A graffiti titled “Escapism” made by the British, guerrilla, graffiti artist Banksy is seen on Israel’s highly controversial West Bank barrier in Ramallah on August 6, 2005. Banksy has made a name for himself with provocative images stencilled around the streets of London. On his recent trip to the Palestinian territories he has created nine of his images on Israel’s highly controversial West Bank barrier. (http://metro.co.uk/2012/05/16/pictures-best-of-banksy-graffiti-3036124/#jp-carousel-3036138)
We recently discussed the idea that everything is a remix. This reminds me of the core of my own research regarding mimesis (a term I learned from the work of Robert Cantwell). Cantwell, in cultural studies actually uses the term “ethnomimesis.” Ethno, he writes is obviously “groups and the forces that constitute them” (5). Mimesis is trifold: imitation, or the Aristotle’s form of learning, learning “that arises between, among, of and by people in the realm of social relations which includes most of what we call ‘culture,’ but especially that unconscious mimicry through which we take deposits of a particular influence, tradition, or culture to ourselves and by which others recognize them to us” (5). In addition to imitation and the summoning or production of formal, disciplinary expression, ethnomimesis is culture, “embedded in social practices, manifested in art, and reproduced by power” . . . belonging to our corporeal and spiritual endowment” as there is “no more complete communication between human beings than human corporeality itself, the human sensory and intellectual apparatus having evolved primarily to join us to tone another. It is in this capacity, certainly, that our survival as a species originally lay” (7).
I have also seen a variety of this type of mindset towards creative product in hip hop. Jay Z is one of the most obvious examples of this as seen in his song “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake (caution: language) with Kurt Cobain echoing in the background.
Sampling, remixing, borrowing and adding makes sense as learners. We take parts of what we know and expand, question, twist, and remake in order to do it all again. To contest this in the way we create our selves to the ways in which we define ourselves would be to suggest a type of isolation that would allow for a pure self, a pure knowledge. I don’t believe that exists. How we acknowledge and respect those that we borrow from insinuates the rigor of our work. For me, everything is a remix, but not everyone acknowledges their “samples.” This lack of acknowledgement doesn’t help future scholars, nor does it respect those who are being borrowed from.
As the artist Banksy (whose work is seen at the top of this post) reveals, often we have to work, remake, “remix,” and confuse what we know in order to reach for that which we can only imagine and critique that which is constituted as the norm.
Cantwell, Robert. Ethnomimesis: Folklife and the Representation of Culture. University of North Carolina Press, 1993.