Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cuts, Corn, and Copyrights

I moved to Chicago about two weeks ago for graduate school at Columbia College and have been unpacking like crazy, trying to feather the nest before classes start, if you will. I am working on getting my studio set up, which involves a lot of organizing of tiny objects, nuts and bolts, parts, etc. To pass the time, I have been watching documentaries. Tonight has been a night of connections made, kind of like when you read a bunch of books and the topics seem to align though you chose titles randomly. I would definitely suggest checking out these three media links to see if you see the connections I do:

1) The work of Laura Anderson Barbata (see pic above and below), a multimedia, installation artist who will be showing at Columbia in the near future, particularly the piece called Epitome or easy method of learning the Nahuatl Language (detail), 1996:
Yep, people, look closely. Those are real teeth!! Notice that this work is older and was made well before the debates about intellectual property and the patenting of human life really had exposure in the media. Also, it was made before American GMO corn started popping up in the native plots of indigenous, corn-oriented cultures like Mexico and before the "CornCrisis of 2007".

2) The documentary, The Future of Food. This movie was released in 2007, and I should have watched it a long time ago. If you weren't already concerned about where your food is coming from (and about the power of a few large corporations like Monsanto to "lobby" and dictate federal policy), you will be after watching this. See the following books also: Stolen Harvest, by Vandana Shiva, The Cost of Living, by Arundhati Roy, and All Our Relations, by Winona LaDuke.

3) Another documentary, RiP! A Remix Manifesto, which you can download for yourself at the website or watch on here. Released earlier in 2009, this is a great film because instead of coming off as a paranoid rant, it succeeds at troubling the dichotomy of private property vs. commons and empowers we artists to creatively resist censorship thoughtfully and strategically. It places our work into a larger social context. While Rip! is focused on the consolidation of media and the hijacking of intellectual commons, this film makes interesting connections to the patenting of living creatures. Whether it be farming knowledge(which seed saving is the physical manifestation of farming knowledge stored from year to year) or music mixing, pre-lawsuit Napster and SeedSavers are sides of the same concept coin.

After watching both films, can you also see the parallels to be made between Monsanto and Disney here? See also the contrast between our own current healthcare debate and Brazil's refusal to honor patents on AIDs medications and restrict the medications' production for its people. The patented genetic engineering funded by those very same pharmaceutical companies lobbying Congress to stop socialized healthcare and restrict our access also helped enable many of the recent developments in the "Green Revolution", i.e. Monsanto's Round-Up Ready, GMO corn. Are BigPharm and BigAg holding hands under the lobbying table? There are connections that are almost too mind blowing and disturbing to digest in one sitting. So, start digesting!