Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is the concept of originality dead?

There's no such thing as originality. The need to be unique is condemned to be a thing of the past.

As a growing amount of authors, singers, designers - hell anyone who's in the creative field is accused of plagiarism these days. You only have to listen to every second song to hear a melody was taken from another song. Modern day films are identical to copies of classical films, we're stuck with the notion that we're running out of ideas. Ever since history was written onto books, we've always reworked themes to suit the context of our times. However, we may have a certain limit to how much imagination humanity has.

These days, everybody is copying everyone else. From chain store brands copying the latest fashion from the catwalks of Milan at the fraction of the price, to television stations copying each other in genres such as food and talent shows. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It encourages participates from both sides to do a better version of a theme. In recent years, the quality of the copy is either similar or even surpasses the original. It's accessible to the ordinary citizen and may bring a multitude of enviable characteristics. There's no need to chime the phrase, "Copy is inferior".

I prefer watching shows like "The 70s Show" than going through a time machine to live in the 70s, because I feel like it's a boring time for me. While plastic flowers will never die and don't require watering. My understanding of copies comes from personal experience.

As a kid, my parents bought a tea towel which featured "The Scream" by Van Gogh. It displayed all the aura a portrait has, as well as being a humble rag which was functional. It also had a ghosting effect, due to a printing fault. The towel was laid out in our kitchen, unlike the pompous 10 inch bullet proof glass.

When I saw the painting years later, it wasn't as magnificent as I thought it was. I missed the grease and vegetable oil that the man his jaundiced glow. What about the scorch mark that left him with one eye? The tea towel of "The Scream" was far better than the original.

The field of creativity has always been plagued by plagiarism and copy cats. Take a look at Britney Spears' version of Joan Jett's song, "I love Rock & Roll", or when Ryan Tedder used the same back tracking for the lyrics to Already Gone by Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce's Halo songs. Even in Copyright Law, there's no law about copying the idea itself - it is only copying the exact final product which will land you in hot water.

Did Chloe or Hermes steal the idea of the 'padlock' to be a main feature on bags?

In my case, if you copy the exact words or pictures from a writer or an artist, that's plagiarism. If you steal from many, it's called research.

Perhaps, the main aim of originality is to be copied. Take a look at the ubiquitous amounts of Louis Vuitton counterfeit bags sold at the markets, or hidden street corners.

We can delude ourselves to believe that our latest project is original - but most of us are born to copy. Even human nature is born to copy - from our bodies constantly replacing skin cells and blood, to the fact that when we reproduce, they're copies of ourselves.

In fact, we are the copies of our own ancestors.

So what do you think?

Happy reading!


Martin Hartley said...

It IS still possible to be original, however I do agree that it originality is growing ever-more obscure. And in many cases, especially when it involves entertainment, media and celebrity status, being entirely original is dangerous. Far better to stick to a rip-off of something else which you know will appeal to a segment of the market and compete with someone else's product that to try and create an entirely original product and sell it.

Perhaps it is a case of demand driving innovation (if it can be called that) rather than innovation driving the demands of the modern market-place. The way I see it, the neo-liberal free-market model produces competition, but not substantial variety.

Another David said...

It don't think it's ever possible to be truly original. I think you can expand upon an idea, but that that idea has to be rooted in something you already know. If you were to invent a new kind of bag, it would still be a bag at heart, it would probably look and function an awful lot like every other bag in the world.

Leanne said...

The Scream is by Edvard Munch, not Van Gogh btw. And there's NO way a teatowel could be better than the original, but I do understand that when we're children, our tastes aren't very educated, and later, our nostalgia keeps us loving things we wouldn't do as an older person. (Like me liking Abba when I was young) It is the memories in our heads that are precious to us.

Five Foot Nothing said...

@ Leanne - Thanks for clearing up the mistake =)

I apologise for any art guru who's shaking their heads right now at this mistake.

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