While on a recent late-night journey in the Tumblr wormhole I came across the Lisa Frankfurt School. This site consists of Lisa Frank and other appropriated imagery captioned with parodied titles of notable literature. For me the particular mashup Death of the Otter is the quintessence of the archive. The piece of writing this image references is The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes. In his essay Barthes positions that one must remove all trace of a work’s author when interpreting it.
I imagine Barthes would love this blog and Tumblr in general. If he were alive today he would have seen how Tumblr allows its users to reimagine and reinterpret visual culture in every context imaginable. For Death of the Otter, the imagery is no longer the photographer’s or Lisa Frank’s and the text is no longer Roland Barthes’. One is able to read the imagery without having to know who the creator is or what implications that their background and history have on the work they make. The meaning of any work therefore is created by the audience based on their own interpretation of that work.