Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Can You Ever Explain Originality?

After our discussion today in class I looked further into the differences between post-modern and modernism. I am fascinated by the different post-modern art forms in painting, poetry, and other works.

The post-modern portrait created by Matt Groening of The Simpsons, based on Salvador Dali’s painting The Persistence of Memory (1931)…, which is already post-modern, is taking it a step further.

Tom Phillips is an artist that creates humuments, which are his version of art—he takes a page in a book and creates a painting or drawing on top of it. This to me is a very postmodern way of creating art. He takes something that is already “real” and enhances it, he manipulates it into something else…but is it something else or is it the same piece of page out of a book? Does putting paint on a page of a book change the meaning or originality of the page?

I actually created my own at one point when I first heard of him because I really like art, and the book "To Kill A Mockingbird" but never realized it could be post-modern. 

Or take for example Tristan Tzara, in 1920 he created a “recipe” for making a dadaist poem. In order to create a Dadaist poem one must take newspaper clippings and turn them into a poem. Again, this is taking something that is originally a form of a newspaper, and then is turned into something different, a poem. So does this make this post-modern? If modern is focused on the product, and post modern is focused on the process I’d say this artist has a postmodern way of creating art because he is taking a product and turning it into something else by using a another form of art (poetry versus journalistic writing). Tristan Tzara’s process violated all sorts of formal techniques used in poetry. He made poetry become randomized, and free, and rather “unconscious.” His process allowed the author to have free range to do what he or she wants with the piece from its original. By having this knowledge the product is explained by the process of clipping newspaper and making it into new sentences, hence why I think this is post-modern.

 I think the questions that arise from these artists is does taking an original work and making it your own by altering it change its authenticity/originality…does it become something completely new? Can one ever create something that is original? I think, since everything is socially constructed nobody can every be "unique" or create something original because we know too much. Based on our experiences we process things and understand them, and also build off of them to create something of our own, which some of us call "unique." Can anything ever be unique if everything has been done at least once? How do you know for sure it has been done or not? So many questions…


  1. I absolutely love the way you honed in on "originality" as a site that generates all of these pomo questions. Great examples! I remember in college when I first considered the idea that "originality" was a historically-produced concept, that it's not "naturally" superior to derivitiveness (derivity? derivation? none of these are right...) but that various historical moments privilege it while others value the ability of someone to copy in an expert or creative way. You really tease out some of the tricky points about worshipping at the altar of the original. How can you be sure the altar you're kneeling at is really THE altar? And why exactly is something less worthy if it's not the first or the primary? Does it all go back to economics and one's ability to PAY an author for her/his creation? (Sounds like Foucault there...). What happens if originality is divested from the idea of "ownership?" Would we care so much if the goal was to generate creative work rather than to empower the people doing the creating? This comment is getting away from me...but that's because you raise such awesome issues here! Fun!

  2. Aly, loved your post! I was lucky enough to stumble on a special exhibit at Mass MOCA in January on Tom Phillips' Humument and other book projects. I'm not sure how much longer it's there, but you should try to check it out!


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