CCTP-725: Fall 2011

Week 3 Discussions




Di Lu

In my understanding, in an increasingly interdependent world intertextuality has been significantly common in artistic representations of various genres. Unconsciously or not, they borrow and reorganize elements from works of different time periods, genres, art forms and cultures for functional or aesthetic purposes. The example popping up in my head when I read essays about intertextuality and appropriation is Disney cartoon. I see the strong influence of cross-genre and cross-cultural texts on not a few successful cartoon films, as well as the intertextuality between several Disney produced works.

Take Lion King as an example. Its main plot is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, only put the story in the context of the conflict between animals. A smart strategy in screen writing, it guarantees the well-arranged flow by a classic story that audience is quite familiar with, while at the same time add amusing and relaxing content which is different from the tone of repression in the original tragedy. Disney is in fact well-known for taking advantage of great literature pieces in the history: Lady and the tramp comes from Romeo and Juliet; The little mermaid directly borrows the names and characters but ends the story differently; Mulan is inspired by the traditional Chinese folktale and Mulan Ci, an ancient poem about this story passing from generation to generation. Besides the borrowing and interaction in its script, I also see the remix of different genres displayed in this cartoon movie, for example musical, drama, romantic, comedy and even a sense of triller and gangster (at least on the levels for children). Another signature element of this film is the exotic taste of Africa prairie, which characterizes the music and visual display in the film.

The use of cross cultural style is not new for cartoon films, and it still serves as an important selling point, given the recent success of Kong Fu panda and Rio. The careful introduction of exotic cultures and environments selectively from an American perspective is just tailored for the films and for the acceptance of audience. I myself am amazed by the oriental world created in Kong Fu panda in spite of my familiarity with this kind of culture. Symbols, images, codes and meaning of characterization (although sometime are by American definitions) are widely used to create an exotic impression. The color tone, visual design of cartoon images’ portraits, costumes, setting, music, characters, and how much the script follows the original work are heavily influenced by the texts which correspond to the theme, and also cater to audience’s preference, otherwise the process of decode cannot be completed by the viewers.

An interesting finding about Disney (and Pixar) cartoon is that they love to remix the created images in different films. You can find the King and Duke from Cinderella in the Little Mermaid, the Beast from the Beauty and the Beast in Aladdin, and an early incarnation of Lotso form the Toy Story 3 in the first film. I’m not sure if this is because the Disney people are getting lazy or they just love their creation never enough. But for such a sophisticated industry and a cunning company, I tend to think this is one more strategy to deepen the symbols and codes they created and encourage a big network of images in audience’s mind.

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Picture resource: http://www.listal.com/list/intertextual-disney






Re-Thinking Adaptations through Austen, Intertexuality and Dialogism- Jess Steele
As Kirby Ferguson states, “Everything is already a remix”. With the popularity of fan fiction and sequels, from Harry Potter to the Lord of the Rings, one wonders how “direct” adaptations are creative remixes. Which leads me to my example this week – Jane Austen. For an eighteenth-century author, Austen has spurred countless adaptations, remixes, sequels, and spinoffs, based both on her writing and her life
and placed within her period and more recent times, with 100 printed adaptations created by 2000 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Austen). While fan-crazed “Janeites” attempt to track linear characterizations of Darcy in nearly every modern media adaptation, the intertextuality of Austen’s presence may be less “authentic” and more broad and difficult to trace than even the most devoted Austen fan realizes.
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Source: http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/ausfotoj.jpg
Although many think of Austen as a pioneering woman in the romantic novel, critics argue Austen was, in a sense, a remix artist, who "combined Henry Fielding's and Samuel Richardson's qualities of interiority and irony, realism and satire to form an author superior to both"(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Austen). David Chandler quotes Barthes:
A text is... a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations... The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one. (Barthes 1977, 146)
An example of this theory, Austen’s creations were, in fact, a collage, assemblage, or network of influence of those she read and associated with. Although some have attempted to trace this network of “utterances”, as Bakhtin and others would argue, this list can never be finite, “There is neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and boundless future)” (http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Bakhtin-MainTheory.html).
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Source: http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/austinfl.html

Austen’s authorial influence in today’s culture is similarly more of a mosaic than linear connections to authorial originality. While a BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice may be an obvious example, Austen’s Emma also has thematic traces in the 20th century Clueless. In these fictions, the heroine’s coming of age story is interlaced with satirical play on social codes and character flaw. Still, rather than a linear adaptation of Emma, Clueless is interlaced with references to countless alternate cultural productions. Evidence of a “boundless past and boundless future,” Clueless has also spurred Austen-like spoofs of teen society and the teen movie as a sub-genre (such as Not Another Teen Movie), reminiscent of Austen’s original satirical styling of the novel form and her community (for a brief list see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112697/movieconnections).
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Source: http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20339703_20731880,00.html#20731879

As Gris’s cubist artwork is “transcended and transfigured”, as it had already been in "Picasso's, Braque's and Léger's art, in a monumental unity”, Austen’s work and influence does the same with those before, during and after. In the style of the Cubists, “shuttling between surface and depth”, Austen and those who have interlaced her artistry have worked to “transfigure” society beyond a flat representation, working and remixing perhaps the most abundant material artists have to work with – human nature.


Erica Harp
Privileged Allusion vs. Common Reference Network & Collapsing Categories of Cultural Production: Intertextuality to Intermediality

In various writing this week, especially the Greenberg piece, strong evidence of appropriations history was shown; in fact in Bakhtin’s and Kristeva’s work, the inherent fact of borrowing and reuse in all human expression clearly demonstrates that allusions are nothing new and intrinsically so. At the same time, in the 20th century and beyond, reuse has been regarded, it seems, by some as unprecedented or at least a more recent development in what we consider “art” (or literature, music, etc.). In my own understanding, I also was taught that appropriation is in many ways the hallmark of postmodernity—not a common fact in the history of representation and expression. What then is new about this collaged media? Or at least the way it has been experienced by the general public and cultural critics alike? Perhaps allusions are nothing new, but the way we borrow and reproduce is.

Lethem’s piece from Harper’s referenced the novel Lolita, Greenberg discussed cubism and archetypal recurrences of themes, characters, and stories are references through human history in poetry, literature, and plays. In some ways, these examples are no different than Warhol’s use of a Campbell soup can. What is different however, is the source of the reproduced material; contemporary intermediately draws not only from elite sources of cultural production, but from pop and consumer production as well. Contemporary reproduction is not unique in borrowing, but unique is what it borrows and from where.

In realizing this point, I immediately thought of my grandfather watching Moulin Rouge; at age 90, my grandfather, a lover of musicals, was simply unable to take in Moulin Rouge. Because the musical borrows its numbers from popular culture and indirectly references their meanings, he was unable to make sense of the film—where as younger generations found such reuse as natural. The expectation of the audience to integrate the meaning of the Police’s Roxanne was too much for his understanding of meaningful and acceptable appropriation. Of course, his favorite musical, My Fair Lady, references numerous tales of “rags to riches” and that makes sense for him—because they are referenced from the cannon, not popular culture. This point leads me to my next, not only have our data pools of references expanded beyond privileged or high culture, but also a shift in what medium can borrow from where.

In addition to a change in acceptable media from which to borrow, the modes of representation have begun to collapse (or have fully collapsed) and with that the flood gates of appropriation are open; while intertextuality may historically borrow from one medium and apply to the same medium (or at least borrowing within “traditional media” such as literature to painting), current media includes new modes and allows cross sharing among all forms: Intermediality. Video can include painting, which can include printmaking, which can be derived from literature, which references a song… and so on. And as stated above, these can borrowed from anywhere along the spectrum of elite to popular culture.
Thinking through these changes has helped me make sense of Bakhtin and Kristeva; appropriation is nothing new, but reaction to it in contemporary culture suggests that it is quite novel. Perhaps, as argued here, this is because of both the expansion of appropriate levels of cultural production that may borrowed from and the cross medium appropriation that has emerged.

Some examples:
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Allusions in Politics: Blogger refers to common concept of what he calls the Obama-Kennedy Hybrid
http://neorepublica.com/index.php/2009/07/01/new_obama_thousand_dollar_bill_almost_he


Contributor Maria from the Beyond Words Blog on the origin of “sabotage:”
“Sabotage: 
The 20th-century French verb saboter, meaning to accidentally or maliciously destroy, stems from an older French word, sabot, meaning “old shoe.” These old shoes were made of wood, and so made walking softly or stealthily quite difficult. To sabotage originally meant to walk noisily; later it came to mean to do something poorly, to make a mess, or to bungle something. Thus, the contemporary understanding of sabotage “ to hinder, destroy, tamper with, or obscure “ stems from the inability to be courteous while wearing sabots.”

And of course, the Roxanne tango scene from Moulin Rouge
Video at VidiVodo: http://en.vidivodo.com/281222/roxanne-_-moulin-rouge-tango-scene


This quote seems rather appropriate for our readings this week: “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” –Carl Sagan

In reading this week’s essays and articles, I was immediately struck by the social implications of Bakhtin’s writings. In giving such value to “Otherness” and the polyphonic nature of words (which we extrapolate to read texts of any media), Bakhtin is actually making a huge cultural statement that is incredibly relevant today. His definition of discourse includes that it is fundamentally historically contingent; and that utterances are “always aware of and mutually reflect one another... each utterance refutes, affirms, supplements and relies on the others.” By giving emphasis to the “interindividual” nature of words, Bakhtin empowers not only the “author” of those words, but the listeners as well. The proposal that there is no one voice or author to any discourse challenges the imperialistic concept of a winner/loser binary, and rightly corrects the misconception that history is linear.

This idea of a polyphonic construction of history reminded me of two Lebanese artists whose work I find very interesting and moving. Akram Zaatari and Walid Ra’ad were both born and raised in the south of Lebanon in the mid-1960s, Zaatari and Ra’ad work to reconstruct a modern history of Lebanon, especially during the civil war (1975-1990). Together they founded The Atlas Group, an imaginary initiative whose mission is to collect and construct a contemporary history of Lebanon, which is quite a task, given its dizzying and entangled political and cultural situation over the last century. Ra’ad works mainly under The Atlas Group, and while trying to put together a history of Lebanon in text and imagery, he also questions how a history is written, and the notion of a singular history. Even by working under the guise of a fictional group, Ra’ad forces the question of authorship and authority.

Although we often do not realize it, we are constantly interpreting and reinterpreting codes that are generated by ourselves and others (and the spaces inbetween), and this contributes to the experiential nature of any text or moment in time. As Chandler points out, “every reading is always a rewriting”, and so each of us brings our personal lens to any text, and this act is unrepeatable. Cultural meanings are formed in accordance with and against the experiences of others, which is in many ways what Ra’ad is trying to achieve. By creating documents that are simultaneously a collective history and no one’s history, Ra’ad points out the meta intersections that do and do not occur in such networks.
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Under The Atlas Group, Ra’ad has published a series of books as well as other “documents” as he has termed them, and in an interview he describes this process in a magazine interview as


“The Atlas Group produces and collects objects and stories that should not be examined through the conventional and reductive binary of fiction and nonfiction. We proceed from the consideration that this distinction is a false one—in many ways, not least of which is that many of the elements that constitute our imaginary documents originate from the historical world—and does not do justice to the rich and complex stories that circulate widely and that capture our attention and belief. Furthermore, we have always urged our audience to treat our documents as “hysterical documents” in the sense that they are not based on any one person’s actual memories but on “fantasies erected from the material of collective memories.”

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Ra’ad also works in an ostensibly post-modern fashion, although quite fittingly, the interviewer notes, “Moving on from the exhausted postmodern trope of the uncoupling of the sign from its referent, you turn this into a larger historiographical and even political issue.” This is directly in line with the extrapolations we are making from Bakhtin’s work, and with the notion of “intertextuality” introduced to us by Kristeva. Ra’ad’s work emphasizes the necessity of polyphonic historical accounts, and empowers individuals to redefine the word history to include the endless elements of our amorphous experiences. The full text of this interview with Ra’ad can be found __here__, and it is VERY interesting.

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Zaatari also works in this same vein, but his personal work often involves the various documentations that he made during the war. He often makes photographic documents of these documents, reinforcing the notion of “archiving” and construction. More of his work can be found __here__.

In Postproduction, Bourriaud speaks of artwork as a “temporary terminal of a network of interconnected elements, like a narrative that extends and reinterprets preceding narratives.” I think that the work of both Ra’ad and Zaatari function in this way, and like history, serve to be reinterpreted, repurposed, and repackaged as time and life evolve.

Serene Al-Kawas



Ashley Wei

Movie parodies are referred as examples of intertextuality in popular media for many times in this week’s readings. Parody makers mix classic, iconic movie clips with latest, on-going context to deliver new meanings. The outcome is an ironic, hilarious, ironic, and brilliant creation. I’m very excited to see The Simpsons being mentioned in the reading because I have been following this show since I was in high school. Most of my favorite episodes are those spoof movies and celebrities. It seems that in recent years The Simpsons has made less and less “original” story, but that’s the way it entertains its audiences, and many celebrities are very proud of being spoofed in The Simpsons.

To make a connection to last week’s topic, I’ll say parody is actually a practice of postmodernism: first it has an old (traditional) context to refer, then it breaks the rules, goes against the original version and makes fun of it to deliver new meanings. The parodies won’t live without the original text, and in fact more popular the original stories are, more influential the parodies are because most audiences can relate to them. That’s why The Matrix, Harry Potter and The Godfather are always found in parodies’ references list.

The example I bring in today, however, is not a movie parody. The Simpsons mocked Apple and its founder Steve Jobs in an episode titled “Mypods and Boomsticks.” In this episode, the Simpson family travels to the new “Mapple” store in Springfield. It’s filled with “myPods,” “myPhones” and a “Brainiac Bar.” Lisa Simpson is sad because she can’t afford any of the products, so she tries to buy some “myPhonies,” fake earbuds so people think she has a myPod. I found it so funny and brilliant because the joke is so true. When Homer Simpson is checking out the “myCube”, the seller said: you should ask “what can I~~ do for it” instead of “what does it do”, and Homer kneels down under the glowing white cube immediately begging to it – this is the stereotype of Apple fans cult.



I was amused even more when I read the comments following the video. One comment says “Anyone else notice that the "Mapple" store is made of "Windows"?” made me laugh so hard. There are a handful of other comments saying “Watching on my myPod/myPad/myPhone” that are also very funny. When I read those comments I was thinking that these comments were actually a second creation built upon the Simpsons parodies - the remix of the Apple’s original context, The Simpsons version, and their life experience and sense of humor. It is worth noticing that people comment with terms “myPod” instead of “iPod”, this perfectly represents the famous quote "I live in a world of others' words" (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, 143) from the reading. Dialogism is that every level of expression from live conversational dialog to complex cultural expression in other genres and art works is an ongoing chain or network of statements and responses, repetitions and quotations, in which new statements presuppose earlier statements and anticipate future responses. Thanks to the interactive technology, the boundary of author and audience becomes very blur, new meanings are generated from the original art work in every second - that’s exactly the beauty of art – to keep things evolving and alive.


*Disclaimer*
The following example contains self-referentially offensive material. This post is not an attempt to sanction racially or otherwise offensive comedy, simply to report a cultural phenomena in the context of irony. My intention is to provide a relevant example of the concepts we have encountered in our reading. Apologies to anyone who does not wish to engage with the representations encountered here.

Reading about intertexuality, the first example(s) that leaped to mind were based on the TV series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Politically incorrect, morally bankrupt, and absurdly irreverent, the show has become a (sub)cultural icon for bad behavior, and watching it can feel like a 'guilty pleasure.' Yet the language created by the writers (who are also the actors and producers), and especially their delivery and intonation, seems so fresh and original, so appropriate for daily circumstance that it has seeped into my personal lexicon. Undoubtedly, the show employs an endless number of familiar tropes, referencing and appropriating cultural objects such as other movies, characters, genres, and even history itself. Danny DeVito's presence as a main character after season 2 evokes his previous film and TV roles, thereby lending the show both an aura of timelessness and low brow appeal. Combining these tropes and references with 21st century themes and delivery contributes to its comedic success.

The following example of my quotation from an It's Always Sunny episode illustrates some of the principles of intertexuality, intermediality, and dialogism from this week's readings. My partner and I regularly quote some of the show's more memorable lines to each other, trying to mimic the intonation that makes the lines funny to us. Earlier this summer, I quoted a line from this episode. The line I quoted is at about 1:11. Here is the background context:

In the episode, "Dee Reynolds: Shaping America's Youth," the male members of "the gang" get into an argument about the use of black face. This reminds them of the Lethal Weapon V remake they created for fun, which had an "unfortunate use" of black face, and they subsequently organize a screening of their "remix" of the action film to gauge an audience's reaction.

Lethal Weapon 5 by MetalMeatwad

Already, the parody of a film within a TV show is an example of intertexuality/intermediality. Continuing my example, I quoted the line "Rigs" repeatedly to my partner as a joke, she repeated it to her Mom, not really understanding the specific episode I was referencing. Knowing that I was intimating something comedic, she repeated it as "Regs," and her Mom in turn began repeating the catchphrase as "Webz." Later, at a family gathering, the phrase caught on with some of the kids (again not knowing where the reference came from), who began repeating it as "Webz." Now, I regularly receive gchat messages from my partner's Mom that begin with "webz." It has become a silly greeting, an absurdist mantra, a lighthearted piece of jargon that is encoded as an inside joke.

Bakhtin and Kristeva's notions of intertexuality and intermediality are unmistakably present in the episode itself, let alone my mimetic quotation from it. The self-awareness of the characters watching their creation is signified by the shots back and forth between the screening of the video (with their commentary) and the video they created itself. After their video's credits role on full screen, the next shot cuts to the video on YouTube, then to a shot of the principal's office where the video is being watched again. Following some basic conventions of camera work, the intermediality of the Lethal Weapon remake is presented within the show. Finally, the discussion of black face in the episode brings up dialogic issues of the portrayal of cultural "others" and questions of what kind of appropriations are allowed in a contemporary cultural and racial context. The offensive nature of the unnuanced conversation about black face, which I find intolerable in 21st century America, situates it even more firmly in the genre of self-referential absurdist parody.

Finally, my experience of the quotation becoming a family joke illustrates the constant evolution of cultural artifacts as they are reproduced. Bourriard and Chandler both note that "When writers write they are also written." When culture is consumed, it is also produced. Yet what is produced is never an exact copy of the "original" referent. Perhaps this is why the notion of "meme" is inappropriate to describe cultural reproduction. My quotation is inherently different from the original delivery, and as the product is reproduced by others, it continues to take on new forms and meanings. From the perspective of network theory, humans are not passive nodes in a web of culture. Rather, we spin and change the information we receive, reorient and repurpose it to spin a web of greater complexity, a web with a more beautiful (or comedic) design.

Ben King

Once I had completed this week’s reading and read the topic for the wiki post I knew within a minute that I wanted to write about my eternal loves, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, better known as electro Gods Justice. The duo released their first album in 2007 and they were not shy about admitting where they found much of their material. In an interview with MTV, De Rosnay openly stated that about 400 albums were sampled to create their masterpiece. “Say we use the 'In Da Club' hand clap - not even 50 Cent would notice," stated De Rosnay, "but if you listen to 'Genesis,' the first track [on †], there are samples of Slipknot, Queen and 50 Cent, but they are such short samples no one can recognize them. The ones from Slipknot, for example, are just tiny bits of the voice." Justice’s album † is a musical collage. They took existing pieces, deconstructed them, and re-organized them to create something fresh, new, and catchy. Fortunately for the group, their music lies in a legal grey area and they have not been sued like many other electronic artists and producers, this is largely due to the fact that, as De Rosnay pointed out, it is difficult to recognize, and if it is possible to recognize it is impossible to prove, where a given piece of their music came from.

If Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism can also be applied to music, Justice is a part of an unfinalizable dialogic expression. Bakhtin states that every level of expression is an ongoing chain or network of statements and responses. Electronic music is now a part of our cultural discourse, which makes Justice a unit in the chain of that discourse. "We are constantly influenced by millions of things,” stated Xavier de Rosnay. Justice’s music is based on a mixing of existing voices and sounds, but at the same time, Justice’s music has been taken and used in other artists’ music as well. This made Julia Kristeva’s idea of intertextuality pop up in my head, only once again applied to music instead of a text. Music, like literature, is in constant conversation with other forms of music. Jay-Z’s song “On to the next one” from his album The Blueprint 3 features a sample of Justice’s hit song “D.A.N.C.E.” That music will then be taken and expanded upon by another group, and so on and so forth until Justice’s sound becomes totally unrecognizable.

This is a video of an interview the duo had with Pitchfork magazine, they make some interesting points about their use of the cross as their album title and their blending of different musical styles.
Justice Interview

In 2008 Justice toured the United States and decided to make a documentary video about their experience on the road. Part concert footage, part tour bus shenanigans, part American girls gone wild, the film is entertaining yet alarming. The duo really holds nothing back. When asked why they chose to include clips that frame them in a pretty unflattering (including Xavier de Rosnay trying to light a drunk groupie on fire), they responded honestly, “When we were editing the documentary, we were trying, as much as possible, to see these images as spectators. When you have a scene where, I don't know, Gaspard looks really good,or he's saying something really smart, but it's not that entertaining; and then you have another scene where we're just wasted and we have zits, but what we do at this moment is interesting, is entertaining, and fits into the narrative - then we're like, 'OK, even though this maybe won't be the best image we can give of ourselves, let's use this in the documentary so that we can make something that is entertaining’.” This made me think of our discussion last week of the importance within postmodernism of creating something authentic. These two crazy French guys came to the states, got drunk, partied hard, and played killer shows. That reality is certainly reflected in their film.
This is a 1 minute clip from the documentary, but the whole thing can be seen on Youtube! Just search Justice Across the Universe Documentary.

Across The Universe Clip
Are Justice simply copycats with no real talent of their own who ought to be sued? I certainly don't think so, but I'm sure some would contend my opinion.


Helene Vincent


Yizhou Zhang
This week’s reading raises one of the most important questions concerning cultural hybridity: how new works are remixed from previous ones and how creativity is emerged from existing experience. The answer is intertextuality - the interaction or network of different texts, codes/signs, genres and art/media forms. The first example came into my mind is the film Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino. As a B movie director and producer, Quentin Tarantino successfully became an icon of cult film and subculture by his strong personal style. From the work experience in a videotape rental shop in his early years, he gained plenty of knowledge about film genres and authors such as Jean Luc Godard and the French New Wave, Jean-Pierre Melville and gangster films, Chang Cheh and Chinese Kung fu films, John Woo and Hong Kong action films, etc. In Kill Bill, he showed respect of and passion for all his favorite genres (the Western, gangster, Kung fu, samurai and anime) in each part of the film, by remixing and hybridizing related visual symbols, images, dialogues and plots.

Everything Is A Remix: KILL BILL from robgwilson.com on Vimeo.


Speaking of cult film, most of them cut across many film genres (action, crime, gangster, horror, science fiction, film noir, etc.) and then generate more sub genres which appropriate, transform or subvert existing ones. That’s why we could find retrospective elements of Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell in The Matrix. Therefore it involves another important issue about intertextuality - meaning-making process or interpretation from the perspective of audience. Just as Quentin Tarantino formed his own style with self-consciousness, values and aesthetics based on his film-viewing experiences, the way in which we decode a film or any other media product is determined by an existing system or network of signs and contexts. For instance, the Japanese film Battle Royale by Kinji Fukasaku serves as the presupposition to understand the metaphor behind Chiaki Kuriyama’s role as a schoolgirl killer in Kill Bill.
Another interesting topic about intertextuality in media studies is the subculture created by fandom. According to John Fiske, the role of the audience is productive instead of passive, and evidence is everywhere in pop culture and mass media. Last week, a friend of mine who is a die-hard game fan showed me a “game film” produced by a virtual community of online game players, and I was astonished by its professional standard and high quality from screenwriting, editing to dubbing. In China, a popular term “Shanzhai”, literally “mountain village”, is given to this kind of derivative works parodying, making fun of or borrowing elements from original ones. The term itself conveys a derogatory meaning, however, from my perspective, “Shanzhai” should not be equaled to plagiarism or poor quality. Since there is no 100% "original" or "new" work in today’s context of popular culture, elements of creativity will come from intertextuality/intermediality and result in remix and hybridity.


After reading about the meanings and implications of intertextuality, I was left pondering how dependent our entire culture (and life as we know it) is upon the events, ideas, and texts that happened to have happened the exact way in which they did. Only because we have “stood upon the shoulders of giants” do we really know why what is funny, sad, or grotesque appears to be such. It starts to make a person feel like they don’t have much free will, right? I found salient points in the readings which seem to foreshadow the current situation in our popular culture; a culture which seems so dependent on intertextuality and the ping-pong game of a continuing cultural dialog.

Death of the Author
One phrase that stuck out to me was Barthes’ 1968 declaration of the “death of the author” and “birth of the reader” (Chandler). This concept was instantly reminiscent of what’s happening in our I-centric culture. Especially online, the user is becoming the writer.
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The content creators can be as unassuming as a preteen who likes singing in his or her room and who happens to have access to a webcam. They’re certainly not coming up with brand new material, but yet they’re defining what’s popular. I would venture that many musical artists (or at least producers and record companies) would agree that “the birth of the viewer must be at the cost of the painter” (Barthes quoted from Levine quoted from Irvine [another example of intertextuality]). Many artists of all kinds would argue that they are losing their livelihoods as people take on the DIY, or bricolage, approach.

Evolution of Ideas
Certainly the concept that there’s nothing new under the sun was confirmed for me in these readings on intertextuality. However, I do question whether sometimes there must be some shred of uniqueness in the “tissue of quotations” that make up texts (Barthes quoted from Levine quoted from Irvine). For example, artists obviously imitate earlier styles, whether intentional or not because as Chandler said, “codes transcend structures”. However, in order for things to evolve (in the true sense of the theory of evolution), must not there be slight variation over time?

Genre-Bending and Reflexivity
Another concept in the readings which resonated is that intertextuality is “reflected in the fluidity of genre boundaries” (Chandler). One of my favorite genre-benders, the mockumentary, has gained popularity in recent years, coming from the cult classic Spinal Tap to the wide popularity of tv shows like The Office. What has caused this spike for appreciation of this genre by the general public? Perhaps we are the emotionally uninvolved people that we were warned about, and it is appealing to our “pleasures of critical detachment” (Chandler) instead? This varies so much from the slapstick, timeless comedy in shows like I Love Lucy. Why do we now crave self-referential shows like The Simpsons? I was reminded of an episode of Southpark which mocks another reflexive phenom, Family Guy. In the clip, it is revealed that the writers for Family Guy are actually manatees that choose jokes from a selection of balls labeled with a verb, noun, or pop cultural reference. Hopefully appropriation is not always this arbitrary in real life.
Southpark Clip- Idea Balls

-Barry Blitch



Intertextuality, brought up by Kristeva, assumes that every text is formed as a mosaic of quotations, as it assimilates and transforms prior texts that provide the context of possible meanings. Under this presupposition, extending the meaning of simply “texts” to genres, discourses, visual images, audio and video productions, and art works, it seems that there is nothing new under the sun, since every production is the remix or hybridity of the former “texts” which lost its exact references as well.

Here, for me the meaning of authorship is blurring. For the external of the meaning, it seems that it is hard for one who can say I create this new…confidently and with no hesitation, since every utterance and thought that one presented is inevitably generated either by the knowledge and experiences that you acquired from prior references or the cultural background which constructed by the mass in one’s society. For the internal, the meaning of a work is never exclusive for its author. As Barthes mentioned, the birth of the reader is the death of the author. Every individual has his own interpretation toward the work and as the change of time and space it changes accordingly. My question is what the “authorship” really means? So far as I see it, linked to last week’s concept of post-modernism, which includes the feature of decentralization and fragmentation, no one can owns a unity of one’s authorship, but the initial “idea” of the way one remix prior references that generates the new work.

The parody in film is a classic practice that fully relates to intertextuality. The examples are numerous. I would like to introduce an Internet sub-culture named “KUSO”. KUSO is a term came from Japan originally, and it refers to the deconstruction toward serious topic and to construct it in a comedy or parody form which generates the entertainment. The hot topics of current affairs from the domain of politics, commerce, sports and showbiz or the famous television programs, shows will become the elements for adaptation or remix which usually in a form of pictures, short clips or music. It belongs to one of the re-creation means. Initially, KUSO only flourish among the Internet; however, now KUSO culture is widely adpted in many films or TV shows. “Everybody Speaks Nonsense– Hot Pot”(全民大悶鍋), for example, is a show that manly make satire on politicians or celebrities in Taiwan via exaggerated imitation performance or adapt some classic plots of some famous trendy dramas.

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A KUSO picture of Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam"





















One of a plot in "Hot Pot", they are mimicing Yankee's former caoch Joe Torre and Chien-Ming Wagn





The KUSO of a famous but little weired song in Taiwan












When watching these kinds of KUSO works, it is better for the reader have either the foreground or background acknowledgement toward the topic that allows viewer are able to catch the main humorous points of the work. KUSO as a genre transforms the existing forms, concepts of an object into a different meaning which becomes subversive toward the initial meaning of the object and disseminates or even rebellious message instead. However, its construction upon the former texts is never being abandoned.

Yu-wei Wang











The concept, intertextuality introduced the idea that all texts and discourses we have today is based on texts and discourses we have before. This concept reminds me the relationship of substance and consciousness in the materialism philosophy. In the materialism philosophy, people get consciousness based on substance. Consciousness is similar to new texts and discourses while substance is similar to texts and discourses we have before. I think, may be this is wrong, the process of people getting consciousness from substance is an intertextuality process. In ancient times, people create the image of god based on the look of human beings. In modern times, when people create the image of aliens, superman, monsters and wizards also based on the image of human themselves. It seems that people cannot get rid of their past.

The image that Spielberg created in his movie E.T. in the 1982. Like normal people, the alien have two eyes, one nose, and one mouse and even have emotions. Almost 30 years ago, when Cameron creates Avatar, the image of Avatar was still created based on the look of human beings and maybe other animal on the earth.



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An example of intertextuality is photomontage (From Wikepedia: “the process and result of making a composite photograph by cutting and joining a number of other photographs.”). They are new images that created by those photo pieces that we already have. 20 years ago, artists had to use the style, collage to create photomontage and nowadays they can use Photoshop to make it. David Hockney is an artist of using photomontage. His photo collage, Pearblossom Highwaywas made by many single pieces of original photo shootings from this view. He remixes his photos to create color layers and space layers in his collage to express his idea. In this collage, Hockney implies a driver's perspective by using bright color to highlight road signs without showing a car in the collage. Bakhtin's polyphony idea also can show in this photo collage. Despite the road sign, Hockney also highlight the sky and the sea far from audiences. It seems like, in the car, the driver saw those road signs but passenger saw the scenery.

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Remix seems to be a very important concept for the postmodernism art works. However, people form ancient time have already used the way, remix to create new images. Chines dragon is an example for remixing. “The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail… His horns resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam, his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow.” (Find from here.)chinese-dragon-red.jpg

--- By Xindi Guo



Yinka Shonibare MBE as both an artist and through his artwork is an excellent example of cultural hybridity. He was born in Britain, raised in Laos, Nigeria and then returned to Britain where he currently lives and works. He was also appointed member of the order of British empire, a title that he uses in his every day life. The fact that he identifies as MBE but his career is devoted to questioning the British relationship with Africa during colonialism shows the complexity and depth of his work. He is an artist that plays with “entrenched” cultural ideologies and questions their authority and meaning.
His work can appear to be at first glance fairly direct but when it is more carefully examined, the complexities are revealed. His skill as an artist is expressed through his ambiguity; he gives the viewer just enough information and common signifiers to understand the basic picture but does not give any answers. For example, all his pieces purposefully use mannequins that are headless. This has a disconcerting effect because the viewer can identify that it is a human but it is lacking key elements that make up an identity. Without a face, one cannot read emotion which is particularly disconcerting and has an eerie effect. In addition, identity is also formed through ethnicity, culture, and age, but by leaving out the head the viewer cannot determine any of these things. The white skin complexion, since it is a mannequin, also makes the viewer wonder what ethnicity or culture he is referring to.
Shonibare’s mannequins are typically dressed in a colonial style typical from the British empire and are extremely elaborate. Instead of using the fabrics that were typical of the time, he uses batik. Batik is originally from Indonesia and became popular through the Dutch West Indies Trading Company (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batik). What does it mean for these people to be wearing batik? Since it is unclear what cultural group they represent, his intentions are left open for analysis. Are these Africans wearing the clothing of oppressors? Are these British people wearing the material of the people they enslaved?
What the artist does not tell us is equally powerful in his work. For example, in his piece, Hound, Shonibare places several male mannequins with hound dogs. It is clear from the positions of both the men and the dogs that they are in the midst of a hunt. The absence of figures, however, leads us to wonder, what the hounds are chasing? Is it a hunt for animals or a hunt for a runaway slave? Through ambiguity, Shonibare work leaves the viewer to make their own interpretations.
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http://video.pbs.org/video/1281770054/
Katy Schwager


Siyang Wu

Intertextuality fascinates me so much. I love Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea that “the words of a language belong to nobody, but still we hear those words only in particular individual utterances”, “(words are) reflected individual expression, which is determined by the unrepeatable individual context of the utterance.” In contemporary world, intertextuality not only happens in discourse. Every text, any cultural object, such as image, film , web content, musical composition “is a mosaic of references to other texts, genres and discourses”, and all of them work together to complete each others.
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Here is the ads poster of HSBC, it is clear that either the image itself or the linguistic element can not make itself clear, and both of them need the other to be anchored. In the first series, the caption tell the readers what the images mean to different peoples. people’s background put impact on the their understanding towards the same pic. On the other hand, in the second series, it is the pictures explain and insist the word. Their combination strongly presents the slogan of HSBC that “every one looks at the world from different point of view”, and it gives readers strong sense that HSBC can understand all of your different needs.
This reminds me Julia Kristeva’s vertical axis, which “connects the text to other text”.

With the idea of “three-dimensional textual space with three specific coordinates of dialogue--the writer, the reader, and exterior text”, Julia Kristeva “referred to texts in terms of two axes: a horizontal axis connecting the author and reader of a text, and a vertical axis, which connects the text to other text”. The subjectivity of both authors and audiences are valued in this time.


The Lost Thing is last year’s Oscar best short animated film. Element used in this animations by director try to lead you to the answer, what the lost thing really is. What interesting is that there is no fixed answer, it depends on an audience’s understanding, self-experience, association of ideas. Without audience’s interpretation, any sentence, any piece of music, any animation is meaningless. For me, the lost thing means childhood memory. In the animation, the ordered building, busy crowd,and factories represent our developed modern society, and “the lost things” in different shapes, such as TV set, teakettle, just what we were interested in but lose our interests today. However, the lost thing can be any things to other people, it can be your friends in young age, and it can be the pure happiness. What its meaning is depends on addressee.

At the same time, we can also derive some special information not only about the animation, bout also about the author himself from this short movie. The figure designed, the music used, and the way they are combined, are all evidences show us who the author is, just testify what we discussed in the beginning, it is “individual expression”. That is the horizontal axis that connecting the author and reader.

“Intertextuality blurs the boundaries not only between texts but between texts and the world of lived experience.” Intertextuality, or intermediality, via connecting the author and reader and building the relationship between text and text, makes our awareness an indivisible one, since texts are where we derive almost all of our knowledge about the world we are living.



Old Wine, New Bottles: Erykah Badu, Angela Davis and Neo-Black Power Hair Politics


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“Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master. That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself. Finding one's voice isn't just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” Jonathan Lethem, Harper’s Magazine

Or what my dad calls, “Old Wine, New Bottles.”

One you think of Afros and Naturals what do you generally think of? What words immediately come to mind? Subversive? Militant, Black Power, 1970s, Bell Bottoms, Daishikis, Black Panthers? Dangerous?

For children like myself who never had to drink from colored water fountains, sit on the back of buses, attend separate schools or ever question whether we were in fact second class citizens because Jim Crow said so, Erkyah Badu is our link, our intermediary this generation’s answer to the question: just what is a Soul Sista and how do I become one? If I’ve never had to really struggle but I want to be a revolutionary, if I want to be down if I want to be pro-Black, how do I do it? Where is my manual?

In all fairness, Erykah never had to drink from colored water fountains but her persona, her delivery is such that you would never question the authenticity of her “commitment to the cause” oddly because of the originality and subversive behavior of her style. It is not necessarily her own experience but her dedication to living this bohemian lifestyle. Badu questions the notions of motherhood and artistry blurring the lines between cultural awareness, social action, progress and political involvement. She acts in a manner unlike any other female artists working at present, because she is our remixed Angela Davis, bold, black, unapologetically ‘different’ she is as close to the Black Panthers and Authentic Black Power as we may get. We love it, accept it and relish it.

She along with other “conscious” rappers and singers ushered in a new generation, a zeitgeist of self love, acceptance and militancy. We may not have been alive to be influenced by Huey, Bobby, Eldridge or Fred Hampton but Erkyah has an old soul and that’s good enough for us. Through her we can safely experience a simulacrum of the Black Power movement without the fear of ending up like members of the Black Panthers seeking asylum in Sweden, in prison or on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

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Playing revolutionary is easier now that Erykah has given us a neo-protoype to emulate.

The humor, grace and confidence she exuded instilled a remixed neo-Black Power vibe that had been lost a sea of gangsta rap and misogyny that were the hallmarks of mid 90s rap. When Badu came onto the scene she was initially viewed as an oddball and a misfit. The headwraps she donned early on, soon gave way to afros that challenged the laws of gravity. Both seemed to say “you don’t HAVE to straighten your hair to be beautiful.” We love everybody but if your fro ain’t right we WILL call you out.

Badu had given credit and paid homage to strong black women of considerable style and influence of the 60s and 70s perhaps most recognizably, Angela Davis.

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Even Angela Davis herself did not originate the style, nor did she ever claim primacy but when her face landed on the F.B.I.‘s Most Wanted list she became the face of the style for many and remains such for a new generation of women who refuse to embrace the creamy crack to take on the appearance of “the Oppressor” and instead prefer to embrace the cloud of militancy.

One of Badu’s most recent hits “Out My Mind, Just in Time” borrows directly from Palestinian poetess, Suheir Hammad’s “I Will Not Break for You” regarding Palestinian/Israeli conlfict. Blending art, politics all at once. I loved the song from my first initial listen, the lyrics hit home, devotion, love, loss and compromise. I was unaware that the lyrics were the work of another artist until Badu gave credit to Hammad on Twitter perhaps as an example of continamination anxiety much like T.S Elliot’s allusion to Edmund Spenser.

Erykah Badu, Out My Mind, Just in Time




Suheir Hammad, I Will Not




Hip Hop and popular culture is a ever-revolving remix of itself. Since there is no beginning what comes next? Perhaps an extrapolation of revolutionarism and advocacy of matters that truly matter and always will: education, eradicating poverty and social justice

Badu made Afrocentricity cool again. The Afrocentricity we had only previously seen in embarrassing snapshots of our fathers sitting poolside with out-of-this-world goatees, skinny panted bell bottoms and gold chains caught up in copious forests of ebony chest hair. Erkyah’s Soul Sista message is to spread peace and love, to create, embrace and appreciate beauty in your everyday surroundings. If her peace and love, black flower child persona is plagiarism, “If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.”