The prime piece of remix fodder for this week happens to be “Pretty Much Everywhere, It’s Gonna Be Hot.”
This one is a bizarre 9-second interchange on a news show, possibly Haitian, though they speak English. It sets off my stupidity detector, sure, but it also sets off involuntary laughter. It may work for you, it may not, but what I want to ask is, can we call things like this art? Is the process of selecting, or at least stumbling upon, a strange old video that happens to have some peculiar entertainment value, and doing just a bit of cutting too easy? Or is the end product the only thing that matters?
I don’t think many people would argue that, for instance, The Atomic Cafe, a film constructed entirely out of old footage and audio recordings from the early Cold War, is not art. It has a clear identity of its own, a narrative arc, even though the only work the creators did involved selection, cutting, and sequencing of the source material. The same could be said of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, which I have been listening to a lot lately – Smith not only took the trouble of amassing old records and picking out the best, but he sequenced them so that they commented on each other and formed a vaguely historical arc. Perhaps not everyone would agree that the Anthology should be called a work of art, but that view is not uncommon.
If we’re going to argue that these examples are instances of art, while a single found video is not, then we will have to come up with a clear place to draw the line. It is hard to argue that one piece of art has a vision while another does not – how do we know what was in the creator’s head? – and it is also hard to argue that a single piece of footage does not reflect on the world around us. What, then, is the difference?