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Upcoming Book, Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling

Image: Preliminary cover design and logo for upcoming book by Ludmil Trenkov.

I am very happy to announce that my book Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling is scheduled to be published later on this year, by Springer Wien New York Press.  If all goes according to schedule, it should be available no later than this Fall.  The book offers an in-depth analysis on Remix as a form of discourse.  To get a sense of what to expect, you can read my previously published text, “Regressive and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture,” also available through Springer: http://www.springerlink.com/content/r7r28443320k6012/. You can read my online version as well, though I encourage you to support the publishing company by downloading the official version.

I will offer more information about the book in the near future, such as the table of content, and excerpts from the text. For now I wanted to share the promotional abstract:

Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling is an analysis of Remix in art, music, and new media. Navas argues that Remix, as a form of discourse, affects culture in ways that go beyond the basic recombination of material. His investigation locates the roots of Remix in early forms of mechanical reproduction, in seven stages, beginning in the nineteenth century with the development of the photo camera and the phonograph, leading to contemporary remix culture. This book places particular emphasis on the rise of Remix in music during the 1970s and ‘80s in relation to art and media at the beginning of the twenty-first Century. Navas argues that Remix is a type of binder, a cultural glue—a virus—that informs and supports contemporary culture.

Remix of Adorno’s Minima Moralia

Click image for large view.  Detail of Minima Moralia 6.

Minima Moralia Redux:

Minima Moralia Redux is a selective remix by Eduardo Navas of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia. Starting on October 16, 2011, an entry a week will be rewritten until the 153 aphorisms of Minima Moralia become part of the blog.

Theodor Adorno’s aphorisms are carefully analyzed and reinterpreted in order to explore the principles of the selective remix, often found in music and video. The selective remix consists of adding to or subtracting material from a pre-existing source.

Minima Moralia Redux is the result of a long term post-doctoral analysis in cultural analytics performed for The Department of Information Science and Media Studies  http://www.uib.no/infomedia/en at the University of Bergen, Norway, in collaboration with Software Studies Lab
http://lab.softwarestudies.com/ at the University of California, San Diego.

Minima Moralia Redux is part of the Blog Remixes:

Eduardo Navas

Essay on “Traceblog,” Chapter Contribution to Net Works Book Publication

I contributed an essay on my project Traceblog to the book publication Net Works: Case Studies in Web Art and Design, edited by Xtine Burrough.  I want to thank Xtine for the opportunity to share my ideas.  Below are excerpts from my chapter contribution, which is titled after the actual online project as “Traceblog.”  After the excerpts you will find the table of contents, which, in my view, includes an impressive list of contemporary new media artists. Excerpts from my chapter contribution:

[…] Traceblog was developed in reaction to one of my previous projects titled Diary of a Star (2004-07), a blog that appropriated entries from The Andy Warhol Diaries.   As exciting as Diary of a Star was for me to produce, it consumed more time than I expected because entries had to be carefully written and took much longer to compose than average blog posts. Soon after I finished the Warhol project I began to think about the changes that had taken place with the shift to Web 2.0, and how blogging had changed since 2004. I realized that keeping track of people’s surfing activity had become an important element for private, public, and state organizations to data-mine patterns of communication and consumption online.   The term “social media” began to be used more often when discussing the growth of early networks such as Orkut, and Friendster around 2004, the period when I began to develop Diary of a Star.

I evaluated the changes in online activity since 2004 and decided to develop Traceblog to reflect on the new stage that global culture was entering in 2008, during which millions of people around the world willingly shared information about themselves online, via social networks such as Facebook, Flickr, and Myspace, as well as YouTube, not to mention thousands of blogs, which by such time were conventional tools of communication for average Internet users. The result of the social media frenzy is an attitude of sharing that is ubiquitous in 2010, the time of this writing.

[…] Traceblog is a direct result of my ongoing practice as artist and media researcher.  It makes the most of the default state of works of art in new media practice as informational forms, not defined by physical presentation. Traceblog and similar online works function in a state of flux defined by the growing archive and its relation to the ever-present: the now.


Notes on Everything is a Remix, Part 1, 2, and 3

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Everything is a Remix is a four part web-film series directed and produced by Kirby Ferguson. It has been about a year since the first segment (above) was released. Since then, Ferguson has released parts two and three. The fourth and final installment is scheduled to be released this Fall of 2011, and I look forward to viewing it.

When I viewed part one, I really liked it, and thought that the title, while it may sound polemical to some degree (in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way), somewhat falls along the lines of how I view and have been discussing Remix as a form of discourse during the past few years. However, once I viewed the other two segments, I realized that the way some of the material is presented begins to water down the very foundation of the term “remix.”

For this reason, while I do like very much Ferguson’s series, and often share it as a reference with anyone who wants to get a sense of Remix as a form of discourse, I find the need to write down some of the issues that may be overseen in Ferguson’s series.

This oversight perhaps may be in part because short films cannot possibly cover in-depth analysis as a series of texts or a book would. On the other hand, it may be inevitably tempting to make an ever-expanding megamix about culture and media with a generalization that one cannot fully embrace (though in the spirit of remixing can truly like and admire). With both of these possibilities in mind, I briefly share my views on this series.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The main issue about remixes that comes up, even in the first video, is that there is no explanation of the relation between material sampling and cultural citation. as I previously explained in Regressive and Reflexive Mashups, there is a difference between a Medley and a Megamix: the former is played by a band, while the latter is composed in the studio usually by a DJ producer, who understands how to manipulate breaks on the turntables.

What this means is that a remix in the strict sense of its foundational definition has to be materially grounded on a citation that can be quantified, in other words, measured. This is one of the reasons why DJ producers quickly ran into trouble with copyright law: a lawyer could play a sample from a Hip Hop song, in direct juxtaposition with the originating source of the sample and make evident on purely material grounds that the sample was an act of plagiarism.

But this is not exactly what happened with Led Zeppelin. What happened with Zeppelin, as the example given in Ferguson’s first segment, was straight forward plagiarism within the tradition of covers and knock-offs. Two terms that are also mentioned in the first segment as forms of “legal remixes.” What these forms of recycling content do share with remixes is intertextual citation–the embedding of ideas by way of direct or even indirect reference, which often is not materially grounded, but rather made possible through well calculated emulation.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

The best example of intertextual citation in the postmodern sense would be Quentin Tarantino’s films, which are also mentioned at the end of the credits of part two. Tarantino does not sample directly from the films he references in his own work, but rather recreates the scenes or shots to develop his own narratives. This allows him to claim autonomy of the material, much in the way that Zeppelin (in my view unfairly) can still keep their credibility, perhaps on the ground of reproducing material in a unique way that is their own–even if they failed to cite the sources from which they blatantly stole.

In other words, because, both, Tarantino and Zeppelin don’t materially take, but rather emulate with great precision, their productions are not remixes by definition, but rather informed by principles of Remix as a form of discourse. Their actions are cultural citations. These details are missed, unfortunately, in the first three parts of the series by Ferguson.

Now, as it is already obvious above, I do extend the concept of remix as Remix (with a capital “R”) to pretty much all the areas of culture that Ferguson mentions in his series, including the Apple computer. But when I do this, it is to emphasize that we are functioning under a paradigm ruled by acts of material appropriation and recyclability.

The attitude of remix made possible with the technology first introduced earlier in photo-collage and tape loops and eventually music samplers, has now become an attitude, an aesthetic that informs the way cultural material is produced. But this does not mean that “everything is a remix.” This may appear to be so, but as much as I myself would like this to be the case, it is not. What one could say is that “everything is intertextual,” which is closer to the tradition of sharing ideas in conceptual and material form, prior to the time of modernism. Historically all the material covered by Ferguson is certainly relevant in terms of recyclability, but it does not validate the catch-all statement “everything is a remix.”

Understandably, “everything is intertextual” (which could also be contested if one gets really picky) is not as catchy as “everything is a remix.” To go viral, one must use what is in vogue and quickly understood. Intertextuality had its time in the postmodern period. Now, it appears that remix is the catch all phrase.

And why is it important to point out such nuances that in the end a person enjoying Ferguson’s short films may find too nit-picky? Because if we actually take the time to differentiate the referencing of ideas in conceptual and material form (ideas, and actual products reused) then copyright law may actually be changed. If we keep referencing intellectual production in general fashion as Ferguson’s work unfortunately does, we will not be able to change laws on intellectual property. It is for this reason, only, why I write this entry, because I find that the film series could benefit from understanding the important differences between material samplings and cultural citations.

I should add a note to explain that my concern here is not academic by any means, even though I make a living by working with research institutions. I have been invested in remix culture long before the very term was coined. Before investing myself professionally as a media researcher and artist, I was a DJ for over fifteen years. And for this reason, as much as I would like everything to be a remix, I have to admit that this is not the case. To be blunt, from the point of view of cultural critics who are wary of hegemony, “Everything is a Remix” can be understood as a flip-on-the-script of diversity, paradoxically, to become a totalitarian statement–that anyone who is invested in difference is compelled to resist. I say this understanding that Ferguson probably does not mean it this way, which is why I do share his work as much as I can. Kudos to Ferguson.

Andy: Meta-dandy, by Eduardo Navas

Image of The Andy Warhol Diaries, taken by Eduardo Navas, December 2007

Written on March 18, 2004
Second Draft: April, 2004

Note: Andy: Meta-dandy is part of the online artwork titled Diary of a Star, which consists of selected reblogs of Andy Warhol Diaries. I developed the project between February 28, 2004 and December 31, 2007.  This text has been available online as a PDF file since March 18, 2004. I re-release it on Remix Theory to make it part of my text archive.  For a PDF copy, click here. For more information on Diary of a star in relation to Remix, see my previous entry Completion of Diary of a Star.

Andy: Meta-dandy while theoretically driven is also a piece of creative writing (thus, it provides footnotes and a bibliography).  The reasons why I combined creative and academic writing can best be understood when reading the project’s context page.  I also chose not to revise it–even though I am aware of how I could improve it based on what I have learned since 2004.  Individuals who may have read my previous research will notice that this text is in large part an early exploration of my interest in remix, even though I don’t focus on the term, or use it directly.

The text compares Andy Warhol to Baudelaire’s Flaneur (as dandies) in order to explore the definition of art in modernism and postmodernism.  “Andy: Meta-dandy” explains the philosophy that led to the development of Diary of a Star.


Baudelaire’s Flaneur is the quintessential character of modernity. Being lost in the crowd enjoying anonymity is what the nineteenth century Flaneur is best known for. Andy Warhol may very well be the most famous flaneur of the twentieth century. He was known for taking daily walks in the city streets every morning, with copies of his Interview magazine under his arm, ready to give them to people who recognized him.[1]  Unlike the flaneur, however, Andy loved attention.[2] He always wanted to become a star. He achieved this by immersing himself in a crowd. That such a crowd would be the rich and famous complicates this analogy. Yet, he paradoxically managed to keep a sense of anonymity when he “used the limelight in order to hide in it.”[3] To give credit to the Modern Man of the twentieth century, this was an inevitable transition. Craving attention was and still is one of the greatest desires in modernity, especially as media culture became more established after the 1950s. So Warhol was the new and improved flaneur. Today he is the icon of a man-machine who cranked works out of a factory, which later turned into an office.[4] A flaneur who constantly searched for ways to separate himself from the creative process. And like the new improved man of modernity, he not only embraced media, but mastered it to create some of the most important artworks of his time.

Like the flaneur, we know things about Andy but all based on surface, all based on public interactions and records. Andy in many ways is still a mystery, a persona that becomes a desirable object of appropriation when we find a need to step out of our selves and explore the unknown, to go to places where we dare not go. Today, recalling this persona is most appealing when navigating the World Wide Web. Indeed, the flaneur has been referenced by new media theory to better understand the dynamics of anonymity when exploring the internet.[5]


Remix[ing] Re/apropiaciones, por Eduardo Navas

Escrito para el MEIAC, Badajoz, España, marzo de 2010, para la exposición Re/approriaciones organizada por Gustavo Romano, lanzada en Diciembre del 2009.  Publicada en red con permiso.

(English Version)

La exposición Re/apropiaciones, comisariada por Gustavo Romano, propone que los artistas de la cultura en la red encuentran su potencial creativo en la apropiación, la selección y la combinación de material preexistente y lo hacen en un meta-nivel: el del “re”, o, más concretamente, el del remix [remezcla] como forma de discurso. Con este fin, Romano recontextualiza al artista como un “redireccionador de información” más que como un creador. Tomar esta premisa como punto de partida para la producción creativa en los inicios del siglo xxi nos conduce a una pregunta recurrente que se nos plantea con frecuencia acerca de la conciencia popular del remix: “La remezcla, en tanto que acto de combinación de material, lleva existiendo ya mucho tiempo, podría afirmarse que desde que se concibió el lenguaje simbólico; por tanto, ¿qué tienen de peculiar los elementos del remix que se han explorado durante las primeras décadas del siglo xxi que tanto los distingue de aquellos que se dieron en el pasado?”[1]

Analysis of Remix Theory for New Visions of the Book by Janneke Adema

Image source: Open Reflections

Janneke Adema has taken the time to analyze selected texts available on Remix Theory.  She connects my theories of Remix to the future of the book.  Adema also discusses the theories of Lev Manovich in terms of Remixability.

Here are excerpts of the articles:

New Visions for the Book II: Remix

In the first part of New Visions for the Book, I described how the concept of the book is being used as a strategic power tool to argue for a certain knowledge system. I tried to show how within this discourse certain essentialist notions—such as authorship, stability, and authority—still hold a lot of prestige and are hard to discard. In the subsequent parts of New Visions for the Book I therefore want to take a few expeditions outside the world of the scholarly book to look at the way other disciplines and other media have struggled with or have come to terms with the above mentioned notions. I want to start with looking at the concept of remix, engaged with mostly in music and art theory but increasingly a concept applied to describe and analyse culture at large. Here I want to focus on two thinkers who have extensively theorized remix: Eduardo Navas and Lev Manovich. After taking an in depth look at Navas work on remix first, I will explore Manovich’s thoughts on the subject in the next post, contrasting it with Navas’s ideas. Finally, I will explore what the consequences of their thoughts and their analysis of remix are for the scholarly book, the knowledge order it stands for and the concepts it reifies.


[Re]Cuts, A Video Remix After Burroughs


[Re]Cuts was specifically developed in January of 2010 for an exhibition at IMT Gallery in London.  The video is inspired by Burroughs’s experimentation with tape recordings. The exhibit takes place from May 28 through July 18 2010. I thank Mark Jackson for the invitation and the opportunity to exhibit my work.

excerpt from the actual project webpage:

[Re]Cuts is a remix of image, sound, and text inspired by William Burroughs’s aesthetics of tape recording. The video is also influenced by his cut-up method as defined for writing in “The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin.” The video does not follow the strict cup-up rules professed by Burroughs, but rather considers his aesthetics as a point of reference to develop a non-sensical narrative.

Read more information and view video

Parts One and Two of Re*- Lecture: “Remix[ing]. The Three Chronological Stages of Sampling” by Eduardo Navas

The following is a presentation separated into two parts; it was produced for the conference Re*-Recycling_Sampling_Jamming, which took place in Berlin during February 2009.

Part One: Remix[ing]. The Three Chronological Stages of Sampling

Part One (above) introduces the three chronological stages of Remix, while part two (below) defines how the three chronological stages are linked to the concept of Authorship, as defined by Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault.  Also see my previous entry “The Author Function in Remix” which is a written excerpt of the theory proposed in part two.

Part Two: Remix[ing]. The Three Chronological Stages of Sampling

Below is the abstract that summarizes the content of the two videos.  Total running time is around fifteen minutes.


Text originally published on Re*- on February 2009:

SAMSTAG_28.02.2009_SEKTION IV_15-20 UHR

12_15:00 Remix[ing]. The Three Chronological Stages of Sampling
Eduardo Navas, Künstler und Medienwissenschaftler, University of California in San Diego (USA)

Sampling is the key element that makes the act of remixing possible. In order for Remix to take effect, an originating source must be sampled in part or as a whole. Sampling is often associated with music; however, this text will show that sampling has roots in mechanical reproduction, initially explored in visual culture with photography. A theory of sampling will be presented which consists of three stages: The first took place in the nineteenth century with the development of photography and film, along with sound recording. In this first stage, the world sampled itself. The second stage took place at the beginning of the twentieth century, once mechanical recording became conventionalized, and early forms of cutting and pasting were explored. This is the time of collage and photo-montage. And the third stage is found in new media in which the two previous stages are combined at a meta-level, giving users the option to cut or copy (the current most popular form of sampling) based on aesthetics, rather than limitations of media. This is not to say that new media does not have limitations, but exactly what these limitations may be is what will be entertained at greater length.The analysis of the three stages of sampling that inform Remix as discourse is framed by critical theory. A particular focus is placed on how the role of the author in contemporary media practice is being redefined in content production due to the tendency to share and collaborate. The theories on authorship by Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault are entertained in direct relation to the complexities that sampling has brought forth since it became ubiquitous in popular activities of global media, such as social networking and blogging.

REBLOG (Press Release): Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs

Image and text source: IMT Gallery

Note: Press release about an upcoming exhibition in which I participate taking place in London at IMT Gallery during May through June of 2010.


Dead Fingers Talk is an ambitious forthcoming exhibition presenting two unreleased tape experiments by William Burroughs from the mid 1960s alongside responses by 23 artists, musicians, writers, composers and curators.

Few writers have exerted as great an influence over such a diverse range of art forms as William Burroughs. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and Junky, continues to be regularly referenced in music, visual art, sound art, film, web-based practice and literature. One typically overlooked, yet critically important, manifestation of his radical ideas about manipulation, technology and society is found in his extensive experiments with tape recorders in the 1960s and ’70s. Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs is the first exhibition to truly demonstrate the diversity of resonance in the arts of Burroughs’ theories of sound.

listen to your present time tapes and you will begin to see who you are and what you are doing here mix yesterday in with today and hear tomorrow your future rising out of old recordings

everybody splice himself in with everybody else

The exhibition includes work by Joe Ambrose, Steve Aylett, Alex Baker & Kit Poulson, Lawrence English, The Human Separation, Riccardo Iacono, Anthony Joseph, Cathy Lane, Eduardo Navas, Negativland, o.blaat, Aki Onda, Jörg Piringer, Plastique Fantastique, Simon Ruben White, Giorgio Sadotti, Scanner, Terre Thaemlitz, Thomson & Craighead, Laureana Toledo and Ultra-red, with performances by Ascsoms and Solina Hi-Fi.

Inspired by the expelled Surrealist painter Brion Gysin, and yet never meant as art but as a pseudo-scientific investigation of sounds and our relationship to technology and material, the experiments provide early examples of interactions which are essential listening for artists working in the digital age.

In the case of the work in the exhibition the contributors were asked to provide a “recording” in response to Burroughs’ tape experiments. The works, which vary significantly in media and focus, demonstrate the diversity of attitudes to such a groundbreaking period of investigation.

Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs is curated by Mark Jackson. The project is supported by the London College of Communication, CRiSAP and ADi Audiovisual and has been made possible by the kind assistance of the William Burroughs Trust, Riflemaker and the British Library.

Current Projects