Candice Breitz - King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson) (2005)
This work is based on a pretty simple premise: there are enough images and representations of superstars and celebrities in the world. Rather than creating more images of people who are already overrepresented, rather than literally making another image of a Madonna or a John Lennon, I wanted to reflect on the other side of the equation, on what goes into the making of celebrity.
The idea is to shift the focus away from those people who are usually perceived as creators so as to give some space, some room, to those people who absorb cultural products—whether it’s music or movies or whatever the case may be. And to think a little bit about what happens once music or a movie has been distributed: how it may get absorbed into the lives into the very being of the people who listen to it or watch it.
Even the most broadly distributed, most market-inflected music comes to have a very specific and local meaning for people according to where it is that they’re hearing it or at what moment in their life they’re hearing it. What goes hand in hand with the moment of reception is a dimension of personal translation.
In African and other oral cultures, this is how culture has traditionally functioned. In the absence of written culture, stories and histories were shared communally between performers and their audiences, giving rise to version after version, each new version surpassing the last as it incorporated the contributions and feedback of the audience, each new version layered with new details and twists as it was inflected through the collective. This was never thought of as copying or stealing or intellectual property theft but accepted as the natural way in which culture evolves and develops and moves forward. As each new layer of interpretation was painted onto the story or the song, it was enriched rather than depleted by those layers.
This process of making meaning may be more blatant in the practice of certain artists than it is in the practice of others. Artists who work with found footage, for example, blatantly reflect on the absorptive logic of the creative process. But I would argue that every work of art comes into being through a similar process, no matter how subtly. No artist works in a vacuum. Every artist reflects—consciously or not—on what has come before and what is happening parallel to his or her practice.
- Candice Breitz