Monthly Archives: February 2009

NYPL Lecture: Remix (Part 1)

Last night was a sold-out lecture at the New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos forum, featuring Steven Johnson, Lawrence Lessig, and Shepard Fairey speaking on a panel titled “Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.” The panel posed their guiding question as follows: “What is the future for art and ideas in an age when practically anything can be copied, pasted, downloaded, sampled, and re-imagined?” The audience was mostly what you’d imagine, on the younger side and with a visible hipster contingent. It doesn’t seem to be available on iTunes yet (search “nypl”), but I’m betting it will be eventually, which would be rather in keeping with the panel’s topic. I came, of course, because of my interest in the political economy of textual production, distribution, appropriation, use, and re-use; and because of the ways I see that cycle relating to what we (me, you, our students, our colleagues) do in the classroom, but also because it was an excuse to get into the city on a weeknight, to have a tasty NYC meal (OMG Bangladeshi spiced lamb), and to feel like a bit of an itinerant again, at loose ends and doing interesting things.

Interior of the Celeste Bartos forum

The panel began with Andrew Filipone Jr.’s hilariously surreal and somewhat menacing video of Charlie Rose interviewing himself, titled “Charlie Rose by Samuel Beckett,” as a sort of introduction to the panel’s concern with remixing.

Steven Johnson then started his talk by suggesting that what he hoped would be exciting about the panel conversation would be both its timeliness and its timelessness.

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Kitchen Tables

This year, the Henry Ossian Flipper dinner was open to faculty, and I went. It was a fine event. The dinner celebrates the first black American cadet to graduate from West Point, and celebrates as well a cadet who graduated under the most challenging of circumstances, and who served his country and lived his life, quotidian, under those same circumstances.

Henry O. Flipper as a cadet

There’s a lesson to be had not only from Lieutenant Flipper, but from the cadets: a lesson that challenge, that difficulty, is quotidian, for some more than others. (Lieutenant Flipper’s account of his time as a cadet is genuinely remarkable, and well worth reading.) In 1877, Henry O. Flipper became the first African-American to graduate from the United States Military Academy, and in 1881 he was court-martialed for embezzlement and for conduct unbecoming an officer, and was dismissed from the Army in 1882 upon conviction on the latter charge.

Henry O. Flipper as an officer

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