Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Transmigration of Kriss Kross

Since its release in 1992, Kriss Kross' "I Missed the Bus" has become yet another piece of faintly remembered early nineties nostalgia.  But what if the song's music video is more than that?  What if it is, in fact, a realization of the meta narrative of humanity's attempts to transcend the illusion of linear time and realize the true 4-D quantum nature of reality?

From the aboriginal Australian dream time that overlies the linear movement of reality to interpretation of Jesus Christ's "Resurrection" as a metaphor for a man's transcendence of his own existence, these narratives have been, depending on flexibility, present since the dawn of story telling itself.   Recently,  science fiction author Philip K. Dick dedicated much of his later life to trying to understand these ideas, and creating stories in which individuals struggle to comprehend and escape from what he described as "the black iron prison" which constitutes all of reality.

"Everyone who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it."---Valis 
Within this cosmology, there exists the rigid, linear reality of which we are all aware.  This reality is seen as an illusion, a type of waking sleep that obscures a secondary reality in which time exists in a a four dimensional, non linear fashion in which all points are present simultaneously.

 "In some certain important sense, time is not real. Or perhaps it is real, but not as we experience it to be or imagine it to be."---How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later
Throughout the video, all authority figures are portrayed as deformed or beastly, often leering at Kriss Kross from beyond some kind of dimensional barrier that seems to separate the upper reality from the lower.

"The empire is the institution  the codification of derangement  it is insane and imposes its insanity on us by violence..."---Valis
Students are displayed as mindless, overtaken by cobwebs as if lost within time itself, overseen by insectoid hybrids of human and animal.

To the fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement."---Valis
In this sense, these creatures echo the Outer Church of Grant Morrison s' Invisible's series, itself highly indebted to Dickian interpretations of this very old story.

Reaching even deeper in Dick's estimation of the universe is Kriss Kross' personification of the archetypal twins, what he called two source cosmonogy.  Kriss Kross here become the original dual being whose role is to experience and oversee the act of universal becoming.

(The one) generated a diploid sac which contained, like an eggshell, a pair of twins, each an androgyny, spinning in opposite directions (the Yin and Yang of Taoism, with the One as the Tao).---Valis
Or, in the terms of early 90's hip hop, Kriss and Kross, the Daddy Mack and the Mack Daddy, their very appearance recalling a duality in which the body and the head are in conflict with each other.

But isn't this all just ridiculous?  Isn't "I Missed the Bus' just an otherwise rote example after school special ethics lesson crossed with perhaps out of place horror iconography?  Isn't it just an act of cultural contortion-ism to root through the garbage dump of decades old musical refuse and find meaning where none such exists 

Maybe.  But the Dickian way of looking at this is that "I Missed the Bus" is simultaneously doing both of these things at once.  It is a piece of mindless, pop entertainment.  It is a not a piece of mindless pop entertainment.  It means nothing.  It means everything.  It is, in short, an example of negative theology, a koan that presents us with the dual nature of reality.  God is nowhere.  God is now here.

 Kriss Kross is slated to reunite on February 23rd for a single performance in Atlanta, Georgia,    

Monday, February 4, 2013

Slender Man and the role of Folk Monsters in the Public Domain

For anyone unfamiliar with Slender Man, take a minute to watch this video from the youtube series “Marble Hornets.” 

Slenderman was created in 2009 by users of the Something Awful forums, as part of a Photoshop contest to create a supposedly real monster, which was then sent to paranormal activity websites and reported as real.  Since then, the character has been at the center of numerous youtube series, as well as fan made video games such as Slender and countless ensuing “reaction” videos.  What is significant about the character is not so much its increasing presence in the popular consciousness, however, but the way in which its existence flouts existing copyright law.

Slenderman, as created by Victor Surge.
As reported last week by NPR’s “On the Media,” barely any copyrighted works will enter the public domain this year.  Thanks to the manipulation of copyright laws over the last few decades, the length of time required for a work to become public has created not just limitations on wider distribution of existing work (the ability to publish Slaughterhouse Five for free online, for example) but the existence of numerous “orphan works”.  These lost children of copyright law are the works which are unpublishable, due to the inability to contact or determine the owner.  The fear driving this limitation of access is the potential appearance of an otherwise unknown copyright holder, limiting the ability to digitize or make available the material.   Constituting photographs, musical recordings, novels and every other type of media, these pieces of “intellectual property” sit unavailable in museum, libraries and private collections.  Estimates place as many as twenty five million of them in the UK alone. 

Which brings us back to Slenderman and how IP laws are potentially unequipped to handle the internet.  As discussed on this forum, Slenderman has no distinct owner.  Though originated by the Something Awful forum member Victor Surge, Slenderman saw a subsequent “crowd sourced” approach to his creation.  Various different groups and individuals added to or ignored elements of mythology based around the central image crated by Surge.  Though copyright law might cover individual uses of Slenderman, such as in the web series EverymanHyrbrid, those laws would not really be applicable to original creations involving the same character.  Though no one has laid legal claim as of yet, things might be different if some major studio or network were to mass release a profitable entertainment utilizing the Slenderman character.  However, no one involved in the creative process has stepped forward to claim any type of ownership, even as the character’s popularity has spread into explicit merchandising.  

On a psychological level, it is fitting that Slenderman emerged in 2009, the same year as the height of American “financial crisis” and the beginnings of the bank bailout.  It is unsurprising that such a creature emerged out of a time in which our lives seem controlled by anonymous men in business suits, lurking in the shadows of everything from the housing market to lobbyist driven politics.  Just as all monsters reflect our collective fear, Slenderman joins a number of other popular monsters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Gentelmen...

The Gentlemen
 ...to Doctor Who’s The Silence.

The Silence
While those monsters share a wardrobe and lack of voice, Slenderman goes two steps further, removing the concept of a face and existing in the grainy “found footage” realm of popular jump scare entertainments.  He is a crowd sourced creation born out of the fears of a disenfranchised population, exhibited not through centralized forms of media access, but through the open distribution channel of popular internet culture.      

Alien Autopsy

Tracing the image even further back, one can't help but think of another creation of folk mythology.  The alien grey reached the height of its popular appeal during the late nineties mini craze of alien conspiracy and government cover ups.  It too, then, is a reflection of a fear of anonymous, all controlling forces beyond our control.  And it too has no single creator, emerging out of the popular consciousness as less a character than a personified aspect of cultural fear.  Though both the greys and Slenderman find themselves eventually mined for eventual profit, (and, as the greys prove, over exposure leads to the eventual inability to separate use from self conscious parody) their existence as group creations demonstrates a potential way for intellectual property to exist outside of the limitations of ownership.