Re: Meme spotting

Tim Rhodes (proftim@speakeasy.org)
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 12:53:55 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <proftim@speakeasy.org>
To: <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Meme spotting
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 12:53:55 -0700

Bill Benzon wrote:

>But this is really beside the point, at least for orthodox memetics. Just
>where and how this meme came into being is one issue. How it replicates is
>another. whether or not the meme first appeared in North America in the
>films of Jackie Chan, Chan is just a vehicle for the meme's replicative
>agency. It's the nature of that agency I'm inquiring about. How does meme
>do it? How did it enter Jackie Chan's mind and get him to replicate
>itself?

I think the Arts are a good place to follow these kinds of inquires.
Movies, painting, music, dance, theater--all of them thrive on imitation.
Artists are shameless thieves, as any of them will admit to you, and
instances of spontaneous adaptive mutation are rare enough that we classify
them as "movements" when they happen on a large scale and describe the
history of art as a series of such evolutions.

For instance, it's widely felt that Cubism, although obviously built on the
foundation laid by the Fauves and Post-Impressionists, more than likely had
a more specific memetic origin in two museum shows in Paris. One, a show of
African sculpture, fetishes and masks (along with the growing collects of
such objects being amassed by Fauve painters), and the other, a (posthumous)
retrospective of the works of CÚzanne shown at the Salon d' Automne in
1906-7. [1] But how Picasso and Braque came across these memes is much
easier to describe than how they recombined into new memes when expressed
through the Cubist's paintings.

-Tim Rhodes

[1] Frederick Hart (1985) Art, a history of Painting, Sculpture, and
Architecture.

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