This essay is a critical overview of the New Aesthetic in the context of what I define as The Framework of Culture. The New Aesthetic relies heavily on principles of remixing, and for this reason it is not so much a movement, but arguably more of an attitude towards media production that is overtly aware of computing processes that are embedded in every aspect of daily life. Material considered part of The New Aesthetic often, though not always, consists of pixilated designs that make reference to digital manipulation of contemporary media.
One of the The New Aesthetic’s resonating issues is that by using the word “new” it appears invested in the recontextualization of cultural production that is aware of its materialization through the use of digital technology. At the same time, it also appears to be revisiting much of what new media already examined during the early stages of networked communication beginning in the mid-nineties.  The subject of interest in this text is not whether The New Aesthetic may be something actually “new,” or simply a trend revisiting cultural variables already well defined by previous stages of media production. Rather, what is relevant is that The New Aesthetic makes evident how recycling of concepts and materials is at play in ways that differ from previous forms of production.
I will be presenting my research on Remix and Cultural Analytics at the Departamento de Artes Plásticas da ECA, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil during a one week seminar, March 19 – 21, 2012. Information below.
Principles of Remix Seminar
This seminar examines the act of remixing in contemporary culture. It takes a historical approach with the aim to define remix not only as an act but a process. Remix is often discussed in terms of copyright and intellectual property. In contrast, this seminar engages remix as a cultural binder. The premise for the sessions is that remix affects culture in ways that go beyond the basic understanding of recombining material to create something different. The class will go over key principles of remix, and will also contextualize it in the tradition of critical theory.
The five-day seminar will make use of research published in the texts suggested for reading (see list below). The texts should be read before the actual meetings.
Day 1: Principles of Remix
Day 2: The Aesthetics of Remix
Day 3: The Dialectics of Remix
Day 4: The Social Implications of Remix (Social Media and Cultural Analytics)
Day 5: Remix Globalization and Cultural Analytics
All material to be discussed during the seminar is written by Eduardo Navas:
“Regressive and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture”
This is a snippet from my review of Form + Code. You can read the entire text on Vodule.
Form and Code in Design, Art and Architecture, as the book’s cover proposes, is a “guide to computational aesthetics.” As such it lives up to its promise, which one must accept with the understanding that the authors selected projects that are, in their view, representative of larger movements.
Form + Code, co-authored by Casey Reas, Chandler McWilliams, and Lust, released in the Fall of 2010, gives equal attention to textual as well as visual language. This could not be accomplished without the careful treatment of image and text as complementary forms of communication. For this reason it makes sense that Lust, a design studio based in The Hague, is given equal credit as co-author.
In fact, the book’s innovation largely lies on its design, which, at first glance, may appear to be that of a small coffee table publication. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes evident that Form + Code exudes expertise from practitioners who do not profess to be interested in making theoretical or historical propositions, but instead want to share their knowledge on how to be creative in computing and the arts. The book’s honesty is its strength. However, such honesty narrows somewhat the book’s potential to become a definite reference for computational aesthetics. Before I get to the latter, I must emphasize the former.
Download a high resolution version of Diagram in PDF format
This text was originally published on June 25, 2007 in Vague Terrain Journal as a contribution to the issue titled Sample Culture. It was revised in November 2009 and subsequently published as a chapter contribution in Sonvilla-Weiss, Stefan (Ed.) Mashup Cultures, 2010, ISBN: 978-3-7091-0095-0, Springer Wien/New York published in May 2010.
It is here republished with permission from the publisher and is requested that it be cited appropriately. This online publication is different from the print version in that it is missing images that help illustrate the theory of Remix that I propose. I do encourage readers to consider looking at the actual publication as it offers an important collection of texts on mashups.
I would like to thank Greg J. Smith for giving me the opportunity to publish my initial ideas in Vague Terrain, and Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss for inviting me to revise them as a contribution to his book publication.
This version brings together much of my previous writing. Individuals who have read texts such as The Bond of Repetition and Representation, as well as Turbulence: Remixes and Bonus Beats will find that many of my definitions and theories of Remix are repeated in this text. I found this necessary to make sense of a fourth term which I introduce: the Regenerative Remix. Those who have read the previous version of this text may like to skip pre-existing parts, and go directly to the section titled “The Regenerative Remix.” However, all sections have been revised for clarity, so I encourage readers to at least browse through previously written material.
An important change has been made to this text. In the original version I argued that Reflexive Mashups were not remixes. In 2007 I did not know what Reflexive Mashups could be if they were not remixes in the traditional sense, but after consideration and rewriting, I developed the concept of the Regenerative Remix. To learn more about this change in my definition of Remix as a form of discourse I invite readers to consider my revised argument. I also introduce a chart (above) which helps explain how Remix moves across culture. I also include an entirely new conclusion which will clarify my earlier position on software mashups.
A note on formatting: The text below is set up in simple text form. This means that italics and other conventions found in print publications are missing. If you would like to read a print ready version, please download a PDF file.
During the first decade of the twenty-first century, sampling is practiced in new media culture when any software users including creative industry professionals as well as average consumers apply cut/copy & paste in diverse software applications; for professionals this could mean 3-D modeling software like Maya (used to develop animations in films like Spiderman or Lord of the Rings);  and for average persons it could mean Microsoft Word, often used to write texts like this one. Cut/copy & paste which is, in essence, a common form of sampling, is a vital new media feature in the development of Remix. In Web 2.0 applications cut/copy & paste is a necessary element to develop mashups; yet the cultural model of mashups is not limited to software, but spans across media.
Mashups actually have roots in sampling principles that became apparent and popular in music around the seventies with the growing popularity of music remixes in disco and hip hop culture, and even though mashups are founded on principles initially explored in music they are not straight forward remixes if we think of remixes as allegories. This is important to entertain because, at first, Remix appears to extend repetition of content and form in media in terms of mass escapism; the argument in this paper, however, is that when mashups move beyond basic remix principles, a constructive rupture develops that shows possibilities for new forms of cultural production that question standard commercial practice.
Tim Etchells (born 1962, lives and works in Great Britain) City Changes (2008) inkjet prints
As part of my residency at the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, I visited a number of museums in the City of Gothenburg. I was not alone in this trip. I travelled with Melissa Mboweni, a contemporary art curator from South Africa, who was also a Correspondent in Residence.
This entry includes brief notes on some of the places we visited while in Gothenburg. This is also the last entry of my travels in Sweden. Other details of my research will appear in longer texts to be published at a later date in the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions’ Spana magazine.
On the afternoon of November 9, our first stop was Gothenburg’s Art Museum (Göteborgs Konstmuseum), where we were greeted by Curator Johan Sjöström. We spent sometime with an exhibition he curated on Ivar Arosenius, a prolific nineteenth century artist. The exhibit features 250 works, which, as Sjöström explained, was a selection from a larger body of work. Arosenius was a Swedish artist who grew up in Älvängen, a small town north of Gothenburg. He died in January 2, 1909 at the age of thirty due to complications of Haemophilia. I was overwhelmed by the amount of pieces on display–as I realized that an entire day would not allow for anyone to view properly all of the works. Sjöström explained that Arosenius would at times produce several pieces in one night.
“Bollywood,” an exhibit on the film industry in India, at display at the Museum of World Culture until May of 2010.
The next day, November 10, we visited Världskulturmuseet (The Museum of World Culture). Our host was Cajsa Lagerkvist, Head of Exhibitions and Research. We spent the morning with a few of her colleagues discussing the museum’s mission. I realized that the institution was unlike any other I had visited up to this point, as it focuses on what Cajsa and her colleagues referred to as contemporary global issues. This premise is rather open ended, and gives the museum, in my view, quite a bit of freedom to develop exhibitions that are sensitive to the ever changing facets of globalization.
South African Curator, Melissa Mboweni, during her lecture at the Museum of World Culture
At the time of my visit they featured an exhibit on Vodou, and another on Bollywood. I was told by our hosts that last year the museum enjoyed 240,000 visits, and that many people who attend are younger than thirty. It became understandable why the Museum of World Culture emphasizes education as part of their mission. During that afternoon, Melissa Mboweni and I presented our research to curators of various museums in the city.
Facade of the City Museum of Gothenburg
On the morning of November 11, we visited the Stadsmuseet (City Museum of Gothenburg). Curator Christian Penalva and Project Manager Charlotta Dohlvik, along with three of their colleagues took us around the numerous galleries. The City Museum is in essence a hybrid of collections that fit well under the term cultural history. It holds a number of important archeological pieces from the Viking era as well as artifacts from the early days of trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth century; it also hosts an impressive collection of Swedish theatre and dance costumes.
The City Museum also supports contemporary activities. At the time of our visit, it featured selections of the Gothenburg Art Biennale, titled What a Wonderful World, curated by Celia prado and Johan Pousette. We had a very animated discussion as Penalva explained the museum’s interest in implementing innovative approaches to exhibiting. The museum is considering how the concept of interactivity as defined in new media practice can be beneficial to the development of future as well as already existing exhibitions.
Main exhibition gallery at the Maritime Museum
During the afternoon we visited Sjöfartsmuseet (The Maritime Museum), where we were greeted by Curators Britta Söderqvist, Linda Noreen and their colleagues. They took us around the different exhibitions while explaining the special role of the museum in Gothenburg, which is important given that the Little London ( a popular reference) is a port city. Like the other museums, the Maritime Museum places an emphasis on youth education. Noreen, specifically, heads a project titled “Shoreline,” in which young citizens are encouraged to reflect through art, writing, and other creative forms of communication on what it means to live in a port city. Much of this activity is extended online.
A Virtual Aquarium display at the Maritime Museum. Direct camera feed from the ocean.
In general, the curators appear invested in exploring new forms of display. At the time, a historical exhibition of the port was on view. The idea was to present information and material in similar fashion as would be found in a working space. One display that caught my attention was a “virtual aquarium,” placed on one of the working tables (see video above). The aquarium actually is a camera feed from the sea presented on a large screen, also available online. Instead of viewing fish in a large container, the visitor can observe them in their natural environment and therefore get a sense of actual marine life.
Another place that we visited on the early evening of November 10 is Gothenburgs Konsthall, which is one of the venues hosting the Gothenburg Biennal. Curator Stina Edblom showed us around. There were quite a few good pieces in the exhibition, but I will only name one in this case, to be brief. I was particularly taken aback by Tim Echels’s “City Changes” (2008), [see image at the top of this entry]. The work consists of colored inkjet prints of a simple story about a small town. As the story is edited, the changes are recorded in different colors. Each draft is displayed in linear fashion from left to right across two gallery walls. Anyone who has a consistent relationship with writing will find Echels’s obvious–yet unexpected–focus on the act of editing quite refreshing.
Admittedly, since I struggle with ongoing edits of my own, I could not help but notice how meaning changed from one draft to the next; but I also wondered about edits that were between the drafts. Upon closer reflection, one could contemplate the possibility that the changes from one version to the next were deliberate to emphasize the flux in meaning as process, rather than trying to get a specific point across. The edits (additions and deletions) became metaphors for the physical changes in a town. Things were constructed and demolished according to the moment described within each draft. “City Changes” exposes our anxiety in trying to pin down meaning, in making it stable and fixed, when in reality ideas and their forms of manifestation are always prone for constant change.
Given my own tendency and focus on Remix as discourse, I could not help but wonder on how Echels was in some way exposing principles of selectivity: one of the basic elements necessary to develop a critical voice in a time when appropriation and recycling have become the most efficient forms of production at all levels of culture, especially the fine arts.
Our visit to Gothenburg was swift but fully packed. The purpose was to expose both Melissa Mboweni and myself to different curating approaches. Given that my own practice is in the arts, I have to admit that I learned quite a bit about aesthetics in museum display. Art exhibitions tend to be minimal in their approach, always showing only what is essential in order to do justice to the work of art. But I found the museums I visited in Gothenburg to be much more creative in their displays. This can definitely be a good thing, if the venue has a critical mission in the enrichment of culture.
”Wall Drawing #715”, February 1993
On a black wall, pencil scribbles to maximum density. Pencil.
Courtesy Estate of Sol LeWitt
First installation: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
First drawn by: S. Abugov, S. Cathcart, A. Dittmer, F. Dittmer, L. Fan, C. Hejtmanek, S. Hellmuth, D.
Johnson, A. Moger, A. Myers, J. Noble, G. Reynolds, A. Ross, A. Sansotta, J. Wrobel. (Varnished by
Image courtesy of Magasin 3
On November 5, as Correspondent in Residence for the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, I visited Magasin 3, located in Frihamnen (freeport), Stockholm. Curator Tessa Praun took the time to discuss with me the history of the Konsthall (art space) which opened in 1987, and has since then developed an extensive collection of contemporary art.
In the tradition of appropriation, Magasin 3 takes its name after the building’s original function as a sea port storage facility. The space is hard to find, and one must make a definite commitment to visit it. I was no exception. I first took the subway then a bus to the end of the line, then walked and (as is probably common for first time visitors) got a bit lost, but finally found the space.
The Konsthall has a low-key facade, and retains the look of an industrial space. Its name is no different than the other storage facilities in the area (there are magasin 1, 2, 4, 5, and more); because of this, it is unlikely that a casual passerby will enter the premises. This exclusivity gives Magasin 3 an elegance defined with minimal aesthetics. Appropriately enough, at the time of my visit, the konsthall featured minimal drawing installations by Sol LeWitt, curated by Elisabeth Millqvist. The Sol LeWitt exhibition opened on October 2nd 2009 and will close June 6, 2010. In what follows, I discuss LeWitt’s work as well as two video installations by british based Israeli artist Smadar Dreyfus, curated by Tessa Praun. (more…)
Description by Färgfabriken Birthday Party, 2000 Birthday Party (1:10) is a reconstruction of the party of the artist?s mother?s 65th birthday on March 16, 2000. Ten cameras documented the party, and the films were later screened in the windows of a wooden model of the suburban villa.
During the months of October and November, I am working for four weeks as a Correspondent in Residence for the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions (STE), a non-profit organization based in Visby, a small town located in the island of Gotland. The Institution produces exhibits of all types that travel throughout Sweden, and is particularly interested in exploring the possibilities of the exhibition space as a mobile unit in all possible forms.
As part of my residency, I am scheduled to visit a number of institutions mainly in the cities of Stockholm and Goteborg. My first stop was Stockholm, where on Monday, October 20, I visited Färgfabriken, an artspace located in a former factory sector. Project Manager Sofia Palmgren generously showed me around the former paint factory, which in 1996 was turned into an artspace that is focused in art as process. The institution has a very open mission statement, but upon examining their archives, it becomes evident that their interest is to deliver conceptually engaging art installations that are quite sensitive to all the senses.
Image: Last Session of “Chess and Duchamp” a four part class led by Chess Master Mick Bighamian
On August 12 I dropped by Telix Arts Exchange to participate in the Public School‘s class titled “Chess & Duchamp.” I was not able to attend the previous three classes as I was not in Los Angeles at that time. However, being a former Chess aficionado, who also developed quite a few art projects around the board game in part influenced by Duchamp, I was almost immediately in tune with the discussion that ensued around one of Duchamp’s better known games against E. H. Smith in the International Tournement Hyeres, in January, 1928.
While I was at the Public School, I had the opportunity to catch up with its founder, Sean Dockray, who explained to me how activities at Telic have taken a life of their own. What I found most fascinating was that the Public School is becoming a true resource with an unconventional spin on the education, at a time when more and more commercial educational institutions are being launched. The Public School is a true antidote to both traditional university education as well as for-profit private universities. Sean mentioned that The Public School now has landed a series of workshops with a few institutions, including UCLA’s graduate program as a way to teach practical skills, such as Adruino and Processing programming to students who would not have access to this type of instruction in their own institutions. “It’s more like a form of outsourcing certain areas of education, to us” Sean commented. This activity is actually presented and contextualized by Telic as a form of performance, a work of public art that takes place as exchange of knowledge and information.
The model has sparked such interest that now the Public School is developing satellite activities in Chicago, New York, Paris and Philadelphia. I asked Sean if The Public School had some form of manifesto, or mission, and he responded “no.” And he explained that the basic drive to share information was at The Public School’s core, as simple as that sounds.
By not having a specific mission, except to have an open platform to share information based on proposals by the community that supports Telic Arts Exchange, The Public School so far has avoided the usual conflicts that modest collaborative projects experience as they turn into a full on institution, such as how much to charge (the public school figures out a fair fee for each class from the very beginning). It has been over a year at this point since the Public School started, and so far it appears to work as an organic set of activities, where people with diverse interests are encouraged to come up with subjects for classes. All they have to do is propose a class and if the proposer cannot teach the subject, then a search for a teacher takes place (this was the case with Chess and Duchamp); then, people can sign up and upon the discretion of Telic’s directors, the class is scheduled.
The Public School takes much further gestures and strategies explored in the past by artists such as Tom Marioni and his Bar, where beer was served while people socialized, which he went on to call “art.” However, The Public School does not even need to be called “public art” or even “art.” Yet, anyone invested in public practice would do a disservice to themselves if they did not look into the evergrowing series of events taking shape at The Public School; a project that I’m more than certain will become an important part of the history of public art.
Cultural Center of Spain invited me to lecture in San Salvador, El Salvador from March 8 to the 13, 2009. During this period I also learned about the contemporary art scene as well as the art history of El Salvador.
I presented my research on Remix at the Cultural Center on March 10, and I lectured on art and new media in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of El Salvador (popularly known as La Nacional) on March 11. I met artists from different generations, some who are becoming more established, and some who are up and coming. I also visited the Museum of Art (Marte) which currently is exhibiting a thorough survey of Art in El Salvador since the 1800′s
The following interview with Sheldon Brown was commissioned by gallery@calit2 for the exhibition “Scalable City”. Exhibition dates: Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 – Monday, Dec. 15, 2008
Sheldon Brown is an artist who works in new forms of culture that arise out of developments in computing technology. He is Director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) at UC San Diego, where he is a Professor of Visual Arts and an academic participant in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). During his early career, Brown experimented with emerging technologies to develop works that explore the possible meaning of “virtual reality.” His installations were often designed for immersive audience participation. Many of these works have been developed for the gallery, such as “MetaStasis” (1990), an art installation consisting of a room that visitors enter to experience what appears to be, as Brown himself has called it, a “zoetrope of TV images.” Brown took his interest in mediated reality to the public sphere in installations such as “Video Wind Chimes” (1994), which projects broadcast TV images on the street sidewalk – images selected according to how the wind blows. In both of these projects, as well as many others, Brown emphasizes how metaphysical experience is contingent upon our increasing dependency in immersive media of all forms. Brown’s longstanding interest in mediation is further explored in “Scalable City.” In the following interview, the artist reflects on how Scalable City connects his interests in emerging technologies as well as longstanding traditions of art practice.
[Eduardo Navas] Unlike many artists who claim to be interested primarily in expressing their ideas and not being bound to a specific medium, you have chosen to focus on the development of art that is involved with computing technology. Having said this, the computer makes possible metamedia – meaning it simulates other media, and in this sense it allows artists to focus on idea development. It appears, then, that you share the interest of exploring ideas in the tradition of modern art practice with artists who might play down their preference for a particular medium. With this in mind, could you reflect on the shifts that art practice may be taking based on the increasing role of computers in all aspects of our lives? How do you see your art practice in relation to previous practices which may have downplayed their preference for a particular medium?
[Sheldon Brown] It seems you attribute conflicting claims for my relationship to “medium”, but I don’t see computing as a medium in the 20th century sense. Probably even the idea of it as a meta-medium does not capture its character. It may be more useful to think about computing as creating certain cultural conditions, and I’m doing work which utilizes and responds to those conditions. It might then be more like the interest in speed as a condition for the futurists, but I wouldn’t want to make too much of any analogies to previous art movements and their concerns. The impact of computing on culture comes after the modernist, conceptualist and post-modernist engagements, and just as I have called it a meta-medium, I could also call it a meta-ism – it is able to simulate any and all of these previous attitudes. Not that my interests in this begin and end at simulation of previous forms; this is but one of the gestures possible in this condition, but when it performs any of these simulations, they become rapidly engaged in a new dynamic which doesn’t stop at borders of previous operations. (more…)