“To create is divine. To reproduce is human.” -Man Ray
GRAVE ROBBING THE MASTERS
Much of humanities best work did not come into being from passion and inspiration alone. Rather, it came into the chamber of a mind prepared and ripened on the emulation of others. The works produced by previous generations of writers and artists are a part of our heritage waiting to be hacked into. All you need to do is enter the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and choose one to become as your own. Take an author, any author, but preferably one you like, one who is a master of the craft, and copy out a passage of their work into a special book you keep just for this purpose. This book in time will become a compilation of favorite scenes and passages, a land of literary booty, treasures from the tomb.
STEAL TO BECOME AN AUTODIDACTATOR
If intellectual property is theft, stealing helps you in the quest of becoming an autodidactator. By pumping primary sources for a share of the gold your own mental gears will be slicked. Wheels will turn where before they sticked. It’s like spraying WD-40 into the cobwebs of the mind, or dripping some three-in-one oil on the rusty hinges of neural pathways.
COPYING IS A MANTIC ART
The suffix -mancy is found at the end of words relating to divination, such as cartomancy, and kleptomancy –the subject of this article. If it was just about taking a joy ride on the shoulders of giants, literary, artistic and intellectual appropriation would remain merely another form of kleptomania. Yet there is something portentous about the brazen act of the rip off, a phrase that can be translated in this context as: to rip up and riff off of.
William S. Burroughs showed how the future leaked out of his cut-up texts. Boundaries or zones are fundamental to both the self and its discourse but they are also passable both in the imaginary and the real. The real and imaginary intermingle of course. In stealing we step over one boundary. In cutting it up we throw it inside a matrix of possibility. In rewriting it fresh we fuse the I-for-myself with its viewpoint or experience. It is natural that prophecy is quoted in art. Copying the work of others establishes a landing strip for the Muse.
Even if you are just forging someone else’s name on a readymade off the assembly line, at least you have a pot to piss in. Sometimes you have to nevermind the bollocks and take a leak where you stand until the vapor clears. It has come down to us in legend that the Sex Pistols stole amplifiers and other music equipment from the Rolling Stones. This could have been a lie, which over time transformed into truth, and is thus an exemplar of propagande par le fait or, propaganda of the deed.
AN EXERCISE IN KLEPTOMANCY
This is only one permutation of a possible practice for cultural detritivores. It can also serve as a memory strengthening exercise, reinforcing key turns of phrase, words and choice rhetoric into your personal memory palace -itself just an antechamber of the vast Inner Library.
1. First pick a poet to plunder.
2. Copy a poem word for word.
3. Now put aside this sheet of paper and attempt to put the sentiment and as many words of the original as you can remember into your own piece of prose.
4. Once this task of necromantic or vampiric plagiarism has been achieved let this draft wither in the compost for a few days, until it becomes musty, and you have to bat away the fruit flies hovering over it. Move on to another project for a time.
5. Return to the article and make a new version of it, jumbling the collection of hints into confusion, and disarrange them into another perversion of the natural order. In this way you begin to act as a decomposer of cultured reality.
6. Set aside and let it rot for the space of one week to two months.
7. In the interim phase of this process repeat steps 1-6, using a different source author, preferably on a subject you feel to be incompatible with the first. Now you should have two pieces of writing obtained by kleptomantic reduction. Put them side be side together.
8. Through the art of recombination seek to weave the two disparate narratives into a single thread.
9. Edit at your will. This method is primarily one of decomposition, and is one way for artists to add to the cultural soil of the future.
Those who work in the plastic arts will need to use whatever inherent ingenium is available in them to devise an analogous method.
HOMAGE CVG of the Cincinnati Royals Collective just dropped this kleptomanic masterpiece.
Parts of this article have been inspired by the works by Negativland and People Like Us.