For those readers who don’t scour AFC’s comment boards, pbd fleshed out the limitations of video mash-ups as art and Rashaad Newsome’s The Conductor (fortuna imperatix mundi) & The Conductor (primo vere, omnia sol temperat), on Monday’s post. This is valuable stuff, so I’ve posted the meat of it below:
pbd: i was watching Conductor thinking “rapper hand gestures don”t match basic conductor patterns (hands always go up on the last beat of a bar). is that a minus? all his cuts are right on beat without fail, is that a plus? cuts on beat aren't hard to do, is that a minus? focus on mid 90s bad boy records in the first movement suggests artist favors east coast over west coast, is that a plus? and where are bone thugs?”
If all the artistic gestures within the piece reduce to the one line statements above, the piece isn’t saying that much. But what about the dialogue between the two pieces? Howard Halle points out later the lyrics of the Carmina Burana's most well-known passage are all about fate, “the monstrous and empty”—and fortune—”detestable life, now difficult and then easy.” pbd responds,
pbd: to me, whatever informational connection one can deduce from a mashup based on it's source material, i'd really doubt it's something due to seeing it as a mashup”¦as in it's something you didn't already know about the source material on it's own. so then, what is the potential of a mashup to say anything new?
a crude analogy might be to say that i know 3 + 2 is 5. i wasn't thinking about it at the moment it was pointed out again in a mashup, which adds a 3 with a 2, but that doesn't mean the artwork has any information in it.
so all of howards connections make sense, but for me they don't support the work cos in the way i'm interested in looking at artworks, those connections are more or less meaningless. they aren't specific to the action of the artist in the work i'm viewing, they are specific to source material i'm already familiar with on its own terms. unless a mashup has some insane technical apparatus behind it, i don't think it can function as anything other than a guilty pleasure if that. and i learned this from making and exhibiting mashups 🙂
to quote craig mack's verse on flava in ya ear remix, one of the videos featured in Conductor's first movement (and which of course we don't hear):
“Word up don't rap no crap you bore me,
Wanna grab my dick”¦too lazy”¦hold it for me.”
if it aint broke dont fix it, right?
i think the reason is that the language of mashup is so limited. you have two sources, edits, and that's it. it's a bit like working with presets in a way, in that the thing you make is actually a comment on the the self-imposed limits you're employing, perhaps the social conditions that predicated them, etc. but presets can be many things”¦code, interface, hardware, microsoft word, protocol, whatever — there's room to move and material selections to make.
with a mashup you don't even have that”¦by definition you have flattened youtube pop culture element a and you combine it with flattened youtube pop culture element b. it's 2010, so a and b are almost equivalent anyway. good luck coming up with anything to say in that system!
Needless to say, this is undoubtedly the most useful breakdown on the limitations of video mash-ups as art I’ve read to date.