performance abduction

Performance Abduction is my term for the unprecedented possibilty brought about by audio and video recording of using the record of someone else’s performance as part of your own performance or recording. I feel this is a form of creative appropriation that has not just legal and financial, but arguably also human ramifications. To the extent that the original recording reproduces faithfully another human being’s performance in the world, it can allow appropriators effectively to make that performer (seem to) perform along with them, in work that might in no way be consistent with the reality of the original creator.

Earlier modes of appropriation were either conceptual (taking someone’s idea, tune, plot, etc), literal (re-using someone’s words), or concrete (taking physical objects – usually mass produced – and using them as part of your own object [e.g. collage and photomontage as practised by the Dadaists, or “readymades”]).

With audio and video recording technologies in the 20th century, however, it becomes possible to use recordings of someone else’s physical (and emotional) performance (their voice, their playing of an instrument, their acting or non-acting on camera, etc) as part of one’s own creation.

I think the first place something like this happens in a popular context is hip hop, in which DJs created new music by repeating, cutting, or altering musical passages from other people’s records and mixing pieces of more than one record together. With the advent of sampling and digital editing in the 1980s it becomes much easier and more common to do this kind of appropriation.

In the early 21st century personal computers, digitized media, and digital editing software have made it comparatively effortless for all of us to practice performance abduction. Professional commercial media producers also use it widely in music production, advertising, film making and so forth.

My concern is with the rights of the original creator/performer – especially if they are dead or don’t own the rights to their performance – and the loss or indeed ignorance of what they cared about in the repurposing of remixers who use these people’s personal performances for their own ends.