Isabelle Mège does not call herself an artist, but she has nonetheless been working on an interesting project for the last 30 years. Mège contacts photographers she likes and asks them to incorporate her into their work, keeping a copy of each photograph afterwards. She has over 300 photographs and has curated 135 of them into what she calls “the collection”.
After each shoot, Mège would follow up and ask the artist for a print, signed and sometimes numbered by its edition. The print would go into her archive, along with any artifacts related to its making; Elkoury’s letter, for instance, is accompanied in the archive by Mège’s notes about their encounter (he was late to their first meeting, and arrived with his shoelaces untied). Also in her archive are the heels that Witkin attached to her feet during the 1990 shoot, and a news item about Japanese customs having seized incoming copies of the magazine ARTnews to prohibit their circulation; the photograph, in which Mège’s pubic hair is visible, was considered obscene. Her diarizing and collection of correspondence, clippings, image reproductions, and relevant items reveal that the planning around certain images often lasted years. Several times, having worked with an artist to make an image, she was unhappy with the results and excluded it from her collection. When approached by artists who wanted to work with her but for whose work she had no feeling, she refused.
Mège felt strongly that no money should be exchanged in these interactions. (“As soon as there’s a question of payment, it’s dead, you fall asleep,” she told me.) She also asked each artist to sign a contract printed on a three-inch slip of paper, stating that she would have the right to exhibit or publish the image for noncommercial reasons only.
Mège’s project fits neatly into contemporary selfie culture. Her collection reminds me of other creative people who have incorporated themselves into their media of behalf of someone or something else. Call them “selfie auteurs”. Adam Lisagor has starred in many of the videos his company makes for tech clients. Casey Neistat films himself going on adventures for clients like J. Crew and Nike. Noah Kalina was commissioned by VH1 to take photos of himself posing with celebrities in his Everyday stance. I’m sure there are many more examples1 but few have done it as cleanly and purely as Mège.
Maybe kottke.org should be in this list as well. This is my website — my name’s right at the top for crying out loud — and I share my opinion about things here all the time, but in a significant way, the site isn’t actually about me. It’s mainly about other people’s work and ideas. Sure, if you read long enough you learn about who I am as a person in the process, but it’s not the point.↩
Noah Kalina, one of my favorite photographers, has taken a self-portrait of himself every day for the past 12 and a half years. After six years, he released a video of the results, which video went crazy viral and brought the attention of the world to Kalina’s door. Now he’s released the 12.5 year version.
I hope I live to be 100 to see the 75th anniversary edition.
But, we can kind of think of the multi-playthrough Kaizo Mario World video as a silly, sci-fi style demonstration of the Quantum Suicide experiment. At each moment of the playthrough there’s a lot of different things Mario could have done, and almost all of them lead to horrible death. The anthropic principle, in the form of the emulator’s save/restore feature, postselects for the possibilities where Mario actually survives and ensures that although a lot of possible paths have to get discarded, the camera remains fixed on the one path where after one minute and fifty-six seconds some observer still exists.
Some of my favorite art and media deals with the display of multiple time periods at once. Here are some other examples, many of which I’ve featured on kottke.org in the past.
Averaging Gradius predates the Mario World video by a couple years; it’s 15 games of Gradius layered over one another.
I found even the more pointless things incredibly interesting (and telling), like seeing when each person pressed the start button to skip the title screen from scrolling in, or watching as each Vic Viper, in sequence, would take out the red ships flying in a wave pattern, to leave behind power-ups in an almost perfect sine wave sequence. I love how the little mech-like gunpods together emerge from off screen, as a bright, white mass, and slowly break apart into a rainbow of mech clones.
According to the start screen, Cursor*10 invites the you to “cooperate by oneself”. The game applies the lessons of Averaging Gradius and multiple-playthrough Kaizo Mario World to create a playable game. The first time through, you’re on your own. On subsequent plays, the game overlays your previous attempts on the screen to help you avoid mistakes, get through faster, and collaborate on the tougher puzzles.
With the help of various filters and settings Recreating Movement makes it possible to extract single frames of any given film sequence and arranges them behind each other in a three-dimensional space. This creates a tube-like set of frames that “freezes” a particular time span in a film.
A few months back a producer from the Simpsons contacted Carly about using her song ‘everyday’ for an upcoming episode in which they were going to parody my video. She was negotiating a rate for the song, until they never got back to her. No fee was agreed on, no contracts signed.
Maybe they decided since it was parody they didn’t need permission? I don’t find that likely since what little I know about Hollywood/TV is that they’re really concerned about clearing rights. (thx, slava)