As we’ve already seen, the practice of copying and pasting, at least in its more artisanal versions (such as collage), has deep roots that go back to the early 20th century, i.e., to historical avant-garde movements (Cubism, Dadaism, Futurism, Constructivism, Surrealism, etc.).
It was then the turn of the neo-avant-garde of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s (Neo-Dada, Nouveau Réalisme, Pop art, Xerox art, Fluxus, conceptual art), which, like their predecessors, were focused on making good use of the tried-and-true practice of reusing materials taken from external sources.
Lastly, in the 1980s and the 1990s, the cultural climate changed, and the “myth of the avant-garde” began to fade along with trust in the linear and constantly progressive development of history and modernity, ushering in a phase that some historians call “postmodern.”
Within it are two types of postmodernism: “warm” postmodernism, with the return of painting, personal narrative and references, and “cold” postmodernism, which in my opinion is much more interesting than the former, perhaps best encapsulated in Sherrie Levine’s After Walker Evans series.
At the time, appropriation and quotation almost became gospel for many leading artists, to the degree that concepts traditionally connected to creating art such as “originality” and “authenticity” began to waver.
The 2000s! Finally, we’re in the current, contemporary era, which has been dominated by a new star: the internet. The web of webs, supported by the extraordinary development of modern digital technologies, has defined the times far and wide, drastically restructuring people’s lives.
Although a good part of the world’s most advanced art has continued down the same path as before as if nothing has changed (i.e., many artists still today make use of the internet and new technologies in an ancillary way and nothing more), some of them have recognized the opportunity presented by technological innovation.
In fact, these artists have ended up combining their creative experience with the possibilities offered to them by modern technology and the evolution of the web, which has changed and reinvented itself over and over again.
So, we have slipped from creative experiences that were partly utopian and veiled with romanticism such as those of net art, where “web anarchy” and “copyright-free” ideologies were pursued, to more disenchanted experiences (but no less interesting), such as new media and Post-Internet art.
At the same time, the web has gone from Web 1.0, in which user activities were limited to mere browsing, to a more mature phase called Web 2.0, characterized by keywords such as interaction, sharing, participation and engagement, enabled by social networking sites and hi-tech products such as smartphones.
Thanks to the relative ease with which it has become possible to create new content and share it, ever more users flooded the internet with a boundless mountain of photographs, home videos and so much more. Creators thus began to make inroads.
And here we are today. The web is in the midst of yet another metamorphosis, what is being called Web 3.0, whose main characteristics are the transformation of the internet into a database (cloud computing) and the use of technologies based on artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Semantic Web.
These sorts of innovations will most likely lead to momentous changes that, on a purely creative level, will be transformed into the clear enhancement of the capacities of single users during the content creation phase. This will bring about the further convergence of the most inventive internauts, aka creators, and professional artists.
Moreover, the web will be, even more than it is today, an enormous archive that can be easily queried (the Semantic Web), a resource from which to extract multimedia materials of any kind. It’s a safe bet that, in such a context, creatives (professional or amateur) won’t be able to resist bringing original new work to light through the most “classic” strategy of all: copy-paste creativity!