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When the Action Leaves the Museum: New Approaches to the Exhibition as a Tool of Communication, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: almostreal.org

Written for Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, December 2009
Note: The following text is one of two originally published in the magazine Spana!, a publication for the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions (now called Swedish Exhibition Agency). I never got around to releasing the English version of the text until now. It contextualizes how I saw exhibitions developing in Sweden during my residency.  It starts with a lecture I attended during an international symposium on contemporary curatorial practice, and revisits notes on the different art institutions I visited during my residency in Sweden in October and November of 2009. This publication in many ways is a complement to the list posted below.
The second text is Code Switching: Artists and Curators in Networked Culture.

The list of previous posts:

Sweden: October/November 2009

Notes on Sweden’s Approach to Art and Exhibitions:
Färgfabriken: http://remixtheory.net/?p=401
Interactive Institute: http://remixtheory.net/?p=402
Magasin 3: http://remixtheory.net/?p=403
Iaspis: http://remixtheory.net/?p=404
Mejan Labs: http://remixtheory.net/?p=405
Various Museums in Gothenburg: http://remixtheory.net/?p=406


At the end of 2009, the international approach to exhibitions across museums and public institutions appears to emphasize themes over history.  This trend was recognized by Curator Jan Debbaut on Saturday November 7, during his presentation at the Symposium “Mountains of Butter, Lakes of Wine,” which took place at the Stadsteater, Stockholm.  This shift has not only changed the way exhibitions are funded internationally, as Debbaut noted, but also how they are approached and contextualized.  In 2009, the thematic approach repositions exhibitions as forms of communication beyond the four walls of the galleries, affecting all types of exhibiting institutions, not just museums.  In my view, this resonates with various institutions I visited in Stockholm and Gothenburg during the months of October and November of 2009, as Correspondent in Residence for the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions.  The following is an evaluation of how such institutions organize exhibitions as tools of communication.


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.

Form + Code, Book Review, by Eduardo Navas

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.

Read the complete review at Vodule.

REBLOG: scientists, designers, and artists will gather in New York to discuss how our lives could be transformed by recognizing scent as design, by Eva Wisten

Image and text source: Seed

On March 26, Parsons the New School for Design and MoMA, in collaboration with IFF, Seed, and Coty, will present Headspace: On Scent as Design. A one-day symposium on the conception, impact, and potential applications of scent, the event will gather leading thinkers, designers, scientists, artists, established perfumers as well as “accidental perfumers”—architects, designers, and chefs—to acknowledge scent as a new territory for design. Seed sat down with organizers Paola Antonelli, Véronique Ferval, Jamer Hunt, Jane Nisselson, and Laetitia Wolff to discuss why we tend to overlook the importance of scent, our increasingly antiseptic, smell-free lives, and how our lives could change when we begin to tap into the rich olfactory dimension of design.

What inspired Headspace?

The idea that led us to organize Headspace is that scent is not only a medium for design, but also a design form in its own right.  Perfumers and scientists working on scent perform every time a design act. Sometimes it is good, sometimes mediocre. It can be very commercial, or more limited and idiosyncratic. Just like other forms of design, it is targeted to the goal at hand, whether the creation of a new clothing detergent with universal appeal or of a unique scent that will touch only a few dozen wrists. Just like other forms of design, it requires expertise and dedication, not to mention talent. We are therefore not advocating that any self-described designer should also feel free to tackle scent, but rather that designers should be aware of the spatial and perceptive potential of scent, and that perfumers should realize that they are engaged in design and take advantage of that knowledge.

Why is the smell experience of an object or an environment so often ignored or treated as less significant than the visual and, when it applies, aural, tactile or taste experience?

Scent happens both before and behind all other senses. Scents hit us directly through the limbic system; they are more pre-cognitive and emotional. For that reason, it’s harder for our mind to compute. Language doesn’t really seem up to the task of expressing all that scent means to us, or triggers within us. We ignore olfactive input because we have not been educated in a language with which to express any perceived gradations. Thus, we are still at the level of the “grunt,” limited to broad terms like good, bad, ugh, and sweet.

History has helped smell’s downfall, too. With the Enlightenment Era came a certain rationalization of our senses, where knowledge, culture, class, and intelligence were associated directly with our visual senses, whereas smell was associated with bodily fluids, dirt, and poverty. We seem to still be shaped by that dichotomy and we therefore miss out on one of our great cognitive gifts

An approach similar to the wine industry’s could motivate the public to acquire an education and a vocabulary to share their olfactive experiences. We have cultivated a sophisticated approach to flavor that makes us think we can really choose among twelve types of salt and twenty-five types of olive oils. There is no similar reciprocal relationship in the domain of smell that invites and rewards people to cultivate and pursue odor distinctions and experiences.

Social history has encouraged a discomfort with our beautifully functional nostrils. It is time to reclaim them!

Read the entire feature at Seed

REBLOG: Album Sleeve Transforms Into a Cardboard Record Player!

Image and text source: Inhabitat

At Inhabitat we love gadgets, but sometimes we cringe at the environmental costs of their manufacturing. So, we perked up when we heard about GGRP’s brilliant album packaging that transforms into a cardboard record player. The 45 rpm album sleeve unfolds into a miniature record player, and with the help a pencil you can become a DIY zero-energy DJ.

Read the entire entry

PRESS RELEASE: Richie Hawtin and Derivative Launch Plastikman Live Visual Contest

Image source: http://www.derivative.ca/Plastikman/

Note: I don’t normally post competition opportunities, but the following call is worth noting because it exposes a shift in remix culture:  the DJ and VJ hybrid.  Besides, I admit to being a Plastikman fan.

Derivative is pleased to announce the next-gen of their collaboration with techno-futurist Richie Hawtin who is unleashing PLASTIKMAN LIVE 2010 a much-anticipated series of live shows produced in collaboration with Minus & Derivative to launch at this year’s Timewarp festival on March 27th, 2010.

The influential Plastikman performance at MUTEK 2004 was visually driven by Derivative’s powerful software tool TouchDesigner enabling Richie to orchestrate sound and visual compositions generatively and in real time; the technology altering the course of how electronic music could be performed and experienced live.

Image source: http://www.derivativeinc.com/Events/15-Plastikman/

That was then. With the current generation of TouchDesigner 077 completely reengineered, the team has built an information-rich bridge between Richie’s Ableton Live rig and Derivative’s TouchDesigner. Derivative will release the TouchDesigner-Live Bridge to its users this year. Hawtin’s visual artist Ali Demirel has been working closely with Derivative’s Jarrett Smith and Markus Heckmann in LA and Toronto to create the content and a custom performing interface for the shows.

Another Hawtin/Minus/Derivative collaboration invites the community to create their own visuals to original Plastikman tracks using TouchDesigner. Hawtin and Derivative have packaged and made available for download a complete toolset that includes a purpose-built TouchDesigner synth and 4 Plastikman tracks enabling participants with full support to produce visuals in the same real-time generative environment as the show’s. Winning entries are to be incorporated into the live events.

Dedicated to advancing the way we make art and visualize information and ideas, Derivative has produced live visuals and interactive art projects for an exemplary roster of international superstars that include Prada, Herzog & de Meuron and Rush. They have also developed major theme park attractions globally. In a unique alliance with raster-noton now entering its second year Derivative designed and built an expandable framework for multi-screen live performances under the guidance of label founders carsten nicolai (alva noto) and olaf bender (byetone). The collaboration resulted in a series of shows last year at Club Transmediale, Sonar, MUTEK, OFFF, and Ars Electronica that were received as precedent-setting.

TouchDesigner is the most complete authoring tool for building interactive 3D art, visualizations, prototypes and user interfaces. Its open, broad and highly-visual procedural architecture boosts and expands discovery, creativity and productivity.

TouchDesigner FTE (Free Thinking Environment) and its counterpart TouchDesigner Pro puts a free development environment with an extremely rich feature set into the hands of artists, animators, educators and “everyone else”. “TouchDesigner is our vision of what is possible in tomorrow’s software tools for building interactive applications and exploring data, imagery and sound”, Derivative founder and CEO Greg Hermanovic states. “It exploits what is possible in today’s computing technology and is positioned to grow with the foreseeable advancements in computer, graphics and mobile technologies.”

A Visit to Iaspis: Notes on Sweden’s Approach to Art and Exhibitions, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: Takram.com
Overture, Installation: Milano Salon, Italy, April 22-27, 2009.

During the early morning of  November 5, as Correspondent in Residence for the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, I visited Iaspis (International Artist Studio Program in Sweden).  Unlike my visit to Magasin 3 (which took place the afternoon on the same day), Iaspis was quite close to the hotel where I stayed: a short five minutes walk in the neighborhood of Zinkensdam.  I was greeted by Coordinator Suzi  Ersahin, who took me around the facilities while explaining Iaspis’s role in Swedish culture.

Iaspis invites international artists for residencies that may range from one to six months, depending on the needs and specific circumstances of each artist. Swedish artists may apply for the residency; Dutch and Nordic artists may also apply through special institutions in their specific regions.  Iaspis also supports Swedish artists exhibitions outside the country.  Given its spacious facilities, I was surprised to learn that the Residence Program does not organize exhibitions, but does have a periodical open house, in which the residents are able to display their works.  Iaspis is also known for its seminars and conferences;  and they also publish books on different subjects, ranging from artist monographs to critical reflections on contemporary art issues.  Iaspis also offers an archive of its past residents;  a resource, which I hope will one day be available online, as I was not able to peruse it as I wished.


A Visit to the Interactive Institute: Notes on Sweden’s Approach to Art and Exhibitions, by Eduardo Navas

Image: ‘Crisp Bread Turntable’ by Yoshi Akai. Video available below.

As part of my residency at the Swedish Traveling Exhibitions, on October 29 I visited the Interactive Institute, quite a unique research center located in the city of Stockholm.  Its model is unlike any other I have encountered. While the institute has close ties to the arts and the tradition of exhibitions as forms of communication and education, it also focuses on the development of projects that crossover to the commercial sector.  There are actually a few spin-off companies that were started as research collaborations in the Interactive Institute.  But to do justice to their mission, it is best that I quote how they present themselves publicly, from their about page:

The Interactive Institute is a Swedish experimental IT-research institute that combines expertise in art, design and technology to conduct world leading applied research and innovation. We develop new research areas, art concepts, products and services, and provide strategic advice to corporations, the cultural sector and public organisations. Our research results are communicated and exhibited worldwide and brought out to society through commissioned work, license agreements and spin-off companies.

I cite them directly because I find this type of research model to be an increasingly common hybrid: rigorous academic research meets commercial interests.  Yet, the Interactive Institute, seems unique because its creative drive appears to be well balanced, given that it is in the middle of a major corporate technology research sector in Stockholm, located in the neighborhood of Kista. One thing that became certain is that their model is directly informed in part by the always changing aesthetics of networked communication.  In their case, this tendency is found in the concept of “Interactivity;”  such premise is part of their name.


After Media (Hot and Cold), by Eduardo Navas

Image capture, July 11, 2009, http://hulu.com

The following text was originally published during the month of August, 2009 as part of Drain‘s Cold issue.  The journal is a refereed online journal published bi-annually.  The text is republished in full on Remix Theory with permission.  Drain’s copyright agreement allows for 25% of the essay to be reblogged or reposted on other sites with proper citation and linkage to the journal at http://www.drainmag.com/.  I ask that their agreement be respected by the online community.

In 1964 Marshal McLuhan published his essay “Media Hot and Cold,” in one of his most influential books, Understanding Media.[1] The essay considers the concepts of hot and cold as metaphors to define how people before and during the sixties related to the ongoing development of media, not only in Canada and the United States but also throughout the world.[2] Since the sixties, the terms hot and cold have become constant points of reference in media studies. However, these principles, as defined by McLuhan, have changed since he first introduced them. What follows is a reflection on such changes during the development of media in 2009.

McLuhan is quick to note that media is defined according to context. His essay begins with a citation of “The Rise of the Waltz” by Curt Sachsk, which he uses to explain the social construction behind hot and cold media. He argues that the Waltz during the eighteenth century was considered hot, and that this fact might be overlooked by people who lived in the century of Jazz (McLuhan’s own time period). Even though McLuhan does not follow up on this observation, his implicit statement is that how hot and cold are perceived in the twentieth century is different from the eighteenth. Because of this implication, his essay is best read historically. This interpretation makes the reader aware of how considering a particular medium as hot or cold is a social act, informed by the politics of culture. McLuhan’s first example demonstrates that, while media may become hot or cold, or be hot at one time and cold at another, according to context, the terms, themselves, are not questioned, but rather taken as monolithic points of reference. To make sense of this point, McLuhan’s concepts must be defined.


Notes on August 2009 Visit to El Salvador, by Eduardo Navas

Detail of the exhibition “Diseñar a diario (Design Day to Day)” on view for the month of August, 2009 at Cultural Center of Spain’s Gallery.  Design by local artists.

One of two workshops with participants of Premio Arte Joven, which took place at the Cultural Center of Spain during August 24-29, 2009.


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