backdoor productions

Appropriation, simulation and dystopia. Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”

Posted in Appropriation, Art, Dystopia, Fiction, Futuristic, Novel, Simulation, Utopia by backdoorprod on March 28, 2007

In her book, “Oryx and Crake”, Margaret Atwood writes about a utopic world that tells the story of Snowman or Jimmy, as he used to be called, and the way he witness his best friend Crake’s biotechnological master plan of altering all life and how it became a reality. The first part tells about Jimmy’s upbringing, his education, his family and his changing relationship to Crake. I really enjoyed reading it and can highly recommend it. The reason why I mention it here, has to do with a short chapter that describes Jimmy’s studies at the Martha Graham Academy that is a good utopic take on the arts:
“The Martha Graham Academy was named after some gory old dance goddess of the twentieth century who’d apparently mowed quite a swath in her day. (…) The Academy had been set up by a clutch of now-dead rich liberal bleeding hears from Old New York as an Arts-and-Humanities college at some time in the last third of the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the Performing Arts- (-). To that had been been added Film-making in the 1980’s, and the Video Arts after that.(..) The students of song and dance continued to sing and dance, though the energy had gone out of these activities and the classes were small. (…) Theatrical events had dwindled into versions of the singalong or the tomato bombardment or the wet T-shirt contest. And though various older forms had dragged on -the TV sitcom, the rock video- their audiences was ancient ad their appeal mostly nostalgic.
So a lot of what went on at the Martha Graham was like studying Latin, or book-binding:pleasant to contemplate in its way, but no longer central to anything,..” (..) “As for Film-making and Video Arts, who needed them? Anyone with a computer could splice together whatever they wanted, or digitally alter old material, or create new animation. You could download one of the standard core plots and add whatever faces you chose, and whatever bodies too. Jimmy himself had put together, a naked “Pride and Prejudice” and a naked “To the lighthouse”, just for laughs, and in sophomore VizArts at the HeltWyzer he’d done “The Maltese Falcon”, with costumes by Kate Greenaway and depth-and-shadow styling by Rembrandt.(..)
“With this kind of attrition going in -this erosion of its former intellectual territory -Martha Graham had found itself without a very convincing package to offer. As the initial funders had died off and the enthusiasm of the dedicated artsy money had waned and endowment had been sought in more down-to-earth quarters, the curricular emphasis had switched to other arenas. Contemporary arenas, they were called. Webgame Dynamics for instance.(…) Or Image Presentation, listed in the calendar as a sub-branch of Pictorial and Plastic Arts. With a degree in PicPlarts, as the students called it, you could go into advertising, no sweat.” (Atwood, 2004, page 219 – 220)