Banksy's Remixes - Begin Here

Using Martin Dodge's ideas about mapping concepts, I represent remix culture and the ways it interacts with Banksy's art piece "Love is in the Bin" as a remediation of the Chicago L Train.

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Banksy's Remixes - Begin Here by Mind Map: Banksy's Remixes - Begin Here

1. Intrinsically tied to remix culture is the issue of money and profits. Who gets what? Who owns what? When should a remix be considered plagiarism? Is there a monetary number that is considered a benchmark for copyright infringement? One of the leading voices in this nuanced issue is Lawrence Lessig. In his article, “Remix: How Creativity is Being Strangled by the Law” he claims that “amateurs making remixes need to have free use, not fair use [...] Amateurs need to be able to remix work without worrying about whether a lawyer would approve of their remix or not” (Lessig 165). What he doesn’t advocate for, however, is direct theft of creative work, especially for monetary gain, something that Banksy is often subjected to. Banksy’s lack of “real” personnage may contribute to pop up stores on New York City street corners selling fake recreations of his art (Raustiala and Sprigman) and groups charging money to see an actual Banksy graffiti piece on a public wall in the city (McCormick).

2. Henry Jenkins in his article “Rethinking ‘Rethinking Convergence/Culture'” claims that there is an odd line to toe between gaining exposure and being straight up ripped off in regards to your creative material, writing, “those groups that are commodified find themselves targeted more aggressively by marketers and often feel they have lost control over their own culture, since it is mass produced and mass marketed” (Jenkins 277). In an interesting paradox, when Banksy’s work is put into the public eye, it is opened up to creative reinterpretations--and potentially economic exploitation.

3. What is holding up the foundation of remix culture and allowing it to thrive is what Adriana de Souza e Silva calls the “digitization of society.” Social networking is a clear example of this idea: “The possibility of an ‘always-on’ connection when one moves through a city transforms our experience of space by enfolding remote contexts inside the present context” (De Souza e Silva 262). This hyper connectedness and interconnectedness allows for quick and far-reaching remixes of Banksy’s "Love is in the Bin."

4. Remixing: Memes and Social Media

5. Still, there are some naysayers when it comes to the constant remixing of cultural artifacts. Andrew Keen, in his article with Joe Duffy, “Open Debate,” argues that the consumer and the producer/designer should be two different entities; for Keen, this crossing over (the prosumer, as George Ritzer calls it) has far-reaching cultural and sociological impacts. Keen believes that leaving amateurs in charge of the art and commentary that is produced in remixes creates a “culture of me-me-me” (Keen and Duffy).

6. Small Scale Remixing

7. Some people, however, are not as enthused about this amateur takeover involved in remix culture. Andrew Keen, a prominent voice in surrounding issues involved in Web 2.0, advocates for “less user-generated content and more professionally created information and entertainment” (Keen 2) and argues that the increasing ubiquitousness of “amateur production” will lend to “mass digital kleptomania” (1).

8. Brand Takeovers

9. At the end of the day, the words from "Rip!: A Remix Manifesto" can ground us in the nature of remix culture: “Remixing is as much about critiquing a society as it is creating art.” What could be added, however, is that sometimes it is also about reinforcing a brand and creating wealth.

10. Blek le Rat and Banksy

11. Though Banksy has gained the most commercial and cultural success, Blek le Rat has had his own influence in the art world. “As an active member of the street art community, he also helps to promote newer artists’ works, frequently referencing the works of Space Invader, Costa, Jerome Mesnager and other urban artists” (Neu). In an interesting turn of irony, what would be considered the remix--Banksy and his art--has actually become the norm, passing up Blek le Rat and his work.

12. This appropriation of Banksy’s work is what Antoni Roig and his colleagues would call exploitative labor (641) and is actually very common in online spaces. A person produces, and a company or organization capitalizes on the creation. The intention of the artist is of no concern either: “despite the fact that the motivations of the participants are not necessarily for economic gain, there is no reason not to consider these practices as non-productive, as industries actually reap the benefits from this work” (641).

13. Reactions to this monetary manipulation are often negative, but not without nuance. Banksy frequently responds with distaste, calling the curators of these types of bootlegged shows "unscrupulous profiteers" who "abuse Banksy's name for their own financial greed" (All Things Considered). Others, like Mathias Klang, agree with Banksy, but say that there exists an argument that “might makes right” (Klang 160). This can be seen in the case of George Lucas and a fan remix of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The remix was well received… until it started to make some money and its creator was met with a cease and desist from Lucas (167-168). Klang also warns that this success of media that includes homages, parodies, and remixes created by large companies or corporations (see Hollywood borrowing from Hong Kong or Bollywood in addition to Star Wars) may help legitimize the “theft” of creative work of others.

14. Works Cited: