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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.

CULTURE AND REMIX
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.

Im/material Regeneration by Eduardo Navas

seismographicft

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…)

Pictoplasma: White Noise, Eduardo Navas Interviewed on Remix and Sampling

Figure 1: “Do You Want Fries with that?” by  Ian Stevenson

The following is an interview conducted for the exhibition Pictoplasma: White Noise, curated by Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, which took place at La Casa Encendida, Madrid Spain from May 23, to September 8, 2013. I was asked questions on how remix functions in art practice,  if there is a difference between remix and sampling, among other issues that the concept of remixing raises with digital and non-digital forms of production. This interview was released as part of a print publication that complemented the exhibit, but it was not made available online. I am now making it public because my answers raise issues that I have not discussed in other texts or interviews.   I thank Lars and Peter for their interest in my views on the subject of remix.

 

———–

Pictoplasma – Remix is what we all do now: cut/copy and paste. You have defined remix culture as the creative exchange of information made possible by digital technologies. Can one only speak of remix in cultural production if it is digital? Or if digital is not a prerequisite, how are analogue remixes embedded into digital culture? What is the difference between remixing and quoting or referencing?

E. Navas – First it should be noted that the concept of remixing is specific to contemporary times. Not everything is a remix – this is hard for me to say given that I was a DJ for almost 15 years (and would love to make such an overreaching claim), but it is precisely because I DJed for so long that I know that remixing is a very specific act. Having said that, the principles of remixing, or remix as discourse, have become important across culture, and this is why remix culture is so popular today, especially when discussing creativity as endorsed by Creative Commons.

When looking back in history you will notice that as a concept for daily creativity, remix was not that popular until remixing became a driving force in music, particularly in disco and hip hop. This means that the concept of remix is popular today not because anyone in particular decided to talk about it to promote some sort of organized movement, but rather because culture as a whole began to use the term to describe the type of creative production that is possible with contemporary technology. The reality is that remix is synonymous with the digital because it was the digital that made the concrete act of taking actual samples from recordings to then manipulate them into something new, while leaving the sampled source intact. This was not the case with collages, which were created by cutting out from images or photographs to create new compositions. In collages the”‘sampled” material was destroyed because it was cut out, but with digital technology, the sampled source is left intact, this was done before in photography, of course, starting in the 19th century. When you take a photograph you are sampling from real life, but the subject of your photograph remains untouched. People at this time, however, did not think about this as an act of sampling, but of recording. But in fact early photography was sampling from real life.

(more…)

A Modular Framework: Beyond Tautological History, by Eduardo Navas

A Modular Framework: Beyond Tautological History
Essay written for the exhibition A Modular Framework
CCESV, El Salvador
November 9 –December 17, 2010.
by Eduardo Navas

Note: This essay was written for the exhibition A Modular Framework, which took place at the Cultural Center of Spain in El Salvador, November 9 – December 17, 2010. The catalog was never published due to limitation of funds. I considered publishing this essay in art journals focused on Latin American Art, but the response by some was that it was either too specific and could not fit their specific theme at the moment, or that it read too much like an exhibition catalog essay which would not sit well outside of the context for which it was originally written. It has been nearly five years since I wrote the text, and I have decided to release it online, as part of my general research shared on Remix Theory. I am doing this because I believe that it is fair for the artists who participated in the exhibition to have access to the writing I produced. I also think that what I write in terms of critical theory and postcolonial studies may be of interest to people invested in Latin American Art.

Some of the issues raised in terms of the history of new media and Latin America may have changed since I wrote the essay in 2010. I leave it unchanged because I don’t see the point in updating the cultural context given that the exhibit was curated to reflect on the issues at play in 2010. Below is an excerpt. The full text can be downloaded in PDF format.

___________

A Modular Framework is an exhibition that brings together artists from Latin America, or artists who have ties to Latin America, and have been producing new media work since at least the mid-nineties, when new media and digital art began to take shape. Most of the works included in the exhibition are recent, and were chosen as examples of diverse and rigorous art practices. The artists, themselves, while they crossover into art practice at large, are pioneers in digital and new media art in their own countries and for this reason they were invited to participate in the exhibition.

A Modular Framework is the first of its kind in the Central American Region, and as such its purpose is to better acquaint the local culture with new media and digital art practice. At the same time, the exhibit is designed as a marking point, as a fragmentary modular assessment of the rich production of new media art by a specific set of artists who share similarities in their approach to the medium of digital art as a proper practice. The works included comment in one way or another on interconnectivity and possibilities of communication by exploring diverse interests in politics and aesthetics.  This diverse activity is the result of a long process of art production that is intertwined with global culture.  For this reason, before examining each of the selections, it is necessary to briefly outline the relation of new media and digital art practice in contemporary art history.

The Context of New Media and Digital Art
The type of work produced in new media and digital art is often linked by art and media historians to an interdisciplinary practice defined by the interest to move outside of the gallery as previously explored during the seventies with site-specific art, and especially conceptual and performance art.  Of these three, conceptualism has been more often presented as a predecessor of new media and digital art practice.   During the nineties, the Internet was viewed by emerging artists, who had online access, as a space in which to present work outside of not only the gallery but also their immediate locality.   Such developments have influenced how new media works are currently presented as objects of art in a physical space.  The works included in A Modular Framework reflect on this process, from different starting points.

Download the full text in PDF format.

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

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

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

——–

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

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

(more…)

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

 

Cover for The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies Released

The Cover for The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies has been released online.The image design was a collaboration among xtine burrough, Owen Gallagher and Eduardo Navas (myself). We really look forward to the eventual publication of the 41 chapter volume, which is scheduled to be available on December 3, 2014.

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

 

Forthcoming: The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies

I have not posted on Remix Theory for some time. The reason being that I have been editing along with fellow editors xtine Burrough and Owen Gallagher an upcoming volume on Remix Studies. It has been a lot of intensive work, needless to say but well worthwhile as we believe the remix community will value the many contributions that comprise the volume. We hope to have the book published in the latter half of 2014–at the moment the tentative release date is for early 2015.  Here is some information and a link to the official webpage:

The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies

Edited by Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough

The Remix Studies Reader comprises contemporary texts by key authors and artists who are active in the emerging field of remix studies. This rapidly growing field extends from remix culture, an organic international movement that originated in the popular music culture of the 1970s and has grown into a rich cultural activity encompassing various forms of media. The act of recombining pre-existing material brings up pressing questions of authenticity, reception, authorship, copyright, and the techno-politics of media activism. This book approaches remix studies from various angles, including sections on history, aesthetics, ethics, and politics, and presents theoretical chapters alongside case studies of remix projects related to the themes of each section. The Remix Studies Reader will be a valuable resource for researchers and practitioners, as well as a teaching tool for instructors using remix practices in the classroom.

 

Three Junctures of Remix Catalog Available

The catalog for the exhibition Three Junctures of Remix, which took place from January 17 to March 15, 2013  is now available for download as a PDF. I would like to thank the entire gallery staff and committee members for making the exhibition possible, especially Trish Stone, Jordan Crandall, Hector Bracho, Doug Ramsey, and Scott Blair. I especially thank the artists Arcangel Constantini, Mark Amerika  & Chad Mossholder, Giselle Beiguelman, and Elisa Kreisinger,  who participated in the exhibition, and were generous in providing interviews now published in the catalog.

–Eduardo Navas

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