Illegal Art

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Return to the work of Stephen Poletto


What does it mean to be a musician in today's world? Clearly there are some musicians who directly sample the work of others. Girl Talk comes to mind as a prominent example of someone basing his work solely on the work of others. But for those who enter the studio to create something "new", are they not directly influenced by everything that has come before them? The artist's personal connection with the music he or she has encountered has a direct influence on their notions of music and expression.

In this work, I took a list of highly popular albums, to guarantee that almost any American has heard at least one song from one of the albums. To do so, I aggregated every album from the following lists (excluding duplicates of course):

From the list of albums collected, I then selected random 32 by 32 pixel regions of the album covers. After iterated copy and paste, I arrived at the image shown below:

A full-size, high-resolution version is available for download here.

What results is a universal album cover - an album cover that could be used by any artist for any album. The collage of appropriated image represents a network of interconnected and inter-influenced art that shapes the development of future music.

I eventually plan to use the work produced as the cover for my mashup album. My music relies solely upon sampling the work of others. It therefore seems fitting to create an album cover with no "originality," by only re-arranging regions from others' album artwork. However, I also invite any and all artists interested in using the collage, or re-creating it in any way for their own personal work to do so.

The Process

In order to download all the album covers and guarantee there were no duplicates, I used the (illegal) torrent website I downloaded an HTML page for each of the lists above. Then, using a python module called "BeautifulSoup," I created a list of links to the actual source image files.

Once I had generated a list of links to source images and downloaded them all to a local folder on my desktop, I wrote a second python script to automate the random sampling and iterated copy-and-paste procedure.

Anyone who wishes to use the above code to create their own collages is free to do so. In order to run the code above, you will need to modify the source paths for where to load and save images. You will also the make sure you have the following installed:

Special Thanks

The title, Illegal Art, comes from the sampling label started by "Philo T. Farnsworth" in 1998. My personal work in the realm of mashup music has been greatly influenced by the work of Girl Talk, who is on the Illegal Art label.

Inspiration for the project, from the PostSecret project:

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