Culture Rover

#68 - Chain Reaction

Molinillo has a nice riff on the "skein of love and theft that is the cultural process." Probing New York Times critic Kelefa Sanneh's positive spin on retro garage rock, nostalgia, and the new White Stripes album, Get Behind Me Satan, Molinillo writes:

  • "The key thing to note, as Sanneh does, is how even a nostalgic music can harbor untold illusions, how something that initially sounds retro may, in fact, herald something new. This is a kind of magic. It is also what the best art does: it takes this and makes it that. Or, to paraphrase the White Stripes, it takes a white orchid and turns it blue."

The one thing I would add is to take note of the other line in the chorus of the White Stripes' amazing new song "Blue Orchid": "You got a reaction, didn't you." That's the other part of the cultural process that matters a lot too -- reaction. Reaction instead of creation. Maybe reaction offers a much better model than those bugaboos authenticity and originality for understanding how art and culture get made.

Reaction is about the space between self and other, things and people, makers and their predecessors and their receivers. Reaction is always wrapped up in the desires and politics of listening, borrowing, ignoring, stealing, returning, responding. Reaction is impurity and unoriginality as the starting point. Because you have to start somewhere to get somewhere else, even when along the way you feel like you've gotten home or are getting nowhere.

12 June 2005

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