chapter  3
18 Pages

The Reverend on Ice again: similarity, difference and relocalization

According to conceptual artist, writer and musician DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, “creativity rests in how you recontextualize the previous expression of others, a place where there is no such thing as an ‘immaculate perception’” (Miller, 2004, p. 33). In his book Rhythm Science, Miller (aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid) argues that the DJ can be seen as the archetypal artist of today, using technology to sample, borrow and reproduce sounds and music from elsewhere. Hip-hop culture, broadly understood, provides a very particular cultural and ideological background as transgressive art, as a challenge to norms of language, identity and ownership (Alim, 2006; Alim, Ibrahim and Pennycook, 2009; Pennycook, 2007a). Aspects of this broad cultural formation include “an enthusiastic embracing of new technology and mass culture, a challenging of modernist notions of aesthetic autonomy and artistic purity, and an emphasis on the localised and temporal rather than the putatively universal and eternal” (Shusterman, 2000, p. 61). Of particular interest here is “recycling appropriation rather than unique originative creation, an eclectic mixing of styles” (ibid.), or what Potter calls “the relentless sampling of sonic and verbal archives” (1995, p. 53). DJ Spooky describes sampling as “a new way of doing something that’s

been with us for a long time: creating with found objects. The rotation gets thick. The constraints get thin. The mix breaks free of the old associations” (Miller, 2004, p. 25). Creativity rests in the recontextualization, or as I shall argue here, the relocalization of others’ expressions. Theo van Leeuwen’s (2008) understanding of discourse as “recontextualized social practice” (p. 1) is important here, since it suggests that language practices are social practices in which other social practices have been recontextualized. The things we do socially are recontextualized as discourse when we do them in language, or more broadly as part of a social semiotics. As we shall see in subsequent chapters, when a newspaper journalist writes about temple elephants in Kerala (Chapter 5), or reef conservationists discuss fish they have observed underwater (Chapter 6), we are observing one set of practices recontextualised in language.