“Mona Lego”

Lots of important concepts coming out this week. It is interesting to see how we extend terms in literature/linguistics and semiotics to a broader sense. Intertextuality can extend to intermedial and dialogism is not only for the meaning making in a specific area.

I’ve been in the CCT Remix class before and we spent the first few weeks struggling with “what is remix and what is not?” I was surprised that Professor Irvine’s article is in Nava’s book because the main theories we draw in that Remix class is Nava’s. Nava tries to draw a line between “surface remix” and “deep remix” (that is what professor Irvine called Remix+). Since Nava’s speciality is in music remix and mashups, he writes articles on classification of music remix, mostly based on surface remix. Therefore in that class, what we emphasized was surface remix, that is borrowing materials and remix them. It was indeed an interesting process since we can use remix as a tool, a form, to benefit us (for instance, educational purpose.) However, remix is not only a form. Surface remix is a way to help us think, and using it as a tool is not ultimate purpose. I think there’s a quote from the Remix+ article is very thought provoking, “Turing to interpretive remix genres based on sampling, quotation, and encyclopedic cross-referencing in contemporary musical forms, we find that the technical means for combinatoriality can be used to disclose the underlying  recursive, generative, dialogic processes of the expressive forms.”

Also I found there’s a page is very useful on the PPT (The dialogic principle and the cultural encyclopedia: interpreting pop and appropriation art), page 22. It gives me a clear direction of thinking step by step to analyze how an art work “make sense” to us. Any art work is composed by segmentation. We can start analyzing it by its components. But at the same time, the work, as a whole conveys meaning that is more than the mathematical summation of segmentation. In this post the art work that I chose is Lego Mona Lisa. I will first analyze both the surface/composition of it and then I will focus on how to relates to other art works and how it embedded in the whole cultural encyclopedia.

An independent “Brick-Builder” Eric Harshbarger has been building professional LEGO buildings since 1999. He used to only focus on 2D mosaics and murals built out of LEGO bricks, and recently he creates few 3D sculptures. I think the LEGO Mona Lisa, as what he called “Mona Lego” is quite interesting (also because I don’t know much about art and gallery paintings and Mona Lisa is among the few things I know.)

Firstly he did two “Studs-Out” fashion mosaics (Figure 1&2). “Studs-Out” means the bumps on the bricks face out toward the viewer. The bigger one (Figure 1) is about 6 feet wide by 8 feet tall and requires over 30,000 pieces. However, it only uses the 6 basic LEGO colors: black, blue, green, red, white, and yellow. According to Eric, very little glue was used. Only the “hanger” pieces along the top were glued as well as any pieces which spanned the “seams” of the 33 baseplates underneath.

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Figure 1


Figure 2

Now he is working on a “Studs-Up” fashion Mona Lego (Figure 3&4.) The bricks are stacked atop one another normally and the viewer is looking at the side of the bricks.


Figure 3


Figure 4

Then it is interesting to think how we interpret an art work like this? There are many parody versions of Mona Lisa on the website: Mona Lisa with make-ups, zombie Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa in the galleries, etc. However, I think this types of art is “higher” (maybe there’s a better word) than mere parodies. It needs creativity, aesthetic values, and special techniques. I want to relate Mona Lego with Andy Worhol’s work. (I forgot where this argument comes from, but probably professor Irvine) that Worhol’s work is to de-aetheticize and re-aetheticize previous arts. I think here is the same story that he re-aetheticize the original painting Mona Lisa through the aesthetics of lego (lego color and lego materials.) When we look at the Mona Legos, it definitely reminds us of the original painting (how beautiful it is; how famous it is; how important it is to the art world; or maybe how expensive and mysterious it is too.) All those ideas will be reminded by looking at Mona Lego, even though it is not an original one! But this creativity also sparkles new ideas: how can the author do this? Lego is not only for kids! It opens up a new “genre” of art. It is not just use materials from the past (Eric doesn’t go to Louvre Museum and cut the original painting, or print out a photographs of the original painting, which is more like “surface remix”). He use new materials to link the past ideas to the future. He constructs a link that demonstrates meaning is dialogic, forwarding to the future, to more re-interpretations.

Of course, there are “surface remix” going on in his Mona Lego works. But I think this work can help us to think through how “surface remix” and “Remix+” work together that make art generative and dialogic.