Mash-Ups, Fusions, and Breaking Out of Creative Boxes

Driving to work just before St. Patty’s Day, I passed a truck delivering Irish whiskey to a local bar.


“Whiskey aged in IPA barrels!!!” the truck’s advertisement shouted.


“Odd,” I thought, having only previously sipped ales aged in whiskey casks. “Everything’s a mashup.”


It seems that way, lately, doesn’t it? I mean… everything’s a mashup. Not just drinks (but, I am looking at you, strawberry açaí lemonade refresher).


Photo by Annie James Thomas

We’re writing science fiction/fantasy as a combined genre. Comedy/dramas are dramedys. Horror is subgenred as psychological, but it can have the laugh-track element. The pendulum swings wide.


Art pop. Sketch photography. Psychedelic cumbia.


Offshoots of offshoots of offshoots of offshoots.


I love it, and here’s why: art is following a societal shift and bringing about and/or following a much needed change. Maybe it’s subtle, or maybe you’re seeing it in big bold letters and hearing it loud. It’s finally reflecting the message that we’re not one thing, so art doesn’t need to be either. I cringe a little because the melting pot theory is too simplistic for like… anything… but for the sake of this post not being a million words, let’s go with it. It’s the idea that cultures and ideas coming together can create a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts.


Stepping back, consider the following scenario. When you’re at work, what’s a reason you’d become irritated toward your co-workers? They’re not pulling their weight? They’re not working as hard as you do? They don’t understand how much you work? But, wait. We’re not talking about your close mates, the ones that are evaluated like you and assigned similar tasks. They get you. We’re talking about that other department. It’s because the organizational management tends to put everything in silos, and we can’t see through walls. Collaboration and communication make everything that much better.


Art can’t see through walls either, and this fusional concept means breaking down the art silos. And, it feels good. The groups are talking and sharing. Musicians do it and we like it. I mean, we really like it:


Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. with “Walk this Way.”


Sonic Youth and Chuck D. With “Kool Thing.”


Johnny Cash and Nick Cave with “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”


Phish and Jay-Z with “99 Problems.”


Luciano Pavarotti and Queen with “Too Much Love Will Kill You.”


Or, look at it this way. Music genres have exploded over the years. Take a look at Every Noise for proof (which, in my humble opinion is one of the COOLEST places on the internet).


When it comes to art, if we ever had silo-guidelines, they are going away. Graffitied-fine art. Pride and Prejudice. And Zombies.


Photo by Annie James Thomas

The best news is for us artists - it means we don’t need to be defined or define ourselves as one thing. Want to be a poet backed by a band? Go for it.


The “mass market” is going away. Just ask Seth Godin. With our ever-increasing screen time, our exposure to stuff is, I’d guess, at an all-time high. You might see X paired with Y, two things you’d never expect together. There’s more room now for experimentation, and there are no gatekeepers. Maybe it was always like that, but now, it’s front and center, it’s on our screens and in our living rooms, and pulsing through our earbuds, as we sip surge-priced whiskey aged in IPA barrels.


On the bright and beautiful side, it means creating without borders or restrictions. It means not worrying about whether something fits into a box. If what you’re doing doesn’t fit into the box, find your own box. Better yet, make your own box. Best yet, break right out of the cardboard.




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