Minimal Unit

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"Minimal Unit" takes the economy of appropriation to its limit. Where does the distinction lie between appropriated material and original content? Does it require the recognition of the spectator? If this is impossible, does authorial intention then become re-activated in the face of this problematic? The question at hand is of a source.

Appropriated material is assumed to be apparent, especially when using popular culture as source material. "Minimal Unit" does not claim to be original - its content is appropriated. During the "credits" of the video, all source material is attributed, in the order of its use, to its source (as well as including the copyright information attached to each source). These films have the biggest budget and are the most high profile products of popular culture at this moment. Yet, even with all this information present, the distinction between sources is illegible.

What is the minimal unit of appropriation? If one were to zoom into a painting so close there was only solid color, is this appropriation? If one were to reduce a song to pure tone, would this be appropriation? "Minimal Unit" is footage taken from blockbuster films, but from those brief moments of transition where there is only black screen and silence.

Finding its roots in language, the problematic of intertextuality and plagiarism, "Minimal Unit" is composed of single gestures, stolen, but common to all articulations. Language functions because of iterability, because it has been and can be repeated. Therefore, every use of language is, and must be, plagiarism. The Modern Language Association defines plagiarism as the use of three words or more in common with its source. Since every text has its source in language, before all else, then is not every text plagiarism? But of what? Must one put quotation marks around every word? If there is no origin to language, then there cannot be originality.

"Minimal Unit" is the limit of this notion. Each silent black clip is appropriated directly from an attributed source, but before such an act could be committed, each unit belonged to language. Every use of language, at its minimal unit, is both universal and infinitely citable. As it is always already contained within and produced by intertextuality, is not every gesture at once both authentic creation and plagiarism? What is the difference? Where is the minimal unit?

The video can be viewed at: http://opensourceculture.blip.tv/#756971

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