Thoughts on the Hollow Earth

The idea of creating a music video for someone without permission has been floating around in my head for a couple of years now. I knew that in order to be successful at it certain variables would have to come into play in exactly the right order. Those variables occurred on the night of September 19th at about 11pm.

I was reading a blog about graffiti and found a link to the leaked files of the new Thom Yorke single (which I had not heard about). Being a fan I downloaded them right away and was struck by the intensity of the b-side track “the Hollow Earth.” Listening to the track a couple of times I realized that a video for this piece would be perfect. I began sketching out my idea, collecting the variables – which include a large number of Banksy‘s pieces – and began editing and rendering the video. By 3am on September 20th I had finished the version I would put up on youtube.

In the ‘about’ section I wrote that the video was ‘official’. I also specifically wrote the kind of details I had found on other official videos for Radiohead and other bands. After waiting for the video to upload I went to bed, it was after all 4am.

When I got up on the morning of the 20th the video had received about 1500 hits, which is a lot for my work. I was impressed and after making coffee and thinking about the shape of the video and its content I decided this is the video that I had been thinking about making for some time.

I immediately began promoting the video to the world. I posted it on my facebook and myspace pages, sent links to some Radiohead forums and facebook fan pages and then finally about 3pm in the afternoon I decided to write a press release for the video. The short 300 word press release was sent to all the major media outlets I had contacts for. At this point the youtube video had less than 2000 hits.

Throughout the day the youtube count stayed the same (about 1800 hits) but the ratings went up and so did the comments. (The count often stays a static number for long periods if there is a lot of traffic). The majority of the comments I received were very positive about the video.

The next morning (Sept 21st) I woke to find that the video had 26,500 hits. That’s about 24k in 24 hours. I discovered that the online music magazine NME had run a piece on the video and that there feed was spreading across the web like wildfire. By noon on the 21st it was being featured on sites including Pitchfork, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, BBC, the Guardian, Dose, and many many others as well as hundreds of blogs and Radiohead fan sites. I was astonished.

Then at about 3pm that afternoon I received an email from Holly CushingBanksy‘s agent. After negotiating our talking on the phone (neither of us wanted to give out a number) we eventually had a conversation. She explained that Banksy does own the ‘intellectual property rights’ to all of his images and that he was upset about the video. I apologized and said I did not want to upset Banksy but that the video was done without permission from he or Yorke. I described it to her as a “prank.” Once she realized this (that I was not paid by Yorke to make the video and did not have permission) she was much easier about the whole thing but asked that I retract anything that might suggest Banksy’s intentional involvement. I said I would do what I could. I then changed the word ‘courtesy” to the words “appropriated from” in the youtube credits.

By this point things were pretty out of hand. The various sites that had picked it up had spread it everywhere. Some sites, starting with Pitchfork, had tried to get a quote from Yorke and Banksy about the video and upon finding out they had nothing to do with it amended their articles to say the video was unofficial. Many other sites followed suit over the next few hours. Often just putting the letters “un” before official in their existing articles. None of them removed their articles or the embedded video link to my work.

But the virus had already spread too far. Thousands of sites had picked up the video, the cumulation being a TV spot made by ITN for the EU newsfeed. By the time I woke up on the morning of Sept 22nd the video had reached 30k hits on youtube.

This morning when I awoke on Sept 23rd the video was still on youtube. It had 48,000 hits, 200 ratings (4.5 stars out of 5) and 37 comments. It had been reviewed on hundreds of websites and was being talked about by thousands of people, not bad for three days. But I wondered, when would Yorke chime in on all of this?

That came this afternoon at about 1pm. I went to youtube to check the progress and got the pink slip that said that

“This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Thom Yorke claiming that this material is infringing: Thom Yorke – The Hollow Earth – by Raymond Salvatore Harmon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2DQ50-4qXY”

Ironically at that time there were, and still are, 6 or more other videos that use the same audio. Most of them just a still image but two of them are actually my video just uploaded by other people.

I have to ask myself, why is it that my work, which was born out of creativity, is more of a copyright violation than the others that merely wish to spread the music? Especially considering the audio is now available as a free download online!

This whole thing, an experience in creating a viral video piece and manipulating the mass media due to their weakness for iconic celebrities like Banksy and Yorke, is part of the larger picture of my work. The media controls what you know, but who controls the media? My 300 word ‘press release’ caused a lot of conversation over the past few days. But I am no pro – how many press releases come from corporations that dictate what the media tells us? How can we know the truth? When something is labeled “official” or “safe” how can we be sure it is? The reality is that we have no idea and never will.

Years ago I meet Alejandro Jodorowsky after a screening of Holy Mountain at the Chicago Underground Film Fest and asked him about the esoteric influences on his work. I said, “What made you read those books that this imagery comes from?” His reply was this:

“When I was young I was looking for the truth. Now that I am old I know there is no truth.”

+++

PS The most amusing part of this entire spectacle has been to watch as Radiohead fans run amok talking about the whole thing online. The ongoing debate about the degree to which I am an “asshole” and a “douchebag” among half literate 15 year olds has left me with a smile for the past week.

If you are hated, then people are doing what they have been told to do. That they are discussing the work means that the shape of the project is complete. The individual opinions don’t matter – what matters is that they have been controlled but it is unfortunate that they do not perceive the extent of this control.

+++

No idea how long it will last:

Comments Off on Thoughts on the Hollow Earth Posted in Uncategorized

Trying to swim

So having not gotten the call from the MacArthur foundation this week I am pursuing other avenues of stability. I started writing a blog on Copyright in the 21st century yesterday but after 3000 words decided to hold off on publishing it. Its not finished but I may return to it sooner or later.

In the meantime I posted a video for the new Thom Yorke single The Hollow Earth on youtube, you can check it out below. I used tons of shots of Banksy pieces as the pseudo subliminal content. They make a nice pair Thom and Banksy.

The mainstay of my recent thoughts have been the logical conclusion to the events of the past year. As winter approaches I find myself sleeping in longer and spending more time thinking about what it is I do exactly. I think the main problem is that there is no “exactly” in anything I do. I do too many things to be any one thing. Living in London has been amazing for the insight it has given me. I pay way more attention to American politics than I ever did living in the states, particularly because of how the American political spectrum affects the rest of the world.

I have also been going out at night to paint much more here than elsewhere, mostly due to my lack of a studio. The only downside to painting in the streets is the lack of music. Have to keep an ear to potential passers by so that negates headphones.

Sometimes I feel as if I am in a vast river, completely beyond the ability to control my own motion I struggle to stay near the top of the water. I fear drowning, the sound of the water around me is a massive wall of noise – voices, traffic, other peoples music, screaming, barking, madness induced construction noises pounding in my head. A subliminal backwash like the tide of the moon pulling me under these torrential waters. The only problem is that I do not know how to swim.

+++

This is the video. Go buy the LP on radiohead.com – the world needs more vinyl and supporting Thom is always a good thing.

The dilemma of Art

Over the past few months I have been thinking more and more about the financial structure of the art world as it exists today. Though many variables have changed in the past 100 years I find two significant developments in the architecture of the art world the most disturbing.

The two developments, when closely inspected, seem to be a natural progression of control over the evolution of art itself. Not the specific making of art, but the propagation of art and the role of the artist in the public arena.

These two developments are Academia and Commerce.

Academic:

The role of art schools in the art world at large has grown to become a vastly important function of art and artists in the current art world model. But this has not always been so. As late as the 1970’s the role of the art school in deciding what artists would be acclaimed and thought of was nominal. Very few of the ‘masters’ of the art world had made much success in any formal education. Most, having attempted to be involved in some art school or another, had quit or were thrown out due to their behavior and ideas. These radical minds would go on to be considered masters through their explosive ideas and rethinking of the role and function of art.

Yet as the power of the art school grew from the late 1970s onward the number of artists who would be perceived by the public as “masters” would dwindle. As the isolationist view of art as some exclusive language of the intellectual grew in prominence and the marketing strategies of the art schools developed the public came more and more to consider art as something alien and not understood, and for good reason. Art was being taught in a way that each artist was told that a language must be learned, that certain philosophical ideas must be understood, in order for any appreciation of art to occur. Without this knowledge, one was taught (and still is) that no one can understand art.

How then can the public be considered in the shape of art and its appreciation? The answer is that public opinion has little to do with art today and who becomes famous and why.

The developing infrastructure of the art school has permeated the art world to its fullest. Professors teach students to believe certain variables about what art is, then those students go on to be curators and administrators within the art world. After several generations the art school system has come to dominate the art world.

What anyone really learns in art school is how to navigate the system of “who knows who” in order to achieve financial success. Your professors recommend you to their former students who are now gallery owners, who in turn give you a show and sell your work to their rich friends. This ‘education’ has almost nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with social engineering.

Not that there is anything wrong with an artist finding a way to be financially successful through their art. But what is evident in the bigger picture of this art school model is that since the advent of art schools as a powerful force in the art world their have been no artists who are considered “masters” by the public in the past 30+ years.

Of course their have been “famous artists” who come and go with each seasons fashion like the accessory to a couture outfit. The ‘currently collectible’, but no one has been able to rise above the tide of changing fashion in order to capture the imagination of the public beyond the confines of the art world itself.

Well, maybe Banksy – but that’s another story.

“Turning in on itself the art world has become an inbreed mutation of creativity. A nepotistic game of tag where each of the artists takes a turn being ‘famous’ among their benefactors…”

Commerce:

The second model that is involved in the dilemma of art in the world today is the financial infrastructure that supports the art world. Since the dawn of creative individualism in the realm of art their have been certain people who supported the arts. Formerly these patrons were kings and other aristocratic individuals who sought to broaden their own fame/popularity by supporting artists as a means of public outreach. As time has evolved the patrons of art have become the private collectors and government institutions who support the fashionable without thought to the evolution of art as a whole. Support is given for those who have played the game of “who knows who” in order to become collectible among the rich and elitist cliques within the insular art world. Turning in on itself the art world has become an inbreed mutation of creativity. A nepotistic game of tag where each of the artists takes a turn being ‘famous’ among their benefactors- usually the rich friends of their family and gallery owners. When one has sold pieces for enough money then they ‘graduate’ to being shown in museums instead of galleries.

No where in this ‘money equals money’ model is it more evident than in the “Art Fair”. In the dominate art fair model a gallery or individual artist must pay rental space and exorbitant fees in order for their art to be shown. Many art fairs charge a submission fee that is extremely high yet do not guarantee inclusion in the fair and no refund is given if the art is rejected. What this model does is amplify the fact that in order to be successful as an artist in today’s art world one needs to have the money to buy their way into popularity. Without the financial support of a gallery an artist must already have money in order to make money. Thus excluding all but those artists born to wealthy families.

Art is in every sense a commodity. Regardless of its financial value any creation has an intrinsic value placed on it by its creator and those who experience it. Yet the commodification of art as a financial tool has reached the point where the art world is incapable of truly innovate practices. These games of “pay to play” and “who knows who” only intensify the already diseased state of the art world in the early 21st century.

As these two infrastructures commingle, with the art school model constantly influencing the art world commodity model, they are simple churning up an increasingly bland spectacle that shouts louder and louder “I am important” in its garish way, but in reality it has become so disenfranchised from the public that it no longer holds any meaning for the average person.

Art, without meaning to the individual, has no value. If the experience of art can not be understood by simply interacting with the art itself, than it has become a gibberish nonsense that holds no value in the world. If only those who come from pampered and wealthy backgrounds can afford to be artists then where is the range of human experience necessary to drive art forward in its evolution? Suffering for ones art has become the de rigor way in which the rich punish their parents for giving them everything they want. Being an ‘artist’ has become simply an act of rebellion against the lifestyles of the upper middle class.

A revolution must occur, the walls of the art world must be taken down. Much the way of the Dada movement in the early 20th century we must reject all that is in order to become the future of art. There is no crime in selling your artwork, in being appreciated for what you do, but if the artists of the world continue to allow the current model of the art world to exist we face the death of art and the destruction of creativity in contemporary culture.

RSH  – September 11, 2009

grey skies and headaches

There is a certain kind of flat grey sky that invariably leaves me with a gnawing headache the moment I wake up. It isnt a migraine, which I have here and there, but an acidic aftertaste lodged in my temples, behind my eyes. Nothing helps but the coming sunset.

I have been considering the passing summer, which is finally relinquishing itself to the coming autumn. The leaves have yet to turn en-mass, but the threat is here. Cold rains replacing summer showers, a chill at night and the smell of frost on the tip of tomorrow’s dawn.

This year has not gone as expected. Expectations were very high at the start and have been met with the harsh reality of what has passed. I have managed to create, and left much to consider in the long run for the effect that this year will leave on the shape of my life. Yet after a long journey I must have passed the turn off someplace a bit back as I have yet to find my destination.

So the year comes into its decline and another looms out ahead. I dont really count my personal year from Jan – Dec (I prefer from my birthday to the next) but the grey sky and the coming cold tell me that change is here again, that warm days are few and that somehow things are preparing to sleep off the winter once more.

Comments Off on grey skies and headaches Posted in Uncategorized

Emptied

Somehow the day shifts back and forth from sunny to grey. I am feeling better but it has been a long time since I felt well. The uneasiness that accompanies indecision and disuse comes and goes. I realized today that stress is what we get as we become more successful. The more our lives reflect gain, the more we have to deal with, the greater our responsibilities.

The rain threatens the edge of the open door. Its touches the carpet gently and I wonder what should I do. Do I care if its wet inside? And if so why?

I have been thinking of the past, idle these recent days. Avoiding getting anything accomplished by simply drifting. I should be flying soon to places I am from but somehow it never happened. Weddings will be missed and days forgotten but maybe its for some reason.

I have tried to accomplish things this year – shows and festivals, films and words have all come from me and emptied myself into everything I have done. But nothing has returned. Maybe those things were never mine to begin with and as such they went away without bothering to return.

I am being who I am, which is more than many can say to themselves. But in doing so I have lacked security and faith. I am faithless now, more than ever, and if it were not for love I would have nothing.