I had a Pinterest account for a hot second and spent the entire time I was on it feverishly searching the Internet for images to post. I didn’t read other people’s pinboards or repin their images because I wanted to create my own original collection of images and recipes and, like, decorating ideas or whatever else you’re supposed to put on Pinterest. But even that wasn’t original enough for me; I felt guilty using the images that other people had produced, as if I were somehow unjustly appropriating their work to create some semblance of an “original collection” under my own name. And considering that Pinterest’s legality has come under fire of late, maybe I was right to drop that like a hot potato.
See, I’m unhealthily obsessed with being original and constantly producing original thoughts/work/dance moves (the Distant Hamburger didn’t invent itself, kids). I don’t reblog on Tumblr for the same reason that I stopped posting song lyrics as my Facebook status some years ago: because those words, those images, those kitschy little animated GIFs have already been invented by someone else and it is not my life goal to find fame as a professional reblogger. (Okay, so occasionally I do still post a song lyric or two on Twitter, but, like, for real, “Nobody said it was easy. Nobody said it would be this hard” and I’M STILL FOURTEEN ON THE INSIDE.)
I have friends who apparently have a bajillion Tumblr followers even though they create NO original work. Their Internet personas are constructed entirely on their ability to find and promote other people’s creativity with little more than a byline at the bottom. What is the point of this? From whence comes the satisfaction? And, I know, who am I to criticize someone for enjoying the process of collecting images and quotations and kitschy little animated GIFs for their own purpose?
It’s all part of a larger and more problematic issue that I see in the world of art today. I would hardly call myself an artist; I’m a writer, but I aspire to be more of a wit than a creator of “high art.” (Whether or not that’s the same thing is up for debate.) Nevertheless, I’m in the world of the arts and most of my friends are artists and I keep my judgey glasses in my back pocket for moments like these, when I realize that there are very few creative spirits left in the world and modern technology is turning us all into succubi.
I have been in dance pieces where large chunks of choreography were taken directly from YouTube. I have seen dance pieces that were — purposefully or unconsciously — the theme, costumes, lighting, and choreographic style were appropriated from pieces that the choreographers had been exposed to in the past. The theatre companies at my college are constantly doing the same shows that they did five years ago, directors are ripping off themes and images and stylistic choices from one another. People are producing massive amounts of creative work, but in order to maintain such a high level of output, they are throwing originality out the window.
I often worry that It’s All Been Done. (In fact, that’s my main problem with New York: I feel like I can’t do anything original because every word has been written, every song composed, every dance choreographed, every goal achieved. Someone has beaten you to every last punch, young New Yorker.) Is it the state of our artistic world now that all we have left is to rearrange and reinterpret what has already been created? Are we just recasting and rechoreographing pieces with new, younger dancers? Is it enough to forcibly take up a pedestal left by a departing predecessor? Is that the kind of fame we’ll settle for? Is there anything original left to say? Are you an artist if you all do is copy other people’s work, rearrange it into your own formation? Is that all art is?
Please note that I had to edit this because I realized that I used the phrase “problematic problem.” #vassarproblems