I don’t run this blog under any pretenses. I don’t claim to be an artist here, and I don’t claim this material to be “found footage” or anything like that.
Plenty of people have already pointed out the fact that that i’m not monetizing this or using it to promote myself. I’m not stamping my url onto any of the images i post, nor am i trying to sell you t-shirts. I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing up to this point electively, because I’m interested in exploring this particular branch of video games. I try to do my best to represent these games, relative to my personal experiences playing/recording/gif’ing/arranging them as honestly as possible. This is sensitive content, and I try my best to handle it delicately. These games emerged from a subculture of computer hobbyists in the 80s and gradually transformed into a huge industry. They have a fascinating history which I will divert to this article.
This blog’s source material is all other people’s work and I think I’ve done a decent job at indicating that fact. I include the title of each game (since 2011, and i’m slowly adding them to earlier posts) in every post’s url. You can look these titles up on your own (I also invite you to ask me), and you’ll find additional information about who made them and when. I encourage people to do this. My blog isn’t an archive because better ones exist already and at any rate it’s beyond the range of my organizational abilities. I do however, try to point people who are interested in the right direction. (If the content I’ve posted on this has inspired any artists/game designers/writers/people who play video games/people interested in the history of video games/etc/etc/etc, well that’s the best thing I could hope to achieve here.)
I’m getting off topic, but the point is that I’m trying my best to fairly and respectively organize/display these games in an interesting way. I don’t own this work and I’ve been using it without permission. It’s curation. I’m presenting one of many ways of seeing/appreciating/engaging this material. I think most people understand this already. I’m being redundant. So this leads us to the next, utterly-fucking-obvious fact that this is also a form of sampling. This is something that both Jon Rafman and I are doing here. Both circumstances are equally as valid as the other because we are operating in a legal gray area anyway. I don’t own or claim any sort of control over this work and neither does Rafman. However, Rafman has certain privileges which allow him to display his half-assed interpretation of internet subcultures in art galleries. The sources he used weren’t anonymous, or even particularly inaccessible. Yet he chose not to acknowledge them at all. Everything is reduced to what the video’s description calls a “range of online fetish sites.” Rafman didn’t give a shit about the subjects of this video. He’s supposedly exploring themes within internet subcultures, yet in the process is stripping said subcultures of any agency and reducing them to components of shock value for promotional purposes. Most discussion of the video in the press has been centered around its “shocking” and “disturbing” qualities and that’s about as far as anyone goes. SUBCULTURE and INTERNET and THEME OF OBSESSIVE DESIRE are all relevant, interesting and worthy of artistic exploration but I think that Rafman approached this in an incredibly lazy way. And of course, whatever. He was able to get away with it and nobody who matters is obligated to care. I don’t think it should be taken down or censored or whatever. I don’t feel vindictive towards Rafman or Oneohtrix Point Never or Warp. This issue is about representation and accountability rather than credit or ownership or negative publicity or whatever. I’m not interested in attacking Rafman’s entire body of work or credibility as an artist or anything like that. I haven’t spent enough time researching him to make those criticisms. This is an isolated issue I’m having with him because it involves me in a weird, semi-direct way. I think I have the right to call him out on this, I think I have the right to criticize the way he used this footage which he obtained as a result of my efforts. I have the right to defend what I’ve been doing here and point out that he did something that was shitty and unprofessional, even if it was permitted. He never had to acknowledge this at all, he probably wouldn’t have if no one brought it up. He’s been following me on tumblr at least as early as the date of the video’s premier so there’s no way he didn’t know I existed and could be contacted directly.
Rafman has since then achieved the bare minimum of accountability by gradually listing his sources on the Still Life (Betamale) vimeo page. The most recent amendment to this (before the video was taken down a second time) included the message “Special Thanks to FM TOWN SMARTY!!” which I assume is intended to be sarcastic. And that’s the extent of his contribution.
Anyway the vimeo page is gone again, the video is still available on 0PN’s website and on the Warp homepage and that’s that.
This is a complex issue and I don’t think that there’s any particular solution to it. I’m happy enough with the fact this has become part of the discussion, and that people have made excellent points on both sides of the argument. I think that’s more important than leaving things as they were, or settling on a “yeah but that was the point” type explanation. I think this discussion has so far been more meaningful than the one Rafman was probably aiming for.
I’d like to extend my gratitude to every major dude who has so far weighed in on this business, and I deeply appreciate all of the kind words and well-wishes i’ve received. You are all truly wonderful people and your support is way beyond anything I would have ever hoped to ask for.
-yr eternal pal,
F. Michael Townsmartin