Concordia University

Born in Los Angeles, Oli Sorenson is currently pursuing his doctoral studies in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Concordia University. Based in the UK between 1999 and 2010, he played a pivotal role in establishing London as a hub for audiovisual performance and VJ culture. He curated many video related events at Tate Britain, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the British Film Institute, as well as being listed amongst the top ten VJs in the world by DJ Mag, between 2004 and 2008. He has performed and exhibited at international media events and art institutions such as ZKM (Germany), K/Haus Museum (Austria), MAF (Thailand), Pause Festival (Australia), SFMOMA (USA) and more.

Creative Mobility

It’s easy to forget that Western preference towards creative originality only date back to the 18th century, whereas so many earlier traditions emulated and enriched artworks from previous authors. The urge of creating purely original art was first felt by Romantic artists, as they experienced an “increasing deluge of culture”; via the industrialization of printing, as art reproductions from the past continually invaded their present. While Marcel Duchamp is also associated with industrialism, his Readymades significantly questioned the ‘location’ of originality when these simply re-contextualised the artefacts of industrialization, thus suggesting a continuation with age-old principles of creative emulation.

The demiurgic spirit of Readymades was lavishly glorified in 20th and early 21st Century art works from Robert Rauchenberg’s Erased DeKooning to Christian Marclay’s The Clock. In cases like Jeff Koons and Barbara Kruger however, works of a derivative nature were confronted with serious judicial outcomes. Indeed, charges of copyright infringement only multiply when broadening our observations to the musical, filmic and literary formats. Now with the processing capabilities of computerized networks, artists and audiences find themselves overwhelmed by culture in orders of magnitude far greater than the Romantics ever experienced. Nonetheless, should legislating for the protection of originality in creative works be acknowledged as the default course of action?

Whether it be practiced by professionals or hobbyists, the art of remixing content, ideas and techniques from previous authors cultivates an approach that applies as much to pre-modern creativity, folk art, as to contemporary phenomena emerging in social networks. Re-editing History could also be regarded as a tool for the empowerment of disenfranchised communities, such as to better incorporate Feminist, Aboriginal and African narratives. In pointing out the paradigm shift in human communications from broadcasting (one to many) to networking (many to many), Remix Culture’s true potential lies in increasing the mobility between the traditionally fixed roles of creator, consumer and curator of culture, to widen our understanding of originality beyond its legal dimension as intellectual property.