THE HEAVY MENTAL, NOVEMBER 2011
This is a conversation with Aaron Rose. He has just released a book called Collage Culture: Examining the Effects 21st Century’s Identity Crisis with Mandy Kahn, designed by Brian Roettinger, about the effects of creative ‘borrowing’ and appropriation on culture.
When we sat down, you’ll see I asked him to identify how he’d arrived at a certain ‘point’ where he felt competent to address such an issue. To talk about a person as being at a particular ‘point’ suggests that everything they have done is behind them and that everything they will do is still to come. This doesn’t fit the subject somehow. Better to conceptualize Aaron Rose as the seed of a tree, where everything he is and has been and will be was present from the beginning, and continues to be present in each moment and each new thing he does.
Joseph Conrad said: “An artist is a man of action, whether he creates a personality, invents an expedient, or finds the issue of a complicated situation.” If this is what it means to take action, then Aaron Rose is an activist. If this is what it means to be an artist, then Aaron Rose is that too.
Your book identifies the problem of people losing confidence in their ability to take individual direction – actually, it not only identifies it but also attempts to answer it. What brought you to a point where you felt confident to write about something like this?
Honestly – it didn’t manifest itself so much in the text, thank god – but I was motivated by anger. I was sick of seeing “new” things, “new” creations, especially by young artists, designers, photographers, filmmakers to a certain extent, that were direct rip-offs or direct references to brilliant things from the past but were being sold to us as new. It’s become so easy for people to find obscure things, copy them and re-release them with a small tweak. I felt like it was unfair because there are so many creative people from the past who never made it, who never had success, and usually those are the people who are stolen from the most. It was frustrating to me. So the original impetus was out of a sense of duty, based on a frustration that I was feeling with this content re-hashing. Of course, once I started writing, it changed. As I was writing, new things came in to play.
The book certainly doesn’t carry an angry tone.
I think I felt that just another book that complains wasn’t going to do anything. There’re a lot of those, especially when you’re getting in to cultural theory. There are so many books that identify problems with no solution or no possibility of solution. Not that this book solves the problem at all…
But it does provide a sense of hope – grounded hope. You have to create that space before you can fill it with a solution.
Yeah. I consider it a conversation starter. Once I locked in on that, it didn’t have to be a definitive text. It’s probably far too early for that. Hopefully after reading this, it won’t be so easy to just pull references because there will be an awareness of what’s happening. In my dream of dreams, people should question their techniques.