Is Mashup Art? And if yes, do I censor it?

“When our children can go to any street corner in America and buy pornography for five dollars, don’t you think that is too high a price to pay for free speech?”
“No. On the other hand, I think that five dollars is too high a price to pay for pornography.”
John Van Dyke and President Josiah Bartlet in “The West Wing”

I thought about submitting my book of quotations to a student-organized academy (documensa III at the MinD-Akademie).

Thinking about the submission has raised two questions for me:

Is it Art?

The first question is: Is a mashup art? I’m not sure — on the one hand I had the idea, searched, collected, and selected the quotations, the images, created the pages with InDesign and even re-created the cover (by binding it anew, in velvet). On the other hand, none of the quotations or images are mine and the book was printed and bound by Lulu.

I think the question here is whether the work itself makes a significant contribution, or, in other words, whether the work is more than the sum of its parts (quotations and images in this case). Thinking about it, I would argue, yes, certainly. It has a thread, a theme, it is as I see (now: saw) myself at that moment in time. The quotations did not select themselves, they make sense in this configuration, so do the images. It’s like a collage — so, if a collage is art, so is this.

Hmm, so yes, I would argue it is a valid contribution (at least from my perspective).

Do I censor it?

The second question is: Do I censor it? Unfortunately, I would have to — if I would submit it. It’s a book about life, and it includes quotations (not that much of a problem, I hope) and rather explicit images of … well, love and sex in different varieties. Taken in total only 12/388 pages (3%) show material that is not suitable for minors (but otherwise totally legal), but it is there, no question about it. Unfortunately, even this small percentage would pose problems, given that some participants might not be of legal age.

So I’ve got two choices, I can either censor it (meaning either let Lulu print a Sabregum Tiger version of the book — still a tiger but lacking the teeth — or use the time-honored glue), or I can forget about submitting it. They would still have to accept it anyway and be with me regarding the first question — and they might not.

But my question is: Is it worth it? Or am I betraying my work?

I’m still chewing on that question — and I’d be interested in your opinions.

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