Were people this creative before the Internet?
Or have I just always had friends who weren’t very creative (sorry guys)?
I can tell you this: The amateur theatricals we put together as kids were never actually completed, and if they were, it was not as well-done as Lennon and Maisy’s rendition of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.”
Not only can these two kids carry a tune (not an AutoTune, mind you), but they’ve got rhythm. I can’t be sure, but I believe their accompaniment is two washed-out tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! I can’t believe it’s not a percussion section!
In the last week, perhaps 30 years late, we’ve found the art in 8-bit technology. Chiptunes, covers of popular songs played on old computer chips and Nintendo game systems, have been created of everything from Radiohead to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Imagine you’re 11 years old again, playing the original Zelda and the music in dungeon eight is “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I didn’t know the original Zelda could get any better. (I have it on my Wii and it’s still awesome.)
And what’s good for the ear, it turns out, is good for the eye. Canvas users have taken your favorite memes, including Nyan Cat and rage faces, and created 8-bit versions of them. Similarly, our own Fernando Alfonso recreated the cover of Abbey Road with Pikachu as George Harrison.
Likewise, Kendall Bacon has been creating animated GIFs of scenes from 8-bit games to highlight the aesthetic beauty that flew by, unnoticed, as Mario rushed to rescue the princess.
Explaining why he does what he does, he told the Daily Dot, “I want someone to appreciate the beauty they missed out on when they played the game.” His GIFs are wildly popular on Tumblr, and I can’t help but think of the designers who labored over those scenes finally getting some appreciation for their work.
But it’s not just digital art that is finding a special life online. You haven’t really seen the founding fathers until you’ve seen Washington as Batman—on a $1 bill, no less. Or Lincoln as the Terminator—with half his face blown off.
History finds its place as well. Canvas users recently illustrated the important events that occurred the day they were born.
Even philosophy finds creative expression on the ’net. Philosopher Slavoj Zizek has been given the Nyan Cat treatment, complete with psychedelic background, infinite marching clones, and octopus arms waving hot dogs. Naturally.
And then there’s the humor. This week saw another flash Twitter phenom account in @NotTildaSwinton. Tweeting things like “No eyebrows? Pluck the hair from your scalp to make them. How luxurious! Bathe in admiration,” the account amassed 30,000 followers in no time flat. And then it was gone. But the creator is bringing his genius to Tumblr.
Poor (not actually) presidential candidate Mitt Romney released an app promising “A Better Amercia.” Was it a typo that all of us had made at some time or other? Yes. Did Mitt have anything to do with it personally? No. Was the Internet just going to let it go at that? Oh, hell no.
The thing about parody is that it’s as much a remix as, well, a remix. And that’s why the government and the media industry wants so badly to regulate it. Creators and the industry around them want to be able to make money from their work.
And yet the remix, and the ease of sharing it, is at the root of why there is so much more creativity online. It’s not really that the tools are better or easier. It’s that the Internet allows us to so directly engage in our culture, rather than receive it. And it allows us to share it, not just with our friends, who may or may not like that sort of thing. It allows us to share it with everyone and, in doing so, connect with the few someones who are into that sort of thing.
You can’t ignore the problem that the government and the media has. Google is hit with 350,000 DMCA takedown requests per week. Estimates of the cost for YouTube to pre-screen all videos go all the way up to $37 billion.
But art and culture are not going to be improved by destroying the vibrant world where remix and sharing are allowing so many to engage in culture in a way unseen since perhaps the Renaissance, which was facilitated by the piazza more than the atelier. We need to find a way for culture and the culture industry not to stifle each other, but to animate one another.
Photo by Sean Monaghan