Pecha Kucha Birmingham – Ctrl + C

On 8th December I gave a talk at Pecha Kucha Birmingham. This talk was critical of the one-way system of cultural reappropriation by corporations. The whole video is available below.

Ctrl + C

If you can at all relate to the issues being discussed in this presentation you can read more about it in this great article about How Corporations Profit From Black Teens’ Viral Content

The next Pecha Kucha in Birmingham will be taking place on March 15th and you should get in touch about tickets or even giving a talk at it.

Ctrl + C/Ctrl + V

As a super special bonus below is the presentation in text and image form.

Original animation by Nina Paley

Original animation by Nina Paley

Culture is created by copying, adopting, remixing, recreating and doing it all over again. Nowhere is this more noticeable than on the internet where memes, easily adaptable and modifiable jokes, are created by appropriating popular culture for, well, the lols.

Like all good things, though, there are forces working against creating of memes. Corporate agendas have infiltrated the conversations and threaten, sometimes successfully, to stop the spread of lols. Using a few examples I want to show how largely corporate agendas have resulted in stifling of creativity in some way

From November 2014 Snoop Dogg began posting images on the internet, requesting that people memes out of them.

The response was less than favourable. Instead of reappropriating these images and making really funny memes out of them people instead made a meme out of the fact that this is not a meme and that his desperate attempts were somewhat laughable.

Although this type of social engineering by powerful people or brands isn’t always a failure you should be careful that you don’t end up like Milhouse, a meme used to ridicule forced memes.

For my second case study I want to look at the phenomenon of Left Shark. In February 2015 Katy Perry performed at the Super Bowl half time show in America. In this performance Perry was joined on stage by, amongst other cuddly critters, two dancers dressed as sharks. The one on the left became popular in by its apparent inability to keep to the routine.

The internet quite quickly made a meme out of this. Some liked how individual and unique Left Shark was. Others liked the absurdity of it all. Whatever the reason for liking Left Shark, it very quickly became a thing of interest.

It caught the attention of one person who decided to make a 3D model available for anyone to make their own 3D print or art featuring left shark. A good thing, right? Yes, and with all good things eventually the big boys come and ruin it all!

Katy Perry’s lawyers swooped in and demanded that this model be taken down. They claimed that they owned the right to Left Shark.

They even tried to register a trademark for left Shark, which was ultimately rejected. What is worrying about this for me is that the community created Left Shark, not Katy Perry or her lawyers. Before us there was no left Shark, just some anonymous person in a costume. We created Left Shark but they want to own it.

For my last case study I want to focus on the appropriation of internet slang, slang, emoji and “youth culture” in general. In June 2014 Peaches Monroee, a regular vine user uploaded a video talking about her appreciation of her eyebrows.

I’ve opted not to use audio so I’ll recite what she said. “We up in this bitch. Finna get crunk. Eyebrows on Fleek. Da fuq. Being on fleek quite quickly became a thing and a way to say something is on point, or good. Whatever. Like all good things, brands soon caught on and ruined it.

Brands started attaching the word fleek onto their promotional tweets, latching onto its popularity and trying to get a piece of this sweet sweet pie.

Probably my favourite of the uses of fleek. It has the honour of not only being terrible but also rhyming. That surely deserves an award

There’s a very popular twitter account called Brands Saying Bae that occasionally collects examples of brands using this popular vernacular. It’s an attempt to humanise the brand and relate to its potential customers on their level by using their language.

However, I think it’s just embarrassing. It’s like when your Mom or Dad tries to hang out with your friends by bustin’ out a “yo yo homies” whilst wearing a backwards cap. It’s just not going to happen

There’s a bigger demon here though. The brands will use this vernacular, these reapporpiated memes as a way to sell us things, sometimes successfully. But what about Peaches Monroee?

What about the creator of doge? What about people creating memes? Corporations will happily take our the culture we created to sell us stuff back at a premium, but when we try and do it we’re stopped and they try to control it.

Image by Nina Paley

Image by Nina Paley

For this creative culture to carry on creating nonsensical memes that ultimately bring us joy we have to stop restrictive laws from controlling how we interpret and reinterpret the culture that we see around us.

Or, to put it another way, this cultural reappropriation by corporate brands needs to take an arrow to the knee.

Pecha Kucha Birmingham, 8th December

On Tuesday 8th December from 18:30 I’ll be taking part in Pecha Kucha Birmingham at Birmingham Open Media.


I’ll be delivering a short presentation, Ctrl + C, hat looks at the way that culture is created from copying and remixing. I’ll be presenting alongside awesome people including Linda Spurdle, Francis Clarke, Ian Francis, Daniel Alcorn (who recently interviewed me for the Small Talk podcast) and Ruth Harvey.

Tickets for the event have already sold out but there is a waiting list if you really wanna get in.

Pecha Kucha Coventry Vol 14 – 11th June 2013

On June 11th from 7pm I’ll be making a superduperspecial appearance at volume 14 of Pecha Kucha Coventry, taking place – unsurprisingly – in Coventry at Taylor John’s House.

Ludic Rooms take the reins to curate a special PKN for the Coventry Mysteries Festival. This year the festival theme is Re-Creation and we have invited speakers from around the country to give their 400 seconds on the re-creation of a specialist subject.

As it is part of the Coventry Mysteries Festival, for one night only the ticket price is FREE.

Confirmed speakers include:

You may have noticed that I’m not on the speakers’ list. That’s because…

@hellocatfood will be taking portrait photography on the night. Using a Game Boy Camera and Printer he will recreate you in an 8bit glitch polaroid styled portrait. Take home a print on the night (First come first served) The photos will be on display for the remainder of the festival at the Hub in Market Way.

So, track me down and I’ll take your very own 0 megapixel picture for ya!

r00s Inside Out Inside Out Me and my hat!

“Brand” New Generation presentation

The “Brand” New Generation event took place on 2nd November at The Drum as part of Kalaboration. Aside from my Pecha-Kucha-style presentation on glitch art glitching (i.e. not working) it went really well! For the benefit of those who couldn’t make it and those who attended but couldn’t see the images, here’s a desktop recording or the presentation:

The discussion that followed was very interesting and covered topics such as being/not being an “emerging” artist, residing in Birmingham and finding validity in the art scene. Charlie Levine did a bit of live-tweeting:

To reiterate some of the points in those tweets, I think the idea of being an “emerging” artist is rather stupid. Whilst I recognise that building confidence in your practice takes time and effort, from what am I emerging and what am I hoping to happen once I emerge from it? Do I lose the emerging artist tag once I’ve had a clearly defined number of exhibitions or successful funding bids? Or is it the case that I need to get my work into the well-known galleries and be represented by a gallery in order to no longer be an “emerging” artist? This confusion on the term isn’t just shared by me.

Although I’m predominantly a digital artist I don’t reject the idea of working within white-walled galleries, nor do I attempt to avoid associations with the fine art “scene”. As the above tweets suggest, I’m more than happy to work with anyone that is as excited about digital art as I am, be they independent galleries and artists/curators or commercial organisations and well-known galleries. To me, the support of friends, family and curious strangers is just as important to me as support from institutions, galleries and funding providers.

On that note, here’s some pictures from the event by Kalaboration:

Thanks to Ian Sergeant/Kalaboration for asking me to take part and Elly Clarke for chairing the discussion.

More photos available on the Kalaboration Flickr stream and on my Flickr.