Prophesy to the Wind

It is a humbling experience to have suddenly thousands and thousands of readers daily taking a peek at your thoughts. Happened to me last week, when WP posted my “Deathwatch” on their front page. I mean, I’m used to having people viewing my images, but not my words so much. They had about a million postings to choose from (during those three days it remained there) and about a dozen got chosen. Random? Yes. Luck? Absolutely. But quite a ride, makes you think – and makes you very, very humble…

Burke Campbell and the story of his "science fiction" idea of writing and delivering with a computer, published in The Financial Post 1997

One of the best spin-offs of this type of being “fleetingly famous”  – as one journalism student in Australia referred to it in her very insightful commentary – is the amount of discussion and contacts it generates. Quite a lot of them are shown below the original post, but some people choose to approach with email. One of the most thought-provoking encounters I’ve had has been with a writer and journalist Burke Campbell from Canada.He pointed me to a post he himself wrote earlier this summer entitled “Prophesy to the Wind“. I won’t repeat it here – read it yourself, it’s fascinating – but the parallels are amazing with the experiences he describes happened in the early eighties (when the idea that you could write with a computer, transfer and deliver with a computer sounded like a science fiction), compared to what I was discussing with my Deathwatch of the Print – posting  and what is happening in our print and publishing industry presently.

My sincerest thanks to all the people who took the trouble of commenting – it generated a lot of food for thought and I will be coming back to this in the future several times.

On Sharing Your Work

The whole idea of blogging (and most of the social media) is sharing your work – be it images, words, thoughts… I say all the time that I write to challenge my own assumptions.

You try to formulate it the best you can, post it, hope that somebody sees it, maybe takes it further, maybe comments on it, whatever. Best possible scenario: it comes back to you in a more evolved and sophisticated form.

I’m a great believer in this. There are a couple of writers who have given me so much influence and inspiration  that I will be in debt for a long time – and I hope to be able to return the favor – maybe not directly to them, but maybe to somebody else looking for inspiration for their own work. Burke Campbell mentioned above is one of them (BTW, I asked him if I could use his original headline for this post and he said yes).

Also, you need influences from the outside.  To do remarkable work requires input from others – there is only so much you can cook up with yourself.

But there is a world of difference between sharing and pure copy-and-paste or ripping off. Let me share one example.

LIVEFEED

This is something I did about 10 days ago and it is very much like the  LIVEFEED I did in Barcelona. This time instead of using my own logos, I inserted the clients logo on the upper left corner. My assignment was boxing and I did this as a timing exercise: each round was 3 min with a break of 1 min in between. I tried – and succeeded – in transmitting and displaying images from each round (1-4 images) before the next round started. Very much like I did in Barcelona, as I said, but just faster, faster…

Now, couple of days later a friend referred me to a blog of another finnish photographer  – which is unfortunately in Finnish only.  But even just looking at the image, I am sure you can see some similarity in his “work”? (I won’t link to it, as I intend to make a more general point and not to rant – if possible).

He brags how he had been watching what I’d done and then – as he meticulously explains “while he was driving home from an assignment, just to pass time,  with his left hand, he just came up with this – very simple, nothing to it, just embed-codes, dreamweaver, whatever, etc”. –  and to top it off, he adds: “… that he sees no value nor any possible use of this kind of approach”. But – he did it.

Basically he is saying: “This is shit, but look at me, I can do it just like that, nothing to it”. Sounds awfully alike a little child  and a desperate cry of “Mommy-look-Mommy-no-hands-and-I-learned-it-in-no-time” – or something similar.

I agree with one thing: there is nothing to it. Hitting alt-shift-U (in Safari) to view the sourcecode shows no trace of creativity – it is pure copy and paste.

I’ve seen text copied, images copied, music copied – sure, you can copy webdesign, code or an approach just as well. You can – should you?

Someone said to me recently: “You know, the most brilliant people aren’t those who know a whole lot, but those who can synthesize all that information”. I couldn’t agree more and the majority of my work is just that: synthesizing.

What he did has nothing to do with synthesizing nor sharing – it’s just copy-and-paste. Ripping off.

I posted my work from Barcelona well aware that somebody would copy it  – and hopefully take it further. That is the whole purpose of sharing: take it further – develop it  – and pass it on.

A hack working in the same market, doing a 100% copy-and-paste job –  with a very dismissive tone if I may add – and trying to sell to the same clientele, sometimes to the worst competitor of your client (with a cheaper price tag, no doubt)  was a bit of a surprise – but then again, maybe not. I know he has a history of doing this repeatedly and I should have seen it coming (but as I promised: no ranting, so I shut up).

He says one intelligent thing in his post and that is when he states that he doesn’t really see a situation where he could use this. And that becomes a self-reflecting prophecy : because for that your would need original thinking – not just ripping off others and doing mechanic copy-and-paste – and obviously in his case, that is not an option.

Update( two hours later):

The posting I was referring to has been removed – so in case you were looking for it, you won’t find it. So beside the point – and I so rest my case.

9 Comments

  1. adam
    September 17, 2010

    When people look at abstract expressionist painting they say ‘I could’ve done that’! A simple phrase which ignores all of the significance of actually having done it.

    Most such commentators never do do it; which ultimately is the end of any meaningful discussion with them. In this case, someone has ‘done it’ and then says its easy and unimportant. Although this is a step on from not having done it at all, it is still a simpletons argument.

    After Duchamp ‘invented’ the ready-made, or after Picasso and Braque invented collage, or after Pollock put down the brush and started pouring paint on… then anyone can take up that mantle and run with it. Or they can, with all the luxury of hindsight, say it is easy to do and just copy it.

    But that’s all it is: a copy. Sometimes, sadly, the copy goes on to be more recognised than the original. (Alexander Graham Bell nicked the idea of the telephone from another inventor, but we remember Bell as having invented it). As you say, the creditable thing to do is to acknowledge this new approach and work out how it effects you, where you can take it, what you can add to it.

    Art history, for me, is mostly based on the idea of ‘What if’? You see one thing, (and this need not be restricted only to other art), and then you work out how that leads to the next step. A perpetual stepping over the imaginary line, if you like. Taking what exists and moving to the next level. To just take what exists and repeat it and then say its crap misses the point. It’s why so much amateur art fails. You just can’t rip off abstract expressionism in the 21st century. It is nullified and empty. It carries non of the resonance that it did in the 1950s. (And its always Abstract Expressionism people rip off since its technically the easiest. No one rips off marble sculptures or frescos… funny that).

    Anyone with any seriousness about their work knows this and anyone looking in who knows anything about art knows this. I imagine this is why your particular copycat has removed their mimicry pretty sharply…

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      September 18, 2010

      Hi Adam –

      thank you for taking time to comment and for your insightful words. Funny: I had originally thought of starting my post with exactly the same comparison: if somebody saw Picasso’s cubism era figures and said: “I could do that…” it would be showing total ignorance on the concept of art.

      I chose not to use this example, as I could not formulate it so that somebody would not twist it into: “so you compare your work to that of Pablo Ruiz?”

      Absolutely not, but the principle is the same. Art can be defined in several ways – and I am by no means an expert in this – but one definition is doing something and delivering something nobody has thought of before.

      Your words: “What if? …And a perpetual stepping over the imaginary line… Moving to the next level”. That is art. Insightful – and spot on.

      This summer when I said I was doing art, this is exactly what I meant : I was thinking about stuff, creating plans, approaches, workflows, themes nobody had done before – at least not that I know of. Some of them are still in my head, some of them I have already put into paper. Some are in beta. Yes, I was painting and shooting images as well, but I didn’t mean that. Art doesn’t have to be done with a brush – or a camera. Art is aspiring to do something original.

      I love your passion when you talk about art. It’s almost tangible, I can see it is important to you. Thank you for sharing that.

      Copycats are typically harmless. As you said , anyone with any seriousness about their work can recognize plain copy-paste when they see it. Copycats are in part slightly amusing, partly annoying – mostly pathetic.

      “Plagiarism is the most honest form of flattery” said an email a friend sent me last night – and I smiled and I cannot but agree. When it is spiced up with very dismissive comments of the original – you know you have touched a nerve.

      But when the copycat is selling to the same clients – or their competitor – a cheap copied-and-pasted version of your idea – and in the dire straights our industry is at the moment, the clients are either too busy or too broke to care – then the situation changes. In my book, it is no cat anymore, but very much like in the novel by Kafka, it has transformed itself into a cockroach. And I am pretty sure we all share how we feel about them.

      Reply
  2. adam
    September 19, 2010

    Absolutely… The act of making art works for an art world or art audience, (even if only academically and not commercially), has certain elements that necessitate following a predessor. Most young artists do this and perhaps it is essential in order to make the next step yourself? (… a hommage to…). One needs to try something to ‘get it’ fully and therefore see where it will lead you. Even if that is perhaps nowhere, it’s still a useful exercise. (I always think the same of seeing a crap exhibition; it reaffirms or readdresses what ones concept of a good exhibition is).

    God knows I’ve taken enough images that look like Weegee’s and even set up an exact Thomas Allen once just to be sure of the genius of its simplicity. But I would neither show it was my own work nor bad mouth it for having been able to reproduce a facsimile.

    But, as you say, there is a significant difference in doing this compared to doing it in a commercial world where one is trying to undercut or undermine competitors.

    (I hasten to add that i’m not trying to say photography does not exist within the art world! :) Nor that even explicitly press/sport/nature/whatever images can not exist within a fine art context. Although images have codes which help fix them in the worlds that they stem from, they can still exist outside of those worlds. A press or sports image can still operate successfully in a gallery space).

    And, finally, once again I agree… if one likens something to someone uber-famous there is a danger of that being misinterpreted!!! :) But I also think it’s an important comparison. Whether one is looking at students work or Renaissance masters, I think the same criteria should be applied. One expects a level of seriousness and dedication to any work…

    (Somedays i think i take art far too seriously….)! :)

    Reply
  3. Tommi
    September 24, 2010

    I noticed that rip off page too. I was wondering the page layout how it was exactly like yours including the embedded Twitter feed as well as all the other parts. I had been following your live stream previously, so it did not require a second look to understand that he was using your source code.

    Luckily, it is not usually the tool that is the main thing, but the creative use for it as you pointed out. Of course the tool itself can be also creative, but in a different context. It’s more relevant how you use the tool and how it triggers your creative thoughts. There has to be original thinking in order to sustain what your are doing. It gives the motivation and stamina to go forward.

    I have experienced web site rip off too. A guy stole part of the content from my site. I share the articles that I create and I’m happy if I get visitors to my site, but this guy copy-pasted my articles and presented them as his own. I managed to sort things out when I reached him via email.

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      September 25, 2010

      Hi Tommi –

      thank you for commenting, appreciate it. If you noticed that rip off, so you must be viewing this cockroach’s (as I so lovingly named him in my previous answer…) blog occasionally – so you might have noticed also how he about a year ago was bragging how his is going to do this animated sequence shot from Ruka skijumping WC… “like he’d seen KK do it, but now he’d only do it better”. Based on this statement, I was also curious to see it….but he never published anything.

      Then, he went to Suomu to do an imitation of the moguls sequences during the WC competition (as he’d heard I was planning to do prior to the olympics…) for a competing client – again total flat, again nothing published.

      After that, he even travelled to Canada with the brilliant idea of doing panoramic images of the olympic venue locations prior to the olympics…. and nothing. The only panoramic “work” I have seen of his – which might be a limited selection as I most certainly do not follow his “work” on a steady basis – is a image of his daughter playing on the yard – naturally spiced with ” well, I have seen KK doing this – and although this is shit – I will do it anyway…” -style comments. Familiar style with the Livefeed -rip off commentary.

      But: during the olympics, he DID do one panorama: showing off his hotel room… I mean, PLEASE?

      They come in all sizes – as the saying goes – but please, how about an occasional look in the mirror on what one does? How about an original idea occasionally?

      The sad part about this is that clients – including the majority of our national daily press – don’t seem to see thru this… I give this “cockroach” credit for one thing and that is having the verbal talent of a used car salesman: he can obviously convince an eskimo that he’d absolutely have to buy an add campaign of freezers from him.

      His latest exploits are too unbelievable to be commented here – I’ll save that for another day.

      But, you understand my frustration? Times like this – when we really could use some new ideas or somebody doing something original – pure crap like this just pours on….

      K

      Reply
  4. Tommi
    September 25, 2010

    Huh, that’s bad and sad. I did not know what has happened previously. I just ended up to his blog one day, so I have not actually followed his posts. I definitely can feel your pain. Really frustrating!

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      September 25, 2010

      Well, Tommi –

      pain is a bit too strong a word… I’d maybe call it annoyance or frustration instead. Mostly because seems like nobody really cares or notices. As long as you promise to deliver it cheap, they buy it. Even if you never deliver… but at least it was cheap ;-)

      Reply
  5. adam
    September 26, 2010

    As an aside…. Have you read Evelyn Waugh’s novel ‘Scoop’?

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      September 26, 2010

      No I haven’t – I quickly googled it, and put it on my list… (which is long already…). I will try to reply to your comment to my “Clear signs…” -post tomorrow, depends how much work I get done.
      Nice to know you are keeping an eye on my writing.

      K

      Reply

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