Malice in plunderland

Note to reader: this is a postgraduate study blog entry.

As I type these words and stare at my postered and post-it noted wall, a sense of deja vu sweeps over me.  I have experienced this before, but that is impossible.  My desk is in a new spot in my bedroom and the notes on the wall are fresh… just minutes ago.  So, why is my brain telling me that there is a sense of familiarity with what is happening right now?  I have no idea.

If Barthes and Foucault are to be trusted though, I, as the writer of this piece am NOT the author.  They believe the author to be dead, for authors merely stitch together ideas that exists.  Perhaps that is what happened in my head.  Ideas, imagination, experience, all came together at a moment to create a sudden sense of familiarity, of deja vu.  Have I just plundered ideas?  Am I stealing or if everyone is doing the same thing, is it still considered stealing?  Is it still not an original idea, if the little parts of ideas already exist?

The question of the author is a complex one, more so than that of the reader, for the reader just reads.  An author is more than just a person, more than just the writer, for when we think about any author, we think not about the individual, but about the collection of works and creations.  Try it yourself.  Who is J.K. Rowling?  Who is Shakespeare?  It is more of a brand today, I think.

Lewis Caroll, who made Alice so famous that she lives on long after he left the world, is an author who brings madness, fun, youth, ideas, smiling cats, talking cards and everything surreal to mind.  Re-reading Alice in Wonderland makes you realise just how good a wordsmith he was.  The writing is exquisite, with plays on the language, bringing out a child-like naivety but yet, pure intelligence.  It epitomises the period where they were at a height of awareness, of everything including literature.

It was at this time as well that there was a search of the perfect language, a language that does not carry double-meaning or nuances.  Volapük is an example.  At the end of the 19th century, people were learning this language seriously.  They believed that the variety of languages created unease and misunderstandings between cultures, causing aggression and that there was too much nuances in these languages.  The perfect language(s) must be clear and concise.

Clearly, in reality, it is not possible to have clarity and concision in human communication, else we will not have literature, or most importantly comedy.  Imagine if there wasn’t such a thing as double entendres.  Bo-ring!

It is not only in language that we are tricked into emotions.  We looked at two network art pieces in class that moved us in a way, but they did it completely differently.  The first piece is called ‘Shoot an Iraqi’ by Wafaa Bilal and it is as straightforward as it sounds.  Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi, who managed to escape to America decided to set-up a paintball gun in his living quarters for 28 days whilst the public is able to take a pop at him at anytime via the internet.  You’re probably thinking to yourselves, “it’s harmless, it’s just a paintball gun,” or “I’m sure they thought of health and safety”.  Well, yes.  Physically, it’s not too harmful, especially if you compare it to a real gun, but after watching just two of the videos, you feel the guy’s discomfort and anxiety from being under sieged 24 hours for nearly month.  It’s painful to watch.  This piece makes you, as the audience get involved, whether you like it or not.  It is like watching a hit and run where you want to run after the bad guys and tell them to stop or own up for the crap they did, but you are unable to.  It feels weird not being able to do anything about it.

The second piece called ‘Dead in Iraq‘ is of the American Army recruitment game, America’s Army by Joseph DeLappe.  I only just found out that they had a recruitment game and it looks like any of the RPG computer games out there.  The artist in this piece managed to get himself into the game, but instead of fighting, as you are supposed to do, he puts down his weapons in the game and starts typing up names, ranks, ages and dates of death of all those who actually died in Iraq. His character’s call sign is ‘Dead In Iraq’.  There are clips of reactions from the other players and I think that is key to this piece.  Truth about death in the war community brings about discomfort and the way people react to the names being typed out one by one on the screen makes this piece a very important piece.

So, are those two pieces of work web art, game, film, documentary projects, etc?  The list could go on and we could probably spend all eternity justifying them in one discipline or another.  Truth is, we are in a world of multi-disciplinarism and the parameters of each discipline changes from day to day.  It is very important at this moment that we are aware of the ever-changing scope in our areas of study, and that it will never be as straightforward as saying that I will only learn or read about literature.  Life is much more complicated.  To read about literature, one needs to know about life, about philosophy, about current affairs and history, about technology, medicine, about everything.  We do not need to be experts in everything, but awareness will broaden the scope and may mean a better understanding.

As we all plunder ideas from all over, consciously or subconsciously, let us at least agree that there is no malice in our intentions.

We are, after all… all mad here.

We are all mad here

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4 thoughts on “Malice in plunderland

  1. Bravo! Of course we are all standing on the shoulders of Giants. We rest on the surface of our world, just on top of the huge subterranean labyrinth of our culture made by our ancestors that artists dip into and stir up from the bottom. Many people, few gestures, as Kundera says.

  2. Yep, and after today’s discussion (which somehow was still in the shadow of Carroll) I’m even more confused about author-narrator-hero-reader games. Are you sure about the malice though? As a writer I sometimes feel this irresistible desire of playing a joke on both the reader and the critic :)

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