ccSalon in Joburg

I was invited by my friend Heather to visit the Joburg edition of ccSalon — an opportunity for artists subscribing to the Creative Commons idea and ideal to share and show — which was held in Melville last night.

Very cool event actually, in a great gallery space, and filled with hip and trendy looking people. I didn’t catch all of it, but heard artist Nathaniel Stern give his shpeel about how Creative Commons is opening up the opportunity for artists to collaborate and “remix” each other’s stuff; and then musicians and animators MtKidu gave a 101 on on-the-fly dance track production. Their very sexy vj played with some keys and made the pictures on the wall go all pretty.

I have a long-running confusion about the exact upside of the whole Creative Commons thing, but I realise that’s more ignorance than critique. The more activity there is around CC, the more of a revolution it seems to be unlocking. And for artists, in particular, it creates not only the means, but actually a reason, to collaborate. Simply put: it’s just cool right now to share. Maybe it always has been, and always will be. Or maybe it’s just one of the few parts of the Internet that have not become tools of the capitalist satanic mills. Time will tell.

One thing I do have a beef with CC people about (and sometimes close ally Open Source Software) is quality. Stern’s presentation, for example, centred on two artefacts. First, a “remixed” video clip of Gilberto Gil (Mr Hip Brazilian Arts and Culture Minister and jazz muso extraordinaire). And second, a poem recorded by Stern himself and remixed by various others.

Both pieces made the point clearly enough: people can take other people’s stuff and do something else with it. Okay. Point taken. But the end results of both were so amateurish that I really felt they undermined, rather than strengthened, the case. Yes, yes. I know it was all done quickly and by amateurs and whatever. But the problem is if you’re arguing for how sharing unlocks incredible creative capacity, you have to show some evidence of that. A grimy video clip and poorly produced music mix don’t do that.

Other than that, was a great event, and I certainly am inspired by many thoughts of how serendipituous collaboration may shape art and culture in the future.