Radio Student Interview on Drugs in Literature and Theory

I just did an interview with Lana Durjava for Slovenian radio station Radio Student.  The introduction is in Slovenian, but starting around 9:40, the interview itself is in English. It’s very wide ranging, and we really get into the ways that specific drugs appear in history and in literature.

On WFMU with DJ /rupture, Monday Dec. 27th

I’ll be talking with DJ /rupture a.k.a. Jace Clayton next Monday, December 27th on his WFMU show, from 6-8 p.m.  Jace is one of the finest DJs on this planet or any other, and one of the deepest thinkers about dancehall sounds in the age of globalization.  I’ve learnt a lot from him over the years. In particular, his blog, Mudd Up! is a must read for anyone interested in understanding new global dance sounds. He has some interesting things to say about In Praise of Copying.  Aside from talking about World Music 2.0, the global rise of Autotune, and how to live in a world of copies without originals, I’m going to play some music: expect Kuduro, Logobi, Saharan psychedelia, Ramadanman as well as some clips from other folks’ mixes and some archival hauntings.

Listen to the podcast, in two parts, here.

Where We Live: Copying and Creativity

I had a very interesting hour long conversation yesterday on Connecticut NPR’s Where We Live show, hosted by John Dankosky, exploring the relationship between copying and creativity. You can download the podcast here.

Joining me were musician/theorist remix guru DJ Spooky and law professor Susan Scafidi.  Spooky was one of the first to point out in his book Rhythm Science (2004) that sampling is not just something that hip-hop artists do with old records, but that processes of cutting and pasting, appropriation and montage are fundamental to the way that all human cultures work, whether they recognize it or not.  Spooky’s comments in the interview yesterday about the way a good copy is situational, responding to the environment in a meaningful way help me to rethink an ethics of copying.  A bad copy by extension would be one that is insensitive to or ignorant of environment and relationships.  But that raises the question of what is appropriate, and for whom, which is a difficult question.  Cheap knock-off bags may be bad because they show a lack of attention to the qualities that go into making a high end bag, and because they perhaps intend to deceive. But from the point of view of poor people who can’t afford expensive branded bags and who enjoy the styling, they may be good.

I’m a great fan of Susan Scafidi’s blog Counterfeit Chic, which taught me a lot about brands and their various doubles. Scafidi is the director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham U. (the first institute of its kind)  and the author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law (2003).  What struck me the most in our conversation yesterday was Scafidi’s cautionary note about there being a taboo on copying because copying comes too easily to us.  I accept the importance of the taboo, and the way it is managed through laws and traditions, while wanting to be very conscious of the particular political and economic histories that our own responses to the taboo have been shaped by.  In other words, contemporary IP law is only one of a number of possible ways of responding to a need to control the proliferation of copies, and much of our fear of copying today is actually a fear of a different, possibly more fair society.

Copycats on CBC radio, Saturday Nov. 27

Sook-Yin Lee took a stroll with me through Chinatown to discuss copying for her radio show DNTO, which airs this Saturday, November 27, 2 p.m., on CBC Radio 1. You can listen to the podcast here.  We did a whole section of the interview live in a TD Bank ATM booth, watching people taking out cash, and trying to think through what that weirdest of copies, money, is really about. While it’s quite clear to me that paper money is literally a copy, the question “what is money a copy of?” is a very difficult one. Best response for me is found in George Simmel’s remarkable 1907 book The Philosophy of Money, which I notice Arjun Appadurai is also a fan of. Money is very close to the unstable plasticity of mimesis itself. It represents, i.e. imitates, value, but again, what does that really mean? For Marx, value itself could be a kind of hallucination whose effects were nonetheless very real … something that the current financial crises confirm. Money proliferates, it’s a great example of the contagiousness of mimesis, and it was a pleasure to watch people taking  small stacks of bills from the ATM, one after another — a very orderly proliferation.  But as a copy, money is also unstable and disappears, as those that bought subprime mortgage instruments in the belief that they represented something, now know.  Simmel struggles with this paradox: that money is supposed to be a guarantee of value, of the stability of the system of valuing, but is nonetheless in practice highly unstable.  But isn’t the enormous national and international financial apparatus, from the World Bank to academic economics to governmental monetary policy an indication of how much work it is to maintain the stability of the “original” of monetary value, and stop it from turning into a “mere”, “worthless”, “copy”?

When I was working on In Praise of Copying, someone told me, or perhaps I read somewhere that the Canadian visual art group General Idea had written that “money was the first multiple”, i.e. the first mass produced art object a la Marcel Duchamp.  I tried to verify the statement, or find a source, but I was never able to do so.  I guess that would make it a counterfeit statement about counterfeiting? Buyer beware …

Rorotoko Interview

An interview with me re. copying and related matters in Rorotoko.