So much of what is best in our culture is about taking what you’re given and playfully reinventing it. Having thought some more about this, I came up with a list of eight art forms that I consider great, and to which this is really central:
What greater tribute could anyone make to a fictional character than to go to the effort of dressing up as them? Of course that effort varies from a brief wardrobe rummage to building a giant cardboard robot suit, but it all comes down to the same thing – remodelling an existing character in the form of you.
Covers of Songs
A good cover version can transform a song into something entirely new and unexpected. From Guns n Roses making Paul McCartney sound metal, through to Postmodern Jukebox making Pitbull songs bearable, it creates some amazing moments.
Some computer game modders dedicate themselves to creating new locations, characters and weapons for players. Others just want to make monsters look like Thomas the Tank Engine. Whatever the approach, it’s another layer of play in a medium that’s already all about playing.
Painting Wargames Miniatures
Incredible craftsmen make the tiny sculptures that adorn toy battlefields and roleplay tables across the world, and they do so knowing that what they’ve made isn’t even the end product. There are whole competitions dedicated to the art of painting figures an inch tall, techniques and styles that have been developed just for this. The results can be breathtaking, if you take the time to look.
Yes, there are a lot of annoying, lazy remixes out there that just lay a dance beat underneath what was previously a passable song. But there is some amazing stuff too, like Girl Talk, whose music is made up entirely of samples, or the Heresy remix on Further Down the Spiral by Nine Inch Nails, a version that lifts a decent song into something pulse pounding.
Skilled writers like Naomi Novik have crafted entirely new stories from the inspiration they took from others – in the case of her Temeraire, combing Master and Commander with the dragons of Pern. And it’s something people enjoy for its own sake – imagining existing characters into different situations, and sharing them with like minded readers.
When I was a kid, a friend of my parents had a model train set in his loft. He had taken the components others had made for him, from the trains and tracks to the houses, plastic people and components for trees, and built an entire landscape. That stuff is amazing.
The LRP of the TV Show
Live roleplay (LRP) games, where people take on the role of invented characters, often take ideas from other stories, but some are entirely dedicated to them. From Warhammer 40K to Joss Whedon’s Firefly, there are people running around the woods living those universes for a weekend. What could be more exciting than being a Browncoat for a day?
What else is there? What have I missed? And which of these do you enjoy? Share your thoughts – that’s what the comments are for.