the fourth space

those spaces in between life, thinking, the physical world, and humanity

HYBRIDITY: “Theory in Practice: Postmodern to Contemporary Art, Music, Media, Photography, Film”

From Hybridity Theory Nodes PPT HybridityTheoryNodes

SLIDE 3: Hybridity Dilemma

Understanding and interpreting today’s cultural and media complexity: ongoing mixing, appropriating, cultural interdependence without a fixed or privileged position.

How can this be done?

•Lessons of cultural studies, post-colonial theory, but new lessons of practice: media, art, music, photography, film.
•Our own cultural and social embeddedness, positioned points of view, identities, assumptions, presuppositions.
•One option: self-reflexive and heuristic theoretical ways of thinking


Some of the greatest statements of “theory” are embedded in the artistic practices. No cultural works that get noticed without an implied theory of how to make the work and how it’s positioned as a new work among everything else.

The greatest artists, photographers, film makers, musicians don’t (usually) write discursive essays and books about what  they do, they just do it from a set of learned rules and codes, appropriating new methods, styles, and technologies.

Examples: Warhol, Sherman, Hip Hop sampling, cutting, performing, Blade Runner, Matrix series, digital mixing and editing of all media, iPhone, W magazine.

SLIDE 9: Jonathan Lethem’s argument in “The Ecstasy of Influence” (Harpers, 2007)

Blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” culture, in which pre-existing melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are freely reworked. Technology has only multiplied the possibilities; musicians have gained the power to duplicate sounds literally rather than simply approximate them through allusion. In Seventies Jamaica, King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry deconstructed recorded music, using astonishingly primitive pre-digital hardware, creating what they called “versions.” The recombinant nature of their means of production quickly spread to DJs in New York and London. Today an endless, gloriously impure, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of music.

Visual, sound, and text collage—which for many centuries were relatively fugitive traditions (a cento here, a folk pastiche there)—became explosively central to a series of movements in the twentieth century: futurism, cubism, Dada, musique concrète, situationism, pop art, and appropriationism. In fact, collage, the common denominator in that list, might be called the art form of the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first. But forget, for the moment, chronologies, schools, or even centuries. As examples accumulate—Igor Stravinsky’s music and Daniel Johnston’s, Francis Bacon’s paintings and Henry Darger’s, the novels of the Oulipo group and of Hannah Crafts (the author who pillaged Dickens’s Bleak House to write The Bondwoman’s Narrative), as well as cherished texts that become troubling to their admirers after the discovery of their “plagiarized” elements, like Richard Condon’s novels or Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons—it becomes apparent that appropriation, mimicry, quotation, allusion, and sublimated collaboration consist of a kind of sine qua non of the creative act, cutting across all forms and genres in the realm of cultural production.


The world of art and culture is a vast commons, one that is salted through with zones of utter commerce yet remains gloriously immune to any overall commodification. The closest resemblance is to the commons of a language: altered by every contributor, expanded by even the most passive user. That a language is a commons doesn’t mean that the community owns it; rather it belongs between people, possessed by no one, not even by society as a whole.


One comment on “HYBRIDITY: “Theory in Practice: Postmodern to Contemporary Art, Music, Media, Photography, Film”

  1. sarawebbhiris
    February 8, 2013

    We are in sync! This is the title I put on the list yesterday: The Post Modern Way: Thinking and doing Across the And

    Because what we are talking about does coincide very much with how Olivia Gude, for example, writes about post modern arts education.

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