|Palm Tree Reflection via Scott Kinmartin|
Those three things were:
1. The White Album project
2. Daniel Joseph's reaction to Leigh Alexander's post on clones of Threes
3. 1966 New York Times Article on Old Believers
Rutherford Chang collects copies of The White Album; original pressings to be exact, though the condition can be of any quality. He delights in the variance of the same, seeing within every aged copy a different story or set of circumstances behind its appearance. His collection, now numbering 944 as of writing, is the embodiment of mimesis and some of the deep delights- but also insecurities- mimetic objects given form present for modern society. For Chang, the idea of the White Album collection is to document the collected experience of each individual pressing from 1968, and the variance between the copies, raw differences creating mimetic fuzz around the original form of the copy, complete for him the experience of that mimetic object in total.
Daniel Joseph's piece, reacting to Leigh Alexander's post about Threes and game 'cloning', hint at the insecurity mimesis produces for the cultural medium of games. Using Marx's concept of the 'general intellect'', Joseph suggests that the ease of cloning casual games, like Threes, is becoming more apparent simply because this form of the larger game medium is no longer resistant to such causal cloning via the traditional safeguards of "sophisticated platforms, rigorous copyright laws, and a high capital investment." He concludes, "As it happens games belong to everyone while so many still are scrambling for the scraps of this knowledge to survive."
Threes, as a mimetic object on multiple levels (not only as a source of inspiration for clones, but also considering its digital distribution method via the Apple app store), reveals how the perceived notion of the copy, in this case the games 2048 and 1024, highlights what Plato articulated long ago as the flaw of the mimetic act. Here I'm quoting Marcus Boon from his work, "In Praise of Copying":
"…Plato's mistrust of mimesis, and of the artist- the mirrored image, and event the craftsman's object, [was because he believed these forms] confuse the ignorant as to what is essential. At the same time, it is the Platonic belief that the outward appearance of something indicates its essence which continues to generate much of our confusion about what a copy is. When we say 'an original,' we usually mean something in which the idea and the outward appearance correspond to each other. There is no distortion in the relation of appearance to essence, to "what a thing is." Copies, then, for Plato and for us, most of the time are distortions of this relationship. The mirror produces the sun, yet it is not the sun. Basicreplica.com produces a Louis Vuitton bag, yet the article is not a real Louis Vuitton bag." (20)The mimetic potential available to casual games reveals not only the unsettling distortion between idea and outward appearance (found in the example of Threes and its 'clones'), but also that the essence of the casual game, by the very fact that it is *so* open to the mimetic act, allows it to escape arbitrary and imposed restrictions on its form and enter what Joseph calls the 'general intellect.'
With Chang we see the delight mimesis summons; yet with Joseph, and by extension Alexander, we also see the insecurities mimesis brings into cultural forms. For the final example under consideration, we will see how the emergence of Old Belief into American culture combined both the delight and insecurity of mimesis as exemplified in the question of assimilation.
What strikes me about this two-paneled, front page photograph is that it manages to create a visualized tableau capable of being interpreted though the lens of mimesis. On the left, we have an Old Believer family set against the backdrop of what appears to be a modest, middle-class house. The caption juxtaposes the 'traditional beard' of the man with the fact that he currently works in an assumed modern soft-drink factory. On the right, we have a photo of Old Believers, clad in flannel shirts and mesh-style baseball hats, assembling furniture for the Excelwood Products Company. Again, their beards mark them as conspicuous even though their boss, unseen but heard in the caption underneath, praises their behavior.
While the scene would indicate the success of the Old Believers in assimilating into their new American culture, the headline and subsequent sub-title hint at 'distortions' between the assumed original, a bona fide American citizen, and the copy, an Old Believer immigrant from Turkey. In particular the phrase 'leaning to new ways' suggests that some residual dissonance still exists between the traditional composition of Old Believer lives and the values/mores of the modern as grounded in the space of domestic and factory settings. There is delight in the copy act itself, as American culture via the house and factory appear to be converting the Old Believers, yet there is also insecurity about what these 'copies' will bring into American culture and whether or not the Old Believers will allow the mimetic act to so completely remake their lives.
Obviously these are loosely connected threads of thought, but it appears to me that viewing the interaction and transformation of a cultural space through the lens of mimesis provides deeper insight into the fundamental nature of said cultural space.