all creative work is derivative

Artist Nina Paley took her camera, and some volunteers, to the Met Museum in NYC and took photos of 914 statues and then combined them to make a moving, dancing video sculpture. Her thesis is that all creative work builds on what has gone before.

She says, "The whole history of human culture evolves through copying, making tiny transformations (sometimes called "errors") with each replication. Copying is the engine of cultural progress. It is not "stealing." It is, in fact, quite beautiful, and leads to a cultural diversity that inspires awe."

So, does that mean it's OK for agency creatives to borrow ideas from YouTube?

You can find out more about how and why she did it here.

I found the video at TV Mole.

3 thoughts on “all creative work is derivative”

  1. Then is the important question are you evolving and building on the idea or are you ‘borrowing’ it and adding nothing / inspired by or imitating? As someone comments on the page reinterpretation shouldn’t be confused with copying.

    She says ‘A copyright maximalist would say that this movie is uncreative, as though I used photos of old sculptures because I was too lazy to make my own…
    Or maybe the copyright maximalist would say this movie is creative, because I only photographed non-copyrighted works.’

    But clearly she’s taken inspiration from the statues (copyrighted or not) and reinterpreted them in her own way (unless she’s directly copying someone else’s YouTube video of Met statues dancing), so neither of those options applies.

  2. It’s a great video and a great idea, but no, I don’t think that means it’s OK to ‘borrow’ ideas from YouTube – unless it’s done in the right way.

    The right way would be something like Diesel spending a bit of money to reward the members of the Something Awful forums when they used its ‘Safe For Work Porn’ thread as the basis of their new viral. They acknowledged where the idea came from and they thanked the people who thought of it. That seems fair enough.

    Not so fair is something like the Berocca ad that badly rips off OK Go’s (very famous) music video for ‘Here It Goes Again’. No acknowledgement, no thanks, no payment. Just a straight steal.

    What Nina Paley’s video has done, though, is neither of these things. She’s used something existing (the statues) and taken them in an entirely new direction. I don’t think anyone would argue that that wasn’t on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *