Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Lady Gaga: Pop culture turns sour

Posted in art, business, music by commorancy on August 24, 2013

When Lady Gaga hit the scene, like most other early Shock Artists, she pinned herself to the genre of pop music. With songs like Just Dance and Poker Face, she set the tone (or at least we thought) of what she would continue to bring to the table.  Let’s explore.

Early Gaga

In the early days of Lady Gaga, we saw an artist who, not unlike many past pop artists, turned to shock art antics on the stage. Artists who fit into this same mold include David Bowie, The Tubes, Alice Cooper, Madonna, Prince (for his sexcapades on stage), Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Tool.  All of these bands had at least one pop hit.

Gaga has taken this same approach with The Fame. She cleverly uses straightforward pop music to rope in her fans. She then treats them to outrageous shock art antics both on stage and off, such as a raw meat dress and matching purse and hat.  Or, her bubble outfit.  She’s very good at both revealing parts of her body and covering them at the same time in a shocking way.

Her label hired a top-notch pop producer to produce The Fame as a classic pop album. In fact, the songs were very danceable with straightforward lyrics that most anyone can understand. Songs like Just Dance, Poker Face, Paparazzi and Love Game. She followed this album almost immediately with The Fame Monster and continued along these same lines changing the pop formula and song tone slightly, but retaining the straightforward pop lyrics with Telephone, Bad Romance and Monster.  Although, by The Fame Monster, you could see hints of things to come, but it was still fun mostly pop music.

Later Gaga

With Born This Way, Lady Gaga took a decidedly different turn. This album saw a drastic change in compositions and lyrics. The music is less straightforward pop delving off into less pop formula at times.  She’s now trying to push the envelope of the pop genre both musically and lyrically.  Unfortunately, pop music has a very narrow range of formula and the boundaries cannot be pushed, not even by Lady Gaga. If you diverge from this narrow range in the pop genre, you are firmly outside of the genre. Meaning, Born This Way really wasn’t straightforward pop music. At best, it would be considered experimental pop.  Born This Way (the album) just didn’t work as pop music as well as The Fame and The Fame Monster (and her charting of tracks from this release proved that).

By this time, though, Gaga had gained a large fanbase because of her two prior releases. Releases that were exceptionally produced and that had mass appeal.  With Born This Way, she had to hope her existing fans would accept it.  Thankfully, for her, they did. Unfortunately, Born This Way did little to rope in new fans as the appeal of the tracks on Born This Way would be limited.

Tracks such as Judas, Fashion of His Love and Marry The Night took a much more serious and darker tone, something which pop is generally not known for. The lyrics could be interpreted in ways that could be considered problematic by many. Unfortunately, this also means that Gaga has unpinned her roots to pop music with this release. Of course, Born This Way is her ‘second’ official album because The Fame Monster was an extension to The Fame. The fact that this album wasn’t as good follows with most artist’s sophomore releases.

Shock Art

For musical artists to utilize Shock Art properly, it requires grounding one piece of the persona to accepted social norms. For musicians, this means pinning the music and lyrics firmly to a common and popular music genre. Not only does this appear to ground the artist to some semblance of sanity, the shock art can be forgiven because of the quality music behind the shock. The pop genre also, when the music gets airplay, guarantees enough fans to continue to drive the artist forward.

Unfortunately, once Lady Gaga unpinned her music from the straightforward pop genre, she now risks losing everything she’s worked so hard to build. If people don’t listen to the music, the shock art has no place. People don’t go to the shows to see what’s on stage or watch the shock, they go to hear the music. The visuals simply come along as the frame around the music.

When you buy a painting, for example, you find a frame that suits the painting. You don’t buy some random gaudy frame that detracts from the art. You buy a frame that complements it. You buy a frame that guides your eyes into the picture and not to the frame itself.  Without good music to back the shows, the only thing left to watch are the meat dresses and gooey concoctions she drapes herself in.

ARTPOP

Lady Gaga is releasing her new album ARTPOP on November 11th, 2013. One track has been ‘leaked’ called Burqa. Listening to this track, it’s clear that Gaga is pushing herself even farther away from the pop genre now than ever. Some claim that it’s a ‘club music’, but I don’t hear it. Club music is danceable. Club music has a beat that continues throughout the song. It is a 120-140 beats per minute track that gets people out of their seats and onto the dance floor. With Burqa, much of the song is devoid of beats. The sections that have beats still aren’t danceable.

The songwriting on the track is not pop formula. Most pop formula has a driving beat throughout with occasional breaks to heighten the track. Pop formula is usually ABAB or AABAABB or ABABBB similar.  Where A is the straight sung parts of the song and B is the chorus or hook. Listening to Burqa, it’s difficult to find the formula because there’s not a driving beat and the chorus that’s there is not enough to get it stuck in your head.  It’s structured, but not in the way that most pop songs are.

The point is that Gaga is now further pulling her music away from the pop genre and placing it into some kind of no-man’s land where it doesn’t fit rock, pop, dance or club. These types of tracks fit in the experimental category. Believe me, there are not many people out there who listen to experimental music. This genre is reserved for eclectic listeners. This is also not the demographic that tends to pay to attend concerts regularly.  This is Lady Gaga’s primary mistake.

Gaga is washing herself out at a time when she could be firmly on top. Her label and her producers are not helping her either. They should be guiding her and keeping her on the pop track, but someone is giving her wrong advice (or no advice).

Ms. Germanotta, if you’re reading this, you need to head back to the studio and make sure your music remains firmly as ‘girl dumps guy’, ‘bad girl attitude’ lyrics wrapped in catchy pop tunes. This is the only way to ensure you can continue your rule at the top of pop no matter what you do on stage. The shock art may keep you in the tabloids, but the pop music keeps you on the charts and fans attending your concerts.  Without The Pop, you won’t continue to have The Fame.

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When Digital Art Works Infringe

Posted in 3D Renderings, art, best practices, computers, economy by commorancy on March 12, 2012

What is art?  Art is an image expression created by an individual using some type of media.  Traditional media typically includes acrylic paint, oil paint, watercolor, clay or porcelain sculpture, screen printing, metal etching and printing, screen printing or any of any other tangible type media.  Art can also be made from found objects such as bicycles, inner tubes, paper, trash, tires, urinals or anything else that can be found and incorporated.  Sometimes the objects are painted, sometimes not.  Art is the expression once it has been completed.

Digital Art

So, what’s different about digital art?  Nothing really.  Digital art is still based on using digital assets including software and 3D objects used to produce pixels in a 2D format that depicts an image.  Unlike traditional media, digital media is limited to flat 2D imagery when complete (unless printed and turned into a real world object.. which then becomes another form of ‘traditional found art media’ as listed above).

Copyrights

What are copyrights?  Copyrights are rights to copy a given specific likeness of something restricting usage to only those that have permission.  That is, an object or subject either real-world or digital-world has been created by someone and any likeness of that subject is considered copyright.  This has also extended to celebrities in that their likenesses can also be considered copyright by the celebrity.  That is, the likeness of a copyrighted subject is controlled strictly by the owner of the copyright.  Note that copyrights are born as soon as the object or person exists.  These are implicit copyrights.  These rights can be explicitly defined by submitting a form to the U.S. Copyright office or similar other agencies in other parts of the world.

Implicit or explicit, copyrights are there to restrict usage of that subject to those who wish to use it for their own gain.  Mickey Mouse is a good example of a copyrighted property.  Anyone who creates, for example, art containing a depiction of Mickey Mouse is infringing on Disney’s copyright if no permission was granted before usage.

Fair Use

What is fair use?  Fair use is supposed to be a way to use copyrighted works that allows for usage without permission.  Unfortunately, what’s considered fair use is pretty much left up to the copyright owner to decide.  If the copyright holder decides that a depiction is not considered fair use, it can be challenged in a court of law.  This pretty much means that any depiction of any copyrighted character, subject, item or thing can be challenged in a court of law by the copyright holder at any time.  In essence, fair use is a nice concept, but it doesn’t really exist in practice.  There are clear cases where a judge will decide that something is fair use, but only after ending up in court.  Basically, fair use should be defined so clearly and completely that, when something is used within those constraints, no court is required at all. Unfortunately, fair use isn’t defined that clearly.  Copyrights leave anyone attempting to use a copyrighted work at the mercy of the copyright holder in all cases except when permission is granted explicitly in writing.

Public Domain

Public domain is a type of copyright that says there is no copyright.  That is, the copyright no longer exists and the work can be freely used, given away, sold, copied or used in any way without permission to anyone.

3D Art Work

When computers first came into being with reasonable graphics, paint packages became common.  That is, a way to push pixels around on the screen to create an image.  At first, most of the usage of these packages were for utility (icons and video games).  Inevitably, this media evolved to mimic real world tools such as chalk, pastels, charcoal, ink, paint and other media.  But, these paint packages were still simply pushing pixels around on the screen in a flat way.

Enter 3D rendering.  These packages now mimic 3D objects in a 3D space.  These objects are placed into a 3D world and then effectively ‘photographed’.  So, 3D art has more in common with photography than it does painting.  But, the results can mimic painting through various rendering types.  Some renderers can simulate paint strokes, cartoon outlines, chalk and other real world media.  However, instead of just pushing pixels around with a paint package, you can load in 3D objects, place them and then ‘photograph’ them.

3D objects, Real World objects and Copyrights

All objects become copyrighted by the people who create them.  So, a 3D object may or may not need permission for usage (depending on how they were copyrighted).  However, when dealing with 3D objects, the permissions for usage of 3D objects are usually limited to copying and distribution of said objects.  Copyright does not generally cover creating a 3D rendered likeness of an object (unless, of course, the likeness happens to be Mickey Mouse) in which case it isn’t the object that’s copyrighted, but the subject matter. This is the gray area surrounding the use of 3D objects.  In the real world, you can run out and take a picture of your Lexus and post this on the web without any infringement.  In fact, you can sell your Lexus to someone else, because of the First Sale Doctrine, even though that object may be copyrighted.  You can also sell the photograph you took of your Lexus because it’s your photograph.

On the other hand, if you visit Disney World and take a picture of a costumed Mickey Mouse character, you don’t necessarily have the right to sell that photograph.  Why?  Because Mickey Mouse is a copyrighted character and Disney holds the ownership on all likenesses of that character.  You also took the photo inside the park which may have photographic restrictions (you have to read the ticket). Yes, it’s your photograph, but you don’t own the subject matter, Disney does.  Again, a gray area.  On the other hand, if you build a costume from scratch of Mickey Mouse and then photograph yourself in the costume outside the park, you still may not be able to sell the photograph.  You can likely post it to the web, but you likely can’t sell it due to the copyrighted character it contains.

In the digital world, these same ambiguous rules apply with even more exceptions.  If you use a 3D object of Mickey Mouse that you either created or obtained (it doesn’t really matter which because you’re not ultimately selling or giving away the 3D object) and you render that Mickey Mouse character in a rendering package, the resulting 2D image is still copyrighted by Disney because it contains a likeness of Mickey Mouse.  It’s the likeness that matters, not that you used an object of Mickey Mouse in the scene.

Basically, the resulting 2D image and the likeness it contains is what matters here.  If you happened to make the 3D object of Mickey Mouse from scratch (to create the 2D image), you’re still restricted.  You can’t sell that 3D object of Mickey Mouse either.  That’s still infringement.  You might be able to give it away, though, but Disney could still balk as it was unlicensed.

But, I bought a 3D model from Daz…

“am I not protected?” No, you’re not.  If you bought a 3D model of the likeness of a celebrity or of a copyrighted character, you are still infringing on that copyrighted property without permission.  Even if you use Daz’s own Genesis, M4 or other similar models, you could still be held liable for infringement even from the use of those models.  Daz grants usage of their base models in 2D images.  If you dress the model up to look like Snow White or Cruella DeVille from Disney’s films, these are Disney owned copyrighted characters.  If you dress them up to look like Superman, same story from Warner Brothers.  Daz’s protections only extend to the base figure they supply, but not once you dress and modify them.

The Bottom Line

If you are an artist and want to use any highly recognizable copyrighted characters like Mickey Mouse, Barbie, G.I. Joe, Spiderman, Batman or even current celebrity likenesses of Madonna, Angelina Jolie or Britney in any of your art, you could be held accountable for infringement as soon as the work is sold.  It may also be considered infringement if the subject is used in an inappropriate or inconsistent way with the character’s personality.  The days of Andy Warhol are over using celebrity likenesses in art (unless you explicitly commission a photograph of the subject and obtain permission to create the work).

It doesn’t really matter that you used a 3D character to simulate the likeness or who created that 3D object, what matters is that you produced a likeness of a copyrighted character in a 2D final image.  It’s that likeness that can cause issues.  If you intend to use copyrighted subject matter of others in your art, you should be extra careful with the final work as you could end up in court.

With art, it’s actually safer not to use recognizable copyrighted people, objects or characters in your work.  With art, it’s all about imagination anyway.  So, use your imagination to create your own copyrighted characters.  Don’t rely on the works of others to carry your artwork as profit motives are the whole point of contention with most copyright holders anyway.  However, don’t think you’re safe just because you gave the work away for free.

Posted in 3D Renderings, art, Daz Studio by commorancy on March 25, 2010

Ruby

Posted in art, render by commorancy on January 22, 2010
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State of the Art: What is art?

Posted in art, images, render, terragen by commorancy on May 17, 2009

This debate has raged for many many years and will continue to rage for many more.  In certain internet digital art communities this debate is again resurfacing.  Some people put forth that using found digital materials like, for example, 3D models available through such sites as Daz3d.com and ContentParadise.com aren’t art when rendered through tools like Poser.  Well, I put for this response to these people.

What exactly is art?

That is an age old question. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about ‘old’ mediums such as paint, canvas, pencil, clay, or metal or if you are discussing ‘new’ mediuma such as Poser, Daz, Bryce, Photoshop, Z-Brush or even Maya. The question is still valid and still remains unanswered. Basically, the answer mostly lies in the eye of the beholder. Thus, whether or not something is art is all based on opinion. Some people never believed that Marcel Duchamp’s urninals were art. Some people never believed that Jackson Pollack’s paint splatters were art. Some people never believed that Robert Rauschenberg’s mixed medium works (including tires and other found objects) were art. Some people still don’t.  But, does that make them not art?  No. Clearly, these men have been recognized as artists in art history.  Thus, what they have created is art.

The fact is, controversy has always surrounded new forms of art and new art mediums. There have been many artists who have taken existing pre-made structures and turned them into ‘art’.  In digital media, this is no different than inserting an existing Poser figure and using it in any given digital artwork.  Simply using Poser and a Poser figure does not necessarily make the work less profound as art.  

Creating things from scratch

For those who believe that you must create everything from scratch in 3D, I put forth this argument. Most artists who paint today do not make their own paints, construct their brushes and create their canvas (down to spinning the yarn and looming it into a fabric). If it were required by artists to create everything simply to ‘create art’, not much art would be created.  Most people would spend their time creating the tools they need to create the art.  Should you be required to create the graphite and shape the wood just to turn it into a pencil? No.  Sure, I admire those who want to create everything from scratch and I applaud them. But, that doesn’t mean every artist needs to work in that way.

If you want to take this argument further, then you should be required to write your own Photoshop application each time you want to modify an image.  Clearly, this is silly and no one would think this.  So, why is it that people believe that you must create every object you place in a 3D realized world and rendered image?  You don’t create every object you put in your home, why should you have to create every object you put in 3D world you create?  Again, this argument is completely silly.

Creating 3D objects

Yes, creating 3D objects using a modeling program is an art in itself.  It takes a lot of patience and consumes time creating these objects.  Again, I applaud these content producers. And I agree that it does make those objects art, but only in the sense of industrial design (very much like the camera or a chair).  The object is nothing, however, without a showplace.  Like the camera, if an object isn’t used in some way and no one ever sees it, then it’s not time well spent creating the object.  Thus, without a showplace, the object is not an artwork.  It is art in the sense of industrial design, functional art.  In this case, though, 3D objects only have functions when used in the context of creating scenes or together with other objects.  So, creating a 3D version of  a Ferrari F40 is great, but as an object on its own it’s really not a piece of artwork (other than industrial design).  However, this F40 could be used within a larger scene combined with other objects to create an artwork.  Then, the object becomes much more than its industrial design heritage.

That’s not to say I don’t respect and admire those who create 3D objects.  I do.  I applaud them and encourage them to create more.  Without such objects, artists won’t have the necessary things to create the imaginative scenes they can envision.

Art is what you make of it

Not to be overly redundant… ok, let’s…Art is what you personally make of it. Good art conveys emotion, makes a statement and usually motivates the viewer into a reaction (good or bad). However, whether a specific work is good or bad art is for each person to decide.  A 3D object, its texture and bump maps and all of its underlying components don’t and can’t both evoke a reaction and make a statement alone.  Only when these objects are placed within an imaginitive scene do these objects take on a new life and become much more than the sum of their parts.

Probably the single deciding factor for whether a specific piece of art is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is whether or not the work was intentional (i.e., makes a statement about something). Thus, if someone intentionally takes a listless figure and does nothing to it and plops it in the middle of a scene seemingly uncreatively with a few simple lights, the deciding factor is if the artist did this scene intentionally to make a point about some subject matter. Intent is the single biggest factor in any artwork. As an artist, you have to understand this single aspect. Everything you put into a scene must be intentionally placed there and and placed there for a reason. If the scene does not seem intentionally constructed, then the artwork has failed as artwork. An artist might copy those who create ‘amateur’ works in a statement about amateur artwork, but which then becomes artwork in itself. It’s the statement itself that makes it art.

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