Nothing is Original

Jim Jarmusch - Nothing is Original

~ by emilypothast on January 26, 2010.

2 Responses to “Nothing is Original”

  1. Inspiration and appropriation are two different things, the memes that “nothing is original” and “it has all been done before” are in my estimation correct. Where I find difficulty with the Jarmusch quote here, is the context. The quote is rule #5 from Jarmusch’s THE GOLDEN RULES OF FILMING. http://bit.ly/117RP

    Cinema generally is a collaborative effort that is fed by many sources and people. You could argue that all art making is a collaboration on some level, but film has unique properties that static arts do not share. Film is linear, time based and narrative.

    Why this struck a chord in me is that visual artists nurture their authenticity, polish their craft and create a practice. To me the Jarmusch quote in a traditional visual art context suggests a modular way of creating art. Just borrow or appropriate elements of the art that “speaks to your soul” and voilà you have art. I do believe it is art just not very authentic. I think a trip to any summer art fair will bear this out hypothesis.

  2. Artistculture,

    Thanks for commenting, and that’s a great blog you have there. And thanks for the point about art that borrows what’s hot, for instance, at the summer art fairs. I don’t follow that stuff as closely as I could, but I’m sure you’re right.

    In “stealing” and reposting this quote, I was definitely responding to it, first and foremost, in an existential or metaphysical sense. That is to say, I have trouble buying into the notion that one individual human being, with his tiny life span and even tinier level of insight into the workings of the universe that for whatever reason sees fit to use him as a conduit of creation, can declare ownership over an idea, concept, or technique. (Or objects, or real estate…etc.) We all die and our dustheaps immediately become someone else’s problem. At best, we are caretakers of that which we would aim to possess, including our ideas.

    To me, Jarmusch’s quote sidesteps this blind audacity by assuring us that no matter how much ownership our egos would have us desire to claim, there is always a new genius waiting in the wings to begin the game with the same points we spent a lifetime earning. Better to acknowledge all of this fluidity as a rule of the game, and sacrifice the ego’s attachment to the higher goal that is the selfless nurturing and promotion of beauty.

    While I don’t think it’s possible to become a great artist by wantonly stealing from what’s popular, I don’t think that’s what this quote encourages me to do. The operative is “Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul.” I think the process of actually learning to see and capture what speaks directly to one’s soul is a long, holy road, the same road that leads to the “authenticity” we both value. This advice, if followed to the letter, is hardly as easy as it sounds.

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