(Post by Jen)

While I was reading chapter two of The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties last night I came across the passage where Coombe discusses "artists of approbation" like Cindy Sherman (p. 73). I thought immediately of the work of Candice Breitz, who creates art-space exhibits of fans performing their favorite albums. She has done exhibits on Michael Jackson, John Lennon, and Bob Marley. For each piece, she records about thirty fans singing/performing a particular album in its entirety and then plays these recordings simultaneously in the exhibition space, eliminating the original recording and music to leave just the voice and image of the fans. 

I read Breitz' work as an effort to make the discursive process of cultural production visible. In removing the original recording, she places emphasis on the fans, thus disrupting the dichotomy between subject and object. She shows how fans do not simply consume culture; they play an active role in its production and the negotiation of its meaning. In this sense, Bretitz' work reminds me of Bakhtin's concept of dialogics (Coombe, p. 82-3). 

Here is an article where you can read more about one of Bretiz' exhibits. This analysis of her work in particular caught my eye:
Breitz is interested in the biographical aspect of pop culture, the way music and films become personal soundtracks to our lives. For her, and for so many of her contemporaries, using preexisting material from the mass media in order to create art is urgent, necessary, and practically unavoidable—a condition that mirrors the way commercial entertainment infiltrates all of our lives. Breitz's art reminds us of how important it is to step out of the role of passive consumer and digest mainstream media to our own ends.  --Rudolf Frieling, SFMOMA Curator of Media Arts 
Notice here how Frieling appeals to the rhetoric of "information wants to be free" when he states that "using preexisting material from the mass media in order to create art is urgent, necessary, and practically unavoidable." After reading Boyle, I can see how the assumption that appropriating preexisting materials is necessarily good (or even unavoidable) is problematic. It is interesting to see how the curator "sells" Breitz' work by appealing to this conception of information, even if I do not agree with his understanding of why her work is important in the first place.

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