One of the characteristics of Web 2.0 as described by Tim O’Reilly is its “hackability”: sites, services and applications are built by successive strokes, by continuously rearranging existing bricks. This is the spirit of mash-ups (aggregation of content from other sources) or applications using other web services’ API (Google Maps, Twitter, etc..)
This trend is not only technical, it is behavioral. It has an impact on various aspects of life, including art. The Los Angeles Times provides a good analysis of this in their article “Essay: Technology changes how art is created and perceived”.
The article relies on several examples. One of them is the Johnny Cash project . It is a tribute to Johnny Cash on which Web users are invited to collectively build a video clip for the song “Ain’t No Grave”. Participants can submit a drawing for each frame of the video and / or vote for their favorite designs.The result of this process of collective creation (crowdsourcing) will be the final clip.
Another example is Reality Hunger , a book by David Shields, made as a collage of 600 fragments from other books.
The phenomenon of “remix” or enhancements of existing works has gained an unprecendented momentum. True, works inspired by earlier pieces of art are not new. Pop art has extensively used this creative process, with Andy Warhol or Lichtenstein, for example. But until now a person was at work, crafted the overall plan, provided a direction, an intent. It is still the case with Reality Hunger. But will the sum of thousands of uncoordinated edits in an initiative such as the Johnny Cash project result in a coherent piece of art? If so, it will not necessarily be anonymous (participants can register a user name) but it will be apersonal if not impersonal ; it will be a one thousand contributors work without an author. Unless we suggest that this collectivity of users is driven by an invisible hand, a metaphysical collective being, and that the final work reflects a person transcending the multitude …