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Steal this zombie art #WINNING #cut4bieber

January 24, 2014

This post was inspired by Lil’ Kim zombie art infringement allegations, which have now become a law suit, but then spins into a diatribe about copyright-pop-culture, mentioning Justin Bieber, Eminem and Jonah Lehrer.

First, Ms.Kim — see TMZ: “Home
Lil Kim — BOARD UP THE WINDOWS … Zombie Girl Sues
” and previously TMZ: Lil’ Kim Threatened With Lawsuit Over Zombie Face” :

Canadian artist Samantha Ravndahl lashed out at Kim on social media websites in November for lifting her scary image off Reddit, then using it on the Lil’ Kim website and Instagram accounts to promote her music.
… the lawyer’s letter points out a Lil’ irony. Kim once went on Hot 97 radio and complained Nicki Minaj stole her swag, adding, “If you are going to steal my swag, you gonna have to pay.”

In previous zombie music recall Nicki Minaj zombie (and Usher zombie. More recently, Flatbush Zombies and “zombie” is also in the new Eminem song “Rap God”.

Just after Superman and Thor comic book reference, Eminem raps:

I’m the walking dead, But I’m just a talking head, a zombie floating

which Rap Genius annotates:

He’s saying that metaphorically his words are as scary as a zombie. Note the Walking Dead & zombie reference
He may also be saying that just like a zombie, he won’t die. He’s immortal (being a “Rap God”), and has a cemented legacy in hip-hop.
Fun fact: both Marvel and DC have characters that are just floating heads.

On “floating heads”, notice the connection to phenomenology and the mind-body problem (like in the Zombie Brain USB drives). And on “immortal” artists, recall ZombieLaw commentary about Bill O’Reilly zombie and living forever in the cable TV archive.

Another connotation that the Rap Genius annotations don’t mention is that “talking head” is a reference to television personalities in general. The image of their heads beamed into our living rooms for the audience to suck down, and as Em says:

a zombie floating, But I got your mom deep throating

He then goes on to reference Ramen…

Meanwhile, the issue of repurposing of artwork for new art is an important issue for the digital community, which is an important part of the relationship between hackers and zombies; DIY vs. consumerism; issues of authorship, and like Frankenstein, parts reassembled into new monsters.

On this issue, see also the recent controversies of Shia LeBouf. This young actor who made stardom by literally acting alongside virtual reality characters in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series. But recently Shia LeBouf has been made himself synonymous with plagiarism. see this MTV article. It seems to have started when he used Daniel Clowes graphic novel as a storyboard for a new movie. But then it just keeps expanding into this ongoing sequences of outright copying. LeBouf tweets a sequence of apologies to Daniel Clowes but the apologies themselves are taken from others’ words. In interview he says this is what actors do, they take the material of writers and they perform it. That therefore, the rules about plagiarism and copyright are censors to great artist performances.

Actors perform great writing of the past. And words are always taken from others’ words. All works of art are in some way derivative of prior works. We exist within a culture of knowledge and nothing cannot be created ab nilio, always some prior work precedes the novelty, always the novelty itself is only understood as novelty because of prior thought. And yet sometimes, new work is sufficiently trans-formative that it is not longer a copy. This highly contextual question is more than a legal question, it is a moral question. What are the rights of man to control his creations but also what of the rights of man to speak? And the right of the creation themselves to exist without a master? Ideas are worth spreading and ideas are bulletproof!

Recall ZombieLaw post on James Patterson and Foucault’s Author Function. What does it mean for Robert Patterson to have written a book if he sketches out the outline and a team of unnamed writing staff construct from there? Or what of great architects like Frank Lloyd Wright whose name is famous but had a staff of people who worked for him — so too Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Who invented the telephone? Did he write it? At what point is it “his” ideas. Is it a question of ownership or a question of labor? Hollywood was created in part because this little town in California was too far from New York for Edison to prosecute his patent claims. Patents that he himself would have violated years earlier.

Then consider Jonah Lehrer, his “Proust is a Neuroscientist” made him famous at a young age, but then fabricating words into Bob Dylan’s author-function was unacceptable and so he’s out. It used to be Jonah Lehrer and Malcolm Gladwell. Now it’s just Malcolm Gladwell… as his “David and Goliath” points out, we underestimate who will best perform. Now, the public wants more science like Gladwell’s. Like TED-talk science. Ideas worth spreading. But experts fear populist science. They point to climate science deniers and evolution controversialists and so many other projects of anti-elite science. It’s an issue of power and authority. Because Proust was a Neuroscientist but that doesn’t mean we can stop reading Proust and focus on reading PET scans. The PET signals are meaningless without understanding the culture.

We need more funding for humanities not every university buying magnetic rock machines. Yes we are our brain signals but stories get into the brain faster than medicine. Medicine can modulate experience. Stories can change the meaning of those experiences. Reading Proust changes the meaning of a cookie. His cookie brings back memories and those memories must be dealt with. The populist stories are important because they shape the culture.

If all ideas come from other ideas, how do we help the good ones spread. The old media world required physical movement of words on paper. Gatekeepers controlled. The new world is faster. We changed the means of production of meaning. It’s cheaper and easier to disseminate information. We are psychotic animals we have a hard time avoiding our own rationalizations and really giving fair evaluation to ideas.

This is why it was so wonderful when Shia apologized by sky-writing in clouds. Tweets are as ephemeral as the vapor in the sky. And he is an actor. A douchey actor who wants attention. We have an economy that depends on compensating artists for their work. But actually it’s not about the artists at all. It’s about the publishers. The publishers need to get paid. Then they pay the artists some pittance too. But the publishing companies are what the copyright is designed for. (Who ate the loss on Jonah Lehrer? him or his publisher? where will he appear next… ) The publishers invest in the artist and in many ways, that PR machine is what makes the artist into somebody (and then chews them up and spits many out). The investment is expensive and they want to control access but information wants to be free. This is the tagline of Anonymous. That zombie horde hive mind of pseudonomous cyber protesters, considered a criminal organization by the FBI. Shia LeBeouf’s philosophy is right on point. Copyright is censorship. Lil Kim’s team appropriated internet art. That’s what Anonymous is all about.

Today, the internet is also abuzz with Justin Bieber’s mug shot; so glassy-eyed but with a big shit eating grin. This is his Frank Sinatra mug shot moment. This is PR heaven. He’s in a Lamborghini, he’s arrested for resisting arrest. This plays to the market. And there’s nothing quite like getting arrested in Florida to make sure that the whole thing is all over the media from the moment it happens.

So let’s imagine we are Lil’ Kim’s PR team and you see this neat zombie pic, do you try to contact the artist and pay them, or maybe just take it and if they sue, great, more press for us! Break the rules, win the game. Get arrested in a lamborghini and smile for the camera. Mugshot gold! Charlie Sheen taught the world about winning. For a while it looked like is Shia LeBoef was winning. And this zombie art law suit seems like a PR win so far for Kim. The bigger the controversy gets it’s almost better for the celebrity. All press is good press (well unless there is some significant monetary court judgment which their could be with copyright cases, very significant fines, absurdly significant!).

Before closing, let’s look some more at the Eminem album with “Rap God” on it. It also includes extensive sampling, reference and direct quotes from many other famous artists. This is not to imply that Emimen has done anything like the copying the Leboef did of Clowes work, but that there is a very slippery slope here between copying and derivative work and transformative use. In the theories of Antonin Artaud, an actor could never make the same utterance twice, there was always some slight difference in gesture or articulation. For Artaud sound in a theater is physical projection of waves through space, and so even the change in air space changes the performance. What can this concept of acting mean in an age of instant digital reproduction?

And finally for the excessively rambling post, SWNS: “Zombie make-up artist’s Facebook page shut down after do-gooders claim she was promoting SELF-HARM“:

Zombie make-up artist Sarah McCracken told today how her Facebook page was shut down — after shocked visitors thought she was promoting self-harm.

Which reminds me of #cut4bieber (are they still doing that?) Well, it’s good press for this makeup artist, right? Cosplay-makeup so real, it was banned! For her next PR move maybe get arrested, or sued…

In conclusion: “Shia LaBeouf Explains Plagiarism Drama: My Twitter Is “Meta-Modernist Performance Art”” by Lily Harrison at E!

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  1. zombie as appropriated likeness | zombielaw

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