Finger Tutting: From Dorm Room Horsing Around to the Corporate Big Time

In Western culture, Egypt seems to be the best place to trace lithe, high glamour, iconic posing, and so it seems fitting that a certain style of freeze frame dancing would be dubbed as “tutting” (as in “King Tut” or Pharoah Tutankhamen).

In October of 2009, a person who calls himself JayFunk Finger posted at YouTube his variation on iconic Egyptian posing, using his fingers. JayFunk Finger didn’t originate the art form, but of what’s been posted on YouTube (since about 2007), he does it most impressively and creatively.

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Very cool. It went viral. And don’t you know what happened next? That’s right. A corporation—Samsung—approached JayFunk finger to do a commercial. And here it is:

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While I’m happy to see a student make a bit of money on some ad work, I’m nevertheless a bit uneasy about the commercial. It seems like the shift from authenticity to marketing is so easy (and completely accepted culturally). The hippies experienced the same appropriation. Bob Dylan, for example, famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) did an ad for Cadillac.

So somebody comes up with something new and beautiful and it gets cannibalized for money-making, changing its spontaneous heart character. It makes something living, dead. That’s American (I suppose).

And in this instance of finger tutting, the added graphics in the commercial somehow make it not only less alive, but positively robotic.

Maybe I’m just being a purist and naive. I’m sure that if I ever created something new and beautiful, and an advertising Mephistopheles approached me, I’d jump at the chance to make some extra bucks. But still. Is there anything beautiful in this world that the Moloch of money-grubbing reproduction doesn’t grab hold of and transform into itself?

American democracy was once conceived of as a beautiful thing, and now look what corporate money has done to that.

In a way, JayFunk Finger has become King Midas. What he fingers turns to gold.

I wonder if he has any ambivalence about that.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Finger Tutting: From Dorm Room Horsing Around to the Corporate Big Time

  1. Paradigm says:

    Arvo Pärt lived most of his life behind the Iron Curtin and managed to make music I and a lot of other people find better than anything created in the West during the 1900s and forward. It often features in American movies. That said, it is not communism that inspired Pärt who is a deeply religious person.

    If there is no money to be made from a work of art , you will think of the inherent value more. So maybe communism was better in that way.

  2. santitafarella says:

    Paradigm,

    I doubt there are many artists that think about money in making art. Instead, they do their art out of love and compulsion. But when something beautiful is recognized by others, then in swoops the advertiser: how can we make a buck out of this?

    Next, the artist is contacted and an existential moment kicks in: will I allow that thing that came from my heart to be turned into gold? Will I let an advertising agency transform my experience into something to be repackaged: a mass produced simulacra?

    It’s an old problem. It’s Jesus cleansing the temple. When you encounter the ontological mystery, within or without, is it something sacred for you, or can it also be transformed (without damage) into a quantifiable problem for enticing people to buy, in large numbers, a product?

    —Santi

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