The Third Idea is a collection of mash-up videos using material from the website archive.org. Each video is composed of one song and one video – all from the public domain – with the video recut to match the audio.
The Third Idea is the implied narrative created by the combination of imagery and music. It’s not a revolutionary concept but the source material provides a compelling commentary about creativity, intellectual property and cultural shifts of the past 100 plus years. Archive.org was founded to build an Internet library. The purpose was to offer permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to digitized historical collections. Its vast holdings include a huge collection of 20th century creative ephemera placed in the public domain. Digitized cylinder recordings, MP3’s of scratchy 78’s, sales films from products of a bygone era, educational films for kids about alleged social norms, full length features and cartoons are just some examples. It’s all free to view and download and is typically supplied in edit-ready high resolution formats. Some of the material is questionable in regards to content or quality, but all of it gives a peek into how things used to be (or at least how things were supposed to be.) Interested in matching your refrigerator to your outfit? Well… that was an idea that had its day.
What interests me – or my nom de plume dj YardSale – is engaging in the folk tradition of appropriating existing work and making something new from it. I refer to these videos as mash-ups because I liken them to the recent musical genre. The mash-up, in its purest form, consists of the music from one song with the vocal track from another. My favorite example is “Smells Like Teen Booty” which merges Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Beyonce’s “Bootylicious.” The mash-up works so well that the mixture challenges the listener to remember what the originals sounded like. At first glance the mash-up may be seen as a cop out. The public typically reacts by decrying the work as unoriginal. But, in the same vein as HipHop’s sampling or folk music’s tradition of rerecording older songs, when it’s done well, the creativity becomes apparent through skillful execution. And on top of that, it usually finds its way into the main stream. Sophisticated, inexpensive technologies have allowed aspiring composers the ability to experiment, create and define the parameters of this new genre. The dozen pieces in the show intentionally carry no copyright. They are placed in the public domain and are considered to be part of a common cultural and intellectual heritage. Anyone can further edit, mangle or manipulate them.