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“Regenerative Culture” by Eduardo Navas


«Information is not knowledge». (Albert Einstein). Linkedin maps data visualization. Picture: Luc Legay/Flickr. (see Norient for context)

Regenerative Knowledge was written between June and October 2015. It was published on Norient in five parts between March and June 2016. I want to thank Thomas Burkhalter and Theresa Beyer for editing the essay and making it available on Norient’s academic journal. In this essay I update the definitions of remix with an emphasis on the regenerative remix. I argue that constant updating is becoming ubiquitous, which is much more evident a year after the essay was written. A short version titled “Im/material Regeneration” was published in print as part of Seismographic Sounds in 2015.

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Cultural production has entered a stage in which archived digital material can potentially be used at will;[1] just like people combine words to create sentences (just like this sentence is written with a word-processing application), in contemporary times, people with the use of digital tools are able to create unique works made with splices of other pre-recorded materials, with the ubiquitous action of cut/copy & paste, and output them at an ever-increasing speed.[2] This is possible because what is digitally produced in art and music, for instance, once it becomes part of an archive, particularly a database, begins to function more like building blocks, optimized to be combined infinitely.[3] 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.

In what follows, I evaluate situations and social variables that are important for a critical reflection on how elements flow and are assembled according to diverse needs for expression of ideas and informational exchange. I begin by elaborating on what I previously defined as the regenerative remix,[4] which is specific to the time of networked media, to then relate it to speech in terms of sound and textual communication. I then provide examples that make evident the future trends already manifested in our times. Because digital media consists in large part in optimizing the manipulation of experience-based material that before mechanical reproduction went unrecorded, the aim of this analysis, in effect, is to evaluate how ephemerality is redefined when image, sound, and text are digitally produced and reproduced, and efficiently archived in databases in order to be used for diverse purposes. In other words, what happens when what in the past was only ephemeral is turned into an immaterial exchangeable element, and most often than not some type of commodity? To begin in what follows I analyze how the regenerative remix functions as a type of bridge to a future in which constant updates and pervasive connectivity will become ubiquitous in all aspects of life.

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[1] This is a reasonable proposition as long as the person has access to the material. Some archives are evidently password protected. The person has to be also in a position to exert such an act, and this is linked to economics and class that define the person’s reality. I am not able to go into this issue in this text as its focus is on how sampling is functioning in terms of regeneration.

[2] This is already evident in the fact that the time it takes to produce just about any cultural apparatus has been shortened exponentially since the industrial revolution. Futurist Alvin Toffler makes a case with his term “The 800th Lifetime.” The much criticized Ray Kurzweil, who currently is affiliated with Google, also makes a case for exponential growth, arguing that Moore’s Law will be superseded in 2020, and we will enter a new paradigm of innovation. See, Alvin Toffler, “The 800th Lifetime,” Future Shock (New York: Bantam Books, 1970), 9-10. Ray Kurtzweil, “Ray Kurzweil Announced Singularity University,” Ted Talks, Last updated February 2009: https://www.ted.com/talks/ray_kurzweil_announces_singularity_university#t-188322.

[3] My use of the term “building blocks” is influenced by the work of Manuel De Landa, who discusses language in relation to biology and geology. I refer to his work throughout this essay. See Manuel De Landa“Linguistic History: 1000 – 1700 A.D.,” A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (New York: Zone Books, 1997), 183 – 190.

[4] Eduardo Navas, “Remix[ing] Theory,” Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (New York: Springer, 2012), 101-108.

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“Culture and Remix: A Theory on Cultural Sublation” excerpt from The Routledge Companion, by Eduardo Navas

In late 2014/early 2015, I co-edited, along with xtine Burrough and Owen Gallagher, The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies. My chapter contribution to the anthology is “Culture and Remix: A Theory on Cultural Sublation.” Part of the introduction follows below. If interested, the chapter can be perused on Google books. Use Firefox for best results.

A Theory on Cultural Sublation
Eduardo Navas

Remix culture is a term increasingly used to explain basic principles of creativity and individual expression since the mid- to late 1990s.[1] Given its common usage, the nature of the compound-term’s dependence on a complex history may not seem obvious. When evaluating the relation of remix to culture at times one may ask, “What kind of culture are we becoming when we consider remixing an important element in creative production?” And, “What exactly is culture?” In this line of questioning, it becomes evident that in order to understand in depth what role remix plays in culture it is necessary to define with precision the term “culture.” This should make possible a discussion about the possibilities and limitations of remix, not only in terms of remix culture, which is a concept in large part informed and shaped by Creative Commons, but also culture in the larger context of history. The following, then, is a brief analysis in which I first define culture to then evaluate its relation to remix. The concept of the avant-garde is presented as a cultural example in which remixing is at play explicitly on two layers that I define as the framework of culture.[2] I also analyze how social media relies on the framework of culture to develop a new type of economy. This analysis will expose the reasons why, historically, creative production appears to resist established patterns of production, but eventually is sublated by cultural economies and becomes vital to capital as a whole.

Culture Defined

All cultural critics (as their title implies) have to assume a concise idea of culture. Two cultural critics who have taken the time to define culture at length are Raymond Williams, who published his theories around the 1950s, and Terry Eagleton, who became an authority as a surveyor of culture, due to his focus on the subject particularly in the 1980s. Eagleton defines culture by referencing the definitions of Williams, as well as T. S. Eliot. In Eagleton’s definition, one comes away with a sense of culture defined, unapologetically, by the West. He argues that as Western thought has spread throughout the world, it has been able to make claims to a certain way of thinking that affects other cultures that did not hold Western values.[3] Eagleton also points out that culture originates in nature and is defined by labor. Culture is nature modified according to the interests of individuals who perform a specific form of manual work: “We derive our word for the finest of human activities from labour and agriculture, crops and cultivation.”[4] Eagleton discusses at some length how culture developed a sense of resistance, especially in the nineteenth century; for him, such resistance has links to the rise of the avant-garde during the same time period.

According to Raymond Williams, the fact that art became a value in and of itself at times separated from everyday life was the result of a preoccupation with cultural changes that started around 1790, and climaxed around 1945. Part of the cultural struggle  since the end of World War II, Williams argues, had been to find ways to reintegrate the value of art back into the everyday.[5] Williams divides the separation of art and everyday life into three stages: the first from 1790 to 1870, when industrialism rapidly developed; the second from 1870 to 1914, when specializations started to become the norm; and finally, 1914 to 1945, a time when the specializations of the second period kept developing, but became complicated by the rise of mass media and large corporations.[6]\

Peruse the chapter on Google books. Use Firefox for best results.

Extended, Selective and Reflexive Remixes, Art 415, SoVA @ Penn State

During the Fall Semester of 2015 I am teaching principles of remix for image music and text for Art 415: Integrating Media in the School of Visual Arts (SoVA), Penn State. The students went through eight weeks of sound experimentation that led to three versions of a composition of their own. The students worked with pre-existing samples, ambient sounds they recorded, as well as melodies they developed on their own. The assignments leading up to their first major project were developed based on a conversational approach, meaning that I would provide weekly guidelines for experimental projects based on what they produced for each week. This process led to the development of the three basic forms of remix: the extended, the selective and the reflexive. I share their work below in an order that encapsulates their overall approach. The first and last pieces by D’Emidio and Weinman explore melody over rhythm, while the second and third by O’Halloran and Netzer focus more on ambient noise as abstract melodic rhythm. The students veered to these approaches on their own. I look forward to what they will now produce with image and text.

Christine D’Emidio, Project 1, Extended, Selective, Reflexive Remixes


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. (more…)

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.

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.

Book Review of Remix Theory in Mixmag

A review of my book, Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling,  was published on April 11, 2014 in  the German edition of Mixmag. Many thanks Florian Schirmacher for his critical review. It’s in German:

Warum finden wir genau diesen Detroit Beat in so vielen aktuellen Produktionen wieder? Liegt es daran, dass alle denselben Remix machen, weil Spuren im Internet aufgetaucht sind? Oder haben sich die “House-Lover” alle auf dasselbe Sample geeinigt? Der Remix erfährt gerade so eine elementare Wiederbelebung, dass der theoretische Unterbau und das nötige Einbeziehen in einen größeren Zusammenhang zum unausweichlichen Basiswissen geworden ist.

More at http://www.mixmag.net/germany/features/remix-theory

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


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