The beginnings of a full-scale rant, in their raw form, an email back to a friend after a pretty innocuous comment from him. Couldn't really tell if he was being sarcastic or not, but the gray area allowed me to grow my rant.
From: Diran Lyons
To: Eli Noogabooga
You really hate Girltalk? He's a legend in the remix world...reminds me a bit of Ethank.
From: Eli Noogabooga
To: Diran Lyons
When did we communicate about Girltalk? I don't like him, but maybe I'm just an old man, railing against the yoot. He's one step further removed from cd-DJs, and even further removed from LP DJs, who really do show talent sometimes, in their mixing, etc. Girl talk as a studio artist is fine, he mashes up, he mixes and remixes, he creates a new composition from found pieces. Fine. But Girltalk getting $xx,000 to 'play' a Thursday night promo gig thrown by Canon and the magazine I work for? Fucking ridiculous. And, yes, full disclosure, I think I am a bit jealous.
My problem with Ethan's work (ed's note: ran a band's fansite before gradschool, continued doing so and as far as I could tell the only thing he changed for art grad school was the way he talked about this site. The Emperor's New Clothes theorum, as it were,) was mostly one of classification; what he was doing was mostly social engineering and social networking. His argument was that he was creating 'happenings', but most of the time it was just social networking that he was passing off as happenings. I think because of his SD background he saw himself fitting into the continuum of some of the seminal artists of that genre that are associated with that school. I think he also subscribed to the Jevbratt school of thought wherein Code = Art. This gets into a tricky area for me because its a bit of the tail wagging the dog; similar to printmakers, paper-makers, and ceramicists, the process becomes the focus of the art and the experience of the art, rather, the prescribed experience of the art by the artist, rather than a more laissez-faire attitude about viewer/user experience and appreciation really being up to them.
It is my belief that prescribing meaning is a slippery slope to a fascist and monistic attitude and posture, and that it should not be necessary to know all context specific to a piece of work for it to be understood and thus 'good'. (An argument for using language like 'good' or 'bad' in terms of art is too big to have here, so let's just assume its ok to judge ;)) I think we have had a lot of discussions about the relative value and merit of art that is text-dependant, where the Text is what drives the work, sometimes propping up the most flimsy facade.
To bring this full circle, Ethan's work is, I think, interesting, and has value, and is not merely style, but substantive. Whether or not it is art, and from there, whether or not it is 'good' art, is an altogether different discussion, but I don't think it is art, rather it is craft, technical skill, and from there, it is most definitely not good art. Girl Talk's remixes might be art, but definitely not good art, as they are 100% style, and are merely pastiche. He is a visual decoupagist, not even on the level of a true collage artist. That he is valued in the more public realm of popular music, commands money, etc. does not solidify him as an Artist, rather as an entertainer. He is a huckster selling snake oil, and he is louder than the other slimy hucksters clambering for the same bit of soap box in the town square.