, designing one for high school production, and another for a community theatre in my twenties, so to find myself having that effect on the show, to create a space that could stir individual contemplation feels like such a gift, an unexpected expansion of what my images can do. What made this different from set design and more like sampling was that it was an existing drawing, I published it here in May under the title “Converging Views”, a title that has now grown in meaning.
Picasso said that when a picture was finished it was dead for the artist but lived on in the minds of the viewers. I feel grateful to have my work, my memes, combined with the art of others and be part of the perceptions of a new generation. To resist being sampled resists the growth of the seeds we sow. Seeing my drawing so big, supporting this captivating performer felt similar to seeing my niece get married this weekend, an excitement at watching something deeply connected to me with an independent existence at a new threshold.
To see video

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