Monday, May 16, 2011

Invited to Adapt

The vision of a little painting inside a vacuum cleaner is a strange one. Art in the dark can't influence anyone. And it's hard to create art in the dark, either literally or metaphorically. The phrase "you can't create art in a vacuum" has always been a nudge towards going to exhibits, reading, being aware of culture and the world around you, not just living in the world inside your head. When we go out and look at other art, read, watch, observe, we can't help but bring back little pieces of it—(here's an overused phrase, but it seems apt) the grains of sand we can turn into oyster pearls. Oy. There, I said it.

Some artists use those materials intentionally, borrowing and adapting from known or little-known sources. We are constantly influenced by others, consciously or not. Adaptations are not copies, not rearrangements of puzzle pieces, they are new creations based on the ideas or concepts of older ones. They are new works, not mirror images or shadows of others. Good ones create new sparks and new forms that didn't previously exist.

A few artists are interested in this intermingling of forms and are willing to let you adapt their work for minimal, if any, cost.

  • E.E. posts vignettes on her blog and invites you to adapt them or play off of them for free and however you like. She will re-post these "collaborations." I was inspired to make one of her pieces into a flexagon (sample of one printed side shown here).
  • Jonathan Lethem has short stories and song lyrics that you can adapt or "mutate" for $1 (and signing a simple form) as part of his Promiscuous project. The material is non-exclusive, and he encourages playwrights and filmmakers to sign on.
  • David Byrne and Brian Eno have a couple songs that are available for sampling or rearranging, songs that were initially made from sampled materials themselves.

These projects bring forward many questions. What does it mean for an artist to let go of a creation and offer it up for manipulation? How do we feel about ownership? How is an artist valued in society if s/he gives away work for free? Is making art like making food and therefore all should partake? What should the limits be? I've got a drawer full of question marks if you think you can use them…

adaptation of Hedi Kyle's Pivoting Panels Structure

In the book art world we've always shared our discoveries. After Hedi Kyle invents a structure she teaches it. Keith Smith writes about new developments, and Paul Johnson teaches and writes, but also has stated that he feels anyone could have created the structures and calls them "universals." Those are only three of the many people that have contributed, knowingly or not, to my art, and I'm happy to credit them. For us, I think this open exchange is a good path, and I hope we continue on it. Obviously, I like sharing new structures as the paths light up around them. To continue the work, I invite each person to adapt them to his or her own vision.

2 comments:

Paper Chipmunk said...

I've been shy about poking my head in here--afraid any comment will devolve into a gushy sounding fan note--but I want to say how much I genuinely love this blog. It's such a fantastic complement to your books. I appreciate your generosity. Thank you.

Linda said...

Hi Alisa,
I am really enjoying reading your blog. It is GOOD! I am becoming devoted to checking on it daily.

I made a bundled stitch book journal based the instructions from your newest book. It turned out really nice. I changed the bundles so that there was a top and bottom bundle as you show it as well as two in the center next to each other-so that there are 4 total bundles. It looks good.