Expressing Creativity – Reimagining/Mash Ups

Mixed media canvas

One of the hallmarks of Post Modern arts practice is appropriation – in homage, tribute or critique – of other art pieces in similar media. It goes beyond merely being influenced by another artist’s work. Rather appropriation is about the creation of meaning in your piece, with added layers for interpretation.

Mashing works together is knowing and intentional. Absolute acknowledgment of the source is essential for the meaning, and prevents this from being plagiarism. It is assumed that the audience – reader, listener, viewer – will understand, or come to understand, the source material also. There is a delight that arises from recognition.

It’s very noticeable in music – dance mixes sampling snippets from other songs, music styles or dialogue. I remember when rough mixing on the fly, using multiple turntables with vinyl records and adding in scratch riffs was brand new – in the dance clubs that superseded disco in the early 1980’s.

Part of the enjoyment is recognition, when you grok the source material and get the reference. The score of the Die Hard movies is an example where the insertion of light-hearted themes from classical music or movie musicals (“Singing in the Rain”) skews the action movies towards humor.

Lady Gaga is another artist whose work, especially her music videos, is full of references to pop culture (eg classic movie images and female archetypes) as well as initiating, grabbing and expanding on pop trends. For example the use of “anime eyes” – overscaled cosmetic contact lenses out of the Kawaii/Harajuku trend in Japanese teen/young adult culture. Lady Gaga used computer generated assistance to recreate the look in her video.

Here are some ways to use appropriation and create mash ups:

Memes, and image re-captioning: most social media memes are satire, irony, and sometimes biting social commentary.

Collage and paper craft: scrapbookers are masters of mash up – combining textures, images, and ephemera to tell both their memory story and create beautiful visuals. Collage is mixing images from multiple sources, creating relationships between the visual elements. Try using materials (like scrapbooking papers) in a different way from the usual.

Re-imagine a cultural icon: Create your own take on a famous painting or familiar photo using a different or changed medium. The many recognizable iterations of Mona Lisas or the Warhol style portraits are examples of this.

Reimagining Methods

Found object art: I love work using found objects to create sculptures. They can be so clever and ingenious. This is a loving way to use vintage objects and ephemera.

In home decorating, a trend is to make a grouping of objects made different with a single surface treatment.

  • One example is the gloss white spray paint technique, which works equally well with other single colors.
  • Another is the fun trend of decoupaging with pages of text from old books.

Appropriate an image as a background for collage or shadow box framing – especially using filters to alter the colors (try sepia or black and white) and the texture.

Photograph two unrelated objects, placed in a vignette. Or use randomness to help you. Combine an image from a random wikipedia entry with a randomly selected page from a magazine.

How I design upcycled projects – scroll down.

In writing reimagining is often adaptation. Writers adapt books to film or theater, making changes that are more or less appreciated.