Monday, January 19, 2009

All rights relinquished (or, 'Copyright Nothing' after The Fugs)

To get this post started, here is my 3-step, de-evolutionary path for a fully de-capitalised (and de-celebritised) culture - permanent culture (permaculture); culture of the mutable and unwashed.

1. All rights reserved - antiquated copyright and intellectual (private) property laws.
2. Some rights reserved - creative commons (transitional phase).
3. 'All rights relinquished' (Ian Robertson) – total abolition of the arts-as-capitalism's-slut.

Today I received a generous, although inflexible, comment from one of my favourite counter-culture bands of the sixties – The Fugs.
Hi Patrick. We, The Fugs, strongly recommend you delete your soundtrack from your film. We are honored that you have chosen us as a backing for your flicks, but unfortunately you are breaching copyright. We wanna keep the music bizo clean if you know what we mean. Musak is always a safe option. Love your blog btw. Fugz
What surprised me most was the language: "clean" and "safe". If you know The Fugs you'll know their music is neither clean nor safe, but very much unwashed and alive.

I chose to comply to the request for two reasons: Firstly, the bourgeois-training of my boyhood still responds well to politeness and good manners, and secondly, because I don't want to use music to accompany my (incidental and non-commercial) films by artist's who have contradictory values between what they make and how they act. My art and my values aim to 'bring down civilisation' (Derrick Jensen) and the culture of the 'Great Washed' (Alastair McIntosh), in small, everyday, bite-sized pieces. And besides, there are plenty of musicians who support this kind of de-capitalising anarchy. Artists and bands I have used for my films in the past, and who have not censored me (as yet), include:

Nightmares on Wax
DJ Spooky
godspeedyou! blackemperor
Aesop Rock
Howe Gelb
Justin Townes Earle

To name a few. Although once again, I have not sought approval to use their material as my work is strictly non-commercial and, in general, I do not acknowledge property rights for art. I do however take very seriously due acknowledgment of borrowed material, especially because it shows nothing is autonomous (and private) and everything is borrowed and shared.

Copyright is an embedded pathology of a civilised toxicology (impermanent culture) obsessed with transporting resources (mediated goods and food) and mediated celebrity. This toxiculture is an unstoppable fireball so ingrained in our skulls that even our beautiful (and dirty) old hippies buy into it. Who cares that artists are supported in the communties that they inspire (online and offline)? I do. Who cares that artists aren't paid for their goods? Not me. Who cares where artist's food comes from? I do! It comes from the soil that they help to improve and de-toxify, so as the vegetables, meat and fruit they eat and share no longer participate in a petroleum-based agriculture responsible for so much violence.

Yes, I acknowledge that my digital-anarcho-primitivism is problematic as the waste generated by the tools that make online art is unfathomable. My belief that 'progress is killing us as much as it is enabling us new possibilities' is, I admit, representative of my values in contradiction. However, the blogosphere has the potential to curb the secondary tier of art (the first being the conceptual) – the manufacturing of goods and other property including the intellectual. Online art also has the opportunity to take art back to its roots: to play in the space of the everyday. The film that The Fugs required I take down (I couldn't just delete the sound because I'd already deleted the master file from my ancient, overloaded laptop, and it only exists as an uneditable compressed Mpeg4), showed the flying fox I made for Zephyr and his friends. This 1.36 min film was called 'Permaplay' after 'permanent play', a fundamental of permaculture (Holmgren, Mollison), or permanent (sustainable) culture.

Impermanent culture is based on the immutable (the idea of universals such as copyright and God) – and on the toxicultural activity that springs from mediated life, removed from the landbase that supports us. On the other hand permanent culture (permaculture) is based on the mutable – the flux and chance of ecological life, where waste does not exist as everything is used and reused in a dynamic cycle of regeneration. Ironically, The Fugs' track that I used was their piss-take on the great immutable Ten Commandments.

W B Yeats' line from his poem Lapis Lazuli, 'all thing fall and are built again', is not a flawed generational hangup, and its timelessness doesn't make its very idea immutable, rather generationally adaptable. One of my favourite Fugs song is the 'Nothing' song, where everything is nothing, "Monday nothing... New Yorker nothing... Hanging out in Folkways nothing..."etc., including big Fug-fan Allen Ginsberg - "Nothing, nothing nothing!" This is the spirit in which the world becomes everything, where things' values aren't placed in an order of hierarchy or private property (David Graeber), but are shared monistly on ecologic grounds.


Meg Ulman said...

"It's not where you take things from..."

Anonymous said...

fug you the fugs!

nice post PJ, it angered me on the one hand (to hear about the hypocrisy of the fugs and their strong recommendation (!) - can you hear me yelling at the screen: i'll give you a strong recommendation with a polite "btw", bougoisie boyhood style, i.e. fist-in-face.) in a less knee-jerk sense it's actually very interesting to see your work encountering this. in a way, maybe this outcome is the proper completion of the work, it's fulfillment. not proper in any idealistic or utopian sense, but proper in the sense that transgression and defiance is central to the work, and having confronted the fugs with this (that is, the video reaching their orbit), and them having shown their hand (that is, their copyrighteousness), the taking down of the video is the completion of the work (it's ecological cycle maybe?). i would offer something like this as a parallel line of thought to the argument that: taking down the video is a defeat. but apart from the flase defeat-victory binary, there is the question of allies: so let's say the fugs had seen the video, liked it, and sent you a comment supporting both your use of their music and your stated commitments ('bringing down civilisation'), what is this support? it would be very welcome support of course, adding we hope to a community (but then, what is a community?) of digital-anarchism. this open support would then render the transgression meaningless, that is, copyright is total fiction and therefore there is no transgression. this denial of copyright (which is its own self-denial) is i think pretty important, and could rightly be considered (had the fugs not been suck fuggers) the fulfillment of the video piece. but in this hypothetical situation (of allaince with the fugs) the confrontation is still waiting to happen, no one is confronted, everyone is still in agreement, and whilst this polite alliance (or the illusion of one) dominates (and we note how the fugs try to maintain this illusion of politeness whilst making clear the threat of violence) then, does the work remains to be completed? and so i'm thinking, seeing as the fugs did make this threat of violence, since they did reveal themselves, and your work drew this revelation from them, then the disspareance of the video is the proper fulfillment of the work.

it's a thought anyhow.

Frang Ob Shaker said...

the flase defeat victory
i think this. that: taking down
in a way,
and so i'm thinking, seeing
the video
but apart
bringing downbeen suck
i think
the flase defeat victory

Anonymous said...

although, one can get bogged down in intellectualizing the whole thing...

The Garden of Self Defence said...

oh, to have made the film, to trigger the fugs, to trigger the nick who triggers the frang, who digs the garden, who triggers the Anon, who is bogged down, and who ...

oh, the regenerations!

the compost is a-brew. where do we begin and end in space, alan watts?

Anonymous said...

shall we dance then?

The Garden of Self Defence said...

yes, i have a freely downloadable dance track here:

someone said...

Nice site! Just to be 'generous', I've got some great anonymous tracks with anonymous names on my anonymous website. The best track is called 'Anon', you gotta listen to it!! Who am I again?

Anonymous said...

i'm torn between responses to the bogged-down anonymous. on the one hand, to think like patrick has, about this comment stream as layers of a compost bog, in which case my response would be: rigorous thinking (or the sustained attempt at it) is like a bog in that it is highly sensitive habitat of high importance to biodiversity. on the other hand, my frustration at ill-thought and lazy blog comments (digital waste) breeds the desire to respond with the crass and easily understood: FUG YOU! but that's probably just more hard-to-break-down digi-waste in the bog.

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