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Im/material Regeneration by Eduardo Navas


The following text was published in August of 2015 in the publication Seismographic Sounds: Visions of a New World, which accompanies a traveling exhibition with the same title.  More information can be found at http://norient.com/en/events/seismographic-sounds/

The book can be ordered at: http://norient.com/stories/book/

I would like to thank Theresa Beyer and Thomas Burkhalter for the opportunity to share an update on my definitions of Remix. This text is a short version of a much longer essay to be released in the future.

Download a PDF version of this text.

Remix/ Archive
Im/material Regeneration
Remix is at play in all areas of contemporary culture. Text, image and sound become easily accessible data that can be re-combined at will. Remix in music consisted of the reinterpretation of pre-existing songs by way of sampling. Today the copying/sampling of not just sound but all material from infinite sources challenges the «spectacular aura» of the pre-recorded original in order to claim autonomy.

By Eduardo Navas

Cultural production has entered a stage in which archived digital material can potentially be used at will; just like people combine words to create sentences, in contemporary times, people with the use of digital tools are able to create unique works made with splices of other pre-recorded materials. Due to the ubiquitous action of cut/copy & paste, output is at an ever-increasing speed. This process is possible because what is digitally produced in art and music, for instance, becomes part of an archive, particularly a database. The archived material begins to function like building blocks, optimized to be infinitely combined. This state of affairs is actually at play in all areas of culture, and consequently is redefining the way we perceive the world and how we function as part of it. The implications of this in terms of how we think of creativity and its relation to the industry built around authorship are important to consider for a concrete understanding of the type of global culture we are becoming.

Data as an Informational Vector

Digital material such as videos, still images and texts uploaded to websites, blogs, databases and social media platforms become the building blocks of contemporary global communication. Just like we can separate a written text into multiple pieces, digital technology similarly enables us to take apart any digitally produced work, to then repurpose segments as we see fit. With computer technology, data becomes a type of informational vector that can be implemented as desired or needed. With the speed of network communication the perception of things being static is coming to an end, and the ever-changing state of forms produced (viral memes on YouTube and social media are an early example of this) will become valued more than a single instance of production; if technology keeps moving as it is currently, we may be able to view any regenerated object and its history, as well as a prognostication of where it may be going. In short, nothing is original, just unique to the moment in which it is experienced.

Extended, Selective and Reflexive Remixes

Music – or how remixing music changed over time –  is one aspect of our everyday reality where we can observe what I will call cultural regeneration at play. Generally, a music remix is a reinterpretation of a pre-existing song, which means that the «spectacular aura» of the original will be dominant in the remixed version.  Some of the most challenging – and often newest – remixes can question this generalization as we will see. Based on its history, it can be stated that there are three basic types of remixes. The first remix is extended: it is a longer version of the original composition containing long instrumental sections to make it more mixable for the club DJ. The first known disco song released on a 12 inch vinyl record to be extended to ten minutes was «Ten Percent» by Double Exposure, remixed by Walter Gibbons in 1976. The second remix is selective: it consists of adding or subtracting material from the original composition. This type of remix made DJs popular producers in mainstream music during the 1980s. One of the most successful selective remixes is Eric B. & Rakim’s «Paid in Full,» remixed by Coldcut in 1987. The third remix is reflexive: it allegorizes and extends the aesthetic of sampling, where the remixed version challenges the «spectacular aura» of the original and claims autonomy even when it carries the name of the original; material is added or deleted, but the original tracks are largely left intact to be recognizable. An example of this is Mad Professor’s famous dub/trip hop album No Protection (1994), which is a remix of Massive Attack’s Protection. A special kind of remix is the mashup, which depending on how it is composed, can be regressive or reflexive. The music mashups at the beginning of the twenty-first century follow the principle of the eighties megamix, and unlike the extended or selective remixes, they do not remix one particular composition but at least two or more sources. Music mashups are usually regressive, though if they were pushed to become works of art (along the lines of Mad Professor’s No Protection) they could be reflexive due to their critical position. This means that the music mashup often simply points back to the «greatness» of the original track by celebrating it as a remix. The term regressive here makes an implicit reference to Adorno’s theory of regression in mass culture, which for him is the tendency in media to provide consumers with easily understood entertainment and commodities. Arguably, the most popular, and historically important mashup up to date, is a full-length album by Danger Mouse titled The Grey Album, which is a mashup of Jay-Z’s special a capella version of his Black Album with carefully selected sections from the Beatles’ White Album.  The Grey Album also exposed the tensions of copyright and sampling with emerging technologies: Danger Mouse deliberately used the Internet for distribution and he was pushed by EMI (the copyright holders of the Beatles’ White Album) to take the Grey Album offline.

The Regenerative Remix

There is a fourth form of remix that moves beyond music, which I define as the regenerative remix. It is specific to new media and networked culture. Like the other remixes it makes evident the originating sources of material, but unlike them it does not necessarily use references or samplings to validate itself as a cultural form. Instead, the cultural recognition of the material source is subverted in the name of practicality—the validation of the regenerative remix lies in its functionality. This remix form is most potent when it functions as a binder of recycled material, which can only be of value when it continues to circulate. While circulation of ideas and the forms they take have been evolving since we developed symbolic language, which in essence is regeneration (reconfiguration of material for new purposes), it is only in the time of computers and networks that all circulation, all flows are being recorded and data-mined. With this in mind, it is important to understand that to sample does not automatically mean that one is creating a concrete remix (as in a music remix—meaning, an aesthetic object), but rather contextualizing the samples to express a new idea. One could sample from any song and use that sample to create a new composition, just like we can reuse a word in a new statement to make a different point in a different argument. Remix, once it enters a state of quantifiable and archivable regeneration leaves behind the perception of a static form. In this sense remix itself becomes something different from pre-networked forms of recycling such as music remixes, which one can experience repeatedly knowing they don’t change materially (our experience of them does, of course). The regenerative remix is constantly changing as it is linked to the constant flow of data.


The next stage is to produce without any lag. There may well be a time not too distant in the future when we will be able to access databases with image, sound, text, and video sources to express what we want just as fast as we utter a sentence. Allusions to this are already mythically proposed on television. During the month of April in 2015, a TV commercial aired advertising with the question «Can you deliver?» The ad is by Cognizant, a corporation which offers information technology services and data analysis. At one point, the TV spot shows a pair of headphones linked to a mobile device while the voice of a young person states, «can it download a song while I sample it?» The «it» in the sentence refers to the technology being used for the transfer and manipulation of data. The implied statement within the question is about speed and the ability to use all media as fast as one conceives of a possible use.  It is therefore not farfetched to consider the possibility that if technology is to move in the ever-increasing way it has thus far, we will leave our current speed of communication for another that may be as fast as a person can think and likely faster. What such forms may be is not clear at the moment, but technology is evidently invested in this type of innovation.

Eduardo Navas is the author of Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (Springer, 2012) and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies (Routledge, 2015). He currently conducts research and teaches on the crossover art and media in culture in The School of Visual Arts at the Pennsylvania State University.

DJ Set at the Opening Reception for Mashup The Archive, Bayreuth, Germany

Video: This video segment is from the early part of DJ Raph’s set at the Iwalewahaus’s opening event for the art exhibition Mashup The Archive.

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the Exhibition Mashup the Archive at the Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth. The opening reception took place on May 30, 2015. It was an amazing night. There were three DJs who performed: DJ Raph from Nairobi, who is also an artist and remixed songs from the Iwalewahaus’s sound and music archive, DJ Zhao from Berlin, and musician Spoek Mathambo from South Africa. Their sets were amazing and the sound was so loud that the microphone of the iPhone I used to record excerpts of the performances does no justice to the energy of the party. People danced into the early morning.In this post I share videos of their respective sets, which took place in the order the DJs are listed.

I want to thank Sam Hopkins,  Nadine Siegert, and Ulf Vierke for inviting me to participate in the events. I was fortunate to participate in a panel with Beatrice Ferrara, Nina Huber, and Mark Nash. It was a real pleasure to engage in a debate with them on what it means to mashup an archive of African Art. I will be sharing images of the exhibit along with a brief critical reflection in a separate post.


Video: DJ Zhao working the crowd at the Iwalewahaus’s opening for the exhibition Mashup the Archive.

Video: Spoek Mathambo working the crowd at the opening reception of Mashup the Archive.

Preliminary Notes on Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia Part 3


Figure 1: Detail of Minima Moralia Redux Remixes 51 – 55. First set of entries part of the second part of Minima Moralia Redux.

Read the entire entry at Remix Data

Minima Moralia Redux, a selective remix of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia, enters a second phase in 2015. This was not foreseen when I began the project back in 2011, because the work is not only a work of art, but also research on data analytics, as well as a critical reflection on networked culture.

The first part of Minima Moralia Redux (entries  one to fifty), consisted of updating Theodor Adorno’s aphorisms–that is to remix them as contemporary reflections of the way global society and culture is engaging with emerging technology. When I finished the first section, I realized that the project’s aesthetics were changing. This was for a few reasons. In terms of research, the first section provided more than enough data for me to data-mine Adorno’s approach to writing; therefore, I came to see no need in following this methodology. I plan to make my findings about this aspect  public in a formal paper in the future.

Read the entire entry at Remix Data

Art Packets & Cultural Politics: A brief reflection on the work of Joelle Dietrick and Owen Mundy, by Eduardo Navas

Image: Joelle Dietrick and Owen Mundy, “Grid Sequence Me and The Sea is a Smooth Space,” 2013, Three Channel Projection Dimensions variable, Flashpoint Gallery, Washington D.C., Photographs by Brandon Webster

The following essay was published in Joelle Dietrick’s and Owen Mundy’s art catalog survey of their ongoing art collaboration titled Packet Switching, published at the end of 2014. A PDF of the actual catalog is available for download. I want to thank Joelle and Owen for inviting me to write about their work, which, as the essay should make evident, I consider an important contribution to contemporary media art practice.


Joelle Dietrick’s and Owen Mundy’s ongoing body of work titled Packet Switching focuses on the relation among information exchange, architecture, and social issues. They examine and appropriate the action of data transfer across networks to show the major implications that these three cultural elements have at large.  Packet Switching, in technical terms, is straight-forward; it is designed to be practical, to transfer information over a network, broken into small pieces at point A then to be sent to point B, where it is put back together. Each packet does not necessarily take the same route, and may even go through different cities around the world before it gets to its final destination. The technology that makes this possible was first introduced as a strategic tactic by the U.S. Government to win The Cold War.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s the relation between the military and research universities was the foundation of our contemporary networked culture.[1]  Packet switching was used to send information from and to various centers across the United States. Such a decentralized system of intelligence was developed in case of a Soviet Attack. The network used for this information exchange eventually became the foundation of the Internet.[2] It is evident that delivering information from point A to point B was politically motivated, and in this sense its cultural implementation was pre-defined by the struggle for global power.


Routledge Companion to Remix Studies Now Available

I just received in the mail a hardbound copy of The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies. It’s been such a long process. Editing 41 chapters has been quite an endeavor, but a good one. I would like to thank my co-editors, xtine Burrough and Owen Gallagher, who are just amazing collaborators. This book could not have been published on time had it not been for our mutual diligence in meeting deadlines. I also want to thank the contributors who were just amazing during the long editing process (for a full list of authors see the dedicated site for the book: Remix Studies).

I really hope that researchers, academics and remixers find the anthology worth perusing.

More information on the book:

Routledge: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415716253/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Routledge-Companion-Remix-Studies-Companions/dp/041571625X


Interview for the Radio Show: Fade In/Fade Out, Remixing Culture

At the end of July, I was interviewed  for KulturWelle. Their radio feature titled Fade In/Fade Out, Remixing Culture, which aired on September 3, 2014, presents excerpts of interviews with musicologist Fabian Czolbe, media and communications researcher Steffen Lepa, Ramón Reichert, and, myself, Eduardo Navas.

The feature is literally a remix in German and English of our reflections on the recyclability of culture complemented with music and sound excerpts. Even if one does not understand German, one should listen to the hour long show. It is a true rhetorical soundscape equivalent to a well mixed music recording. Many thanks to Nikita Hock, who first contacted me, and all the producers of the radio show, including  Anastasia Andersson, Bernadette Breyer, Lara Deininger and Angelika Piechotta.

The Steve Reich Remixes

The Steve Reich Remixes consists of  four mashups of  selected tracks of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians.

I selected tracks from Reich’s original recordings based on their time: 6, 5, 4, or 3 minutes, and matched them to end at the same time. The tracks part of each mix last more than the number which appears in its proper title (after the @) but less than an extra full minute. These remixes are developed based on my previous experimentation with chance in mashups of John Cage’s Compositions for Piano.

Table of Contents for the Routledge Companion to Remix Studies Available

We have now turned in the manuscript of The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies, and can release the Table of Contents. The reader is due for release around December 14, 2014. The TOC is below:

Introduction Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough

Part I: History
1. “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A Model for Generative Combinatoriality” Martin Irvine
2. “A Rhetoric of Remix” Scott H. Church
3. “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal: Reflections on Cut-Copy-Paste Culture” Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss
4. “Toward a Remix Culture: An Existential Perspective” Vito Campanelli
5. “An Oral History of Sampling: From Turntables to Mashups” Kembrew McLeod
6. “Can I Borrow Your Proper Name? Remixing Signatures and the Contemporary Author” Cicero da Silva
7. The Extended Remix: Rhetoric and history Margie Borschke
8. “Culture and Remix: A Theory on Cultural Sublation” Eduardo Navas

Part II: Aesthetics
9. “Remix Strategies in Social Media” Lev Manovich
10. “Remixing Movies and Trailers Before and After the Digital Age” Nicola Maria Dusi
11. “Remixing the Plague of Images: Video Art from Latin America in a Transnational Context” Erandy Vergara
12. “Race & Remix: The Aesthetics of Race in the Visual & Performing Arts” Tashima Thomas
13. “Digital Poetics and Remix Culture: From the Artisanal Image to the Immaterial Image” Monica Tavares
14. “The End of an Aura: Nostalgia, Memory, and the Haunting of Hip-hop” Roy Christopher
15. “Appropriation is Activism” Byron Russell

Part III: Ethics
16. “The Emerging Ethics of Networked Culture” Aram Sinnreich
17. “The Panopticon of Ethical Video Remix Practice” Mette Birk
18. “Cutting Scholarship Together/Apart: Rethinking the Political-Economy of Scholarly Book Publishing” Janneke Adema
19. “Copyright and Fair Use in Remix: From Alarmism to Action” Patricia Aufderheide
20. “I Thought I Made A Vid, But Then You Told Me That I Didn’t: Aesthetics and Boundary Work in the Fan Vidding Community” Katharina Freund
21. “Peeling The Layers of the Onion: Authorship in Mashup and Remix Cultures” John Logie
22. “remixthecontext (a theoretical fiction)” Mark Amerika

Part IV: Politics
23. “A Capital Remix” Rachel O’Dwyer
24. “Remix Practices and Activism: A Semiotic Analysis of Creative Dissent” Paolo Peverini
25. “Political Remix Video as a Vernacular Discourse” Olivia Conti
26. “Locative Media as Remix” Conor McGarrigle
27. “The Politics of John Lennon’s “Imagine”: Contextualizing the Roles of Mashups and New Media in Political Protest” J. Meryl Krieger
28. “Détournement as a Premise of the Remix from Political, Aesthetic, and Technical Perspectives” Nadine Wanono
29. “The New Polymath (Remixing Knowledge)” Rachel Falconer

Part V: Practice
30. “Crises of Meaning in Communities of Creative Appropriation: A Case Study of the 2010 RE/Mixed Media Festival” Tom Tenney
31. “Of ‘REAPPROPRIATIONS'” Gustavo Romano
32. “Aesthetics of Remix: Networked Interactive Objects and Interface Design” Jonah Brucker-Cohen
33. “Reflections on the Amen Break: A Continued History, an Unsettled Ethics” Nate Harrison
34. “Going Crazy with Remix: A Classroom Study by Practice via Lenz v. Universal” xtine burrough and Dr. Emily Erickson
35. “A Remix Artist and Advocate” Desiree D’Alessandro
36. “Occupy / Band Aid Mashup: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?'” Owen Gallagher
37. “Remixing the Remix” Elisa Kreisinger
38. “A Fair(y) Use Tale” Eric Faden
39. “An Aesthetics of Deception in Political Remix Video” Diran Lyons
40. “Radical Remix: Manifestoon” Jesse Drew
41. “In Two Minds” Kevin Atherton


Navasse’s DJ Set for Remixed Media Festival IV

Navasse’s DJ Set for Remixed Media Festival IV by Navasse on Mixcloud

This is a recording of a DJ set practice session for a performance which took place at the Remixed Media Festival IV on April 26, 2014 at Culturehub/La Mama, NYC. The recording was done on April 23, 2014, and features all the songs that were mixed live. The improvisational aspects of transitions and remixing of tracks in the recording differs from the live performance as it is in these areas where a DJ takes artistic license to improvise.

Description from the Festival’s website:
Eduardo Navas’s research and writing on remixing as a creative act across culture is founded on his long term interest in DJing as an art form. His DJ set for RE/Mixed Media Festival IV will consist of a mix of early funk tracks, heavy Hip Hop bass samples, and selected reggae and caribbean-influenced beats.

Many thanks to Tom Tenney and Robert Prichard for making the Remixed Media Festival Possible for 4 consecutive years.

The Long Table at Refest at La Mama/Culturehub NYC, November 29, 2013

On Friday January 29, I participated in The Long Table, an open discussion session part of Refest in which about 8 individuals were invited to discuss the state of remix in 2013. The video of the discussion is embedded above. The Long Table was co-curated by Tom Tenney. The event took place at La Mama streamed live and archived online by Culturehub.  I had the pleasure to participate in this event along with Adriano Clemente, David CommanderFabian Saucedo, Jennifer Weber, and DJ Spooky, among others. The discussion began with the copyright dispute over the song “Girls” between GoldieBlox and The Beastie Boys. It moved from there to other aspects of remix. Refest took place at La Mama from November 29 – December 1, and also featured a performance by DJ Spooky which took place on November 30. The video of the performance is embedded below. Many thanks to Tom Tenney for inviting me to participate, a special thanks to the entire staff at La Mama and Culturehub, who do an amazing job at producing high quality events.

Watch live streaming video from culturehubnyc at livestream.com

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