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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.

Packet Switching, then, in cultural terms, is complex; when it was introduced to the world with the use of the Internet, it came to redefine every aspect of daily life from the way people communicate with others to the way people understand themselves as part of a society. Packet switching in effect is both a technological and ideological action. The relation of these actions is the driving force behind Dietrick and Mundy’s ongoing body of work. Their production consistently points to the history and politics behind a seemingly straight forward functional act of information transfer. Their work connects real aspects of daily life to aesthetics, making evident that they are intimately linked and therefore must be understood as parallel elements that reshape cultures not only in the United States but all over the world. In the realm of aesthetics, Packet Switching is a worthy contribution to the ongoing relation between art and culture, as well as the complexity of art practice, itself, following a line of inquiry that goes back to the days of minimal art throughout the 1970s.

Art Packets
Dietrick’s and Mundy’s work in its most reductive form is data which is reconfigured for specific exhibition settings. So far different projects have been shown in a few cities including, Kassel, Germany; Tallahassee, Florida; Washington D.C. and Orlando, Florida.

Dietrick’s and Mundy’s installations are not merely formal exercises. When looking at the source code of their works, one learns that it consists of information about pre-existing architectural structures, or the housing and real estate markets relevant to the cities in which the work is being shown, which is reconfigured to create semi-abstract images that appear to be in the process of becoming something, never fully completed: in potentia.

The first installation in Kassel conceived for the Temporary Home exhibition during Documenta 13 in July of 2012 already offered a sense of the process through which the body of work would eventually be moving: from large static wall prints to generated animations to be projected on the gallery walls.

Kassel’s installation, in historical terms, is a contribution to the tradition of the white cube, and as such, the gallery visitor was able to evaluate the abstract architectural forms on principles of beauty. The viewer was encouraged to become aware of the gallery space as an architectural environment that aside from the large wall-print, was empty. At the same time, the design was defined by architectural data specific to German architecture; information-fragments of virtual models of Bauhaus buildings were literally remixed to develop the abstract design. And here we can note an important point that will recur in the work of Dietrick and Mundy, which is the use of pre-existing architectural data to develop semi-abstract visualizations.  Given the tradition of appropriation in art practice as a type of commentary, this action, by default, makes their work prone to be a critical reflection on the material it appropriates, even if it appears as a design primarily produced for aesthetic experience. As it becomes evident in the analysis of other installations developed later, this aspect of Dietrick’s and Mundy’s work becomes crucial in bridging the relation between art experienced in the gallery and the sources taken from the world beyond the white cube to develop such work.

Their next wall-print visualization was installed at Weimer Hall in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, Gainesville. The philosophy in the construction of this building is to have all media, web, print, TV, and radio together in one space for open collaboration. In this case the work functions along the lines of public art. What this installation shares in common with the first version in Kassel is a clear relation to the architectural space in which it is displayed; in both cases the works of art  demand of the visitor to reconsider the aspects of the buildings that may be taken for granted; however, the installation at the university carefully complements the environment, to the point that, arguably, it gets lost within the architecture, becoming inseparable from it; thus providing an aesthetic experience: a visual form as background noise.

When the design is acknowledged one can reflect on the abstract forms independently, while realizing that they are integral to the architectural space. The design unexpectedly gives a sense of disruption, because the image clashes against the building’s proportions. It does not have uniform vertical and horizontal lines that follow and complement the architecture, but diagonals that move across the walls delineating bright-colored areas that clearly  invite the viewer to question their assumptions about the building itself.

The apparent movement of the architectural structures first introduced in Kassel and Tallahassee comes to be fully animated in the exhibition Grid, Sequence Me. which took place in Washington D.C. In this case, the gallery visitor is able to experience the actual movement of the architectural elements in real time, according to the computer programming by the artists. Transparency is a key point for this installation, which is why the source code is also projected on one of the walls, for the viewer to appreciate the actual process behind the animated wall projections.

This exhibition consisted of two new projections generated with custom software that through its fragmentation of images of publicly-owned buildings in downtown Washington D.C. makes a metaphorical reference to the complex financial systems of the housing market boom. And it is at this point that the artists’ interests in connecting aesthetics with cultural issues become most apparent. In this installation any possible aesthetic experience is met with a reality check, in which the viewer must evaluate how an apparent beautiful image is possible thanks to the dire situation of an economic market.

The postmodern preoccupation with the object of art eventually manifests itself in Dietrick’s and Mundy’s installation 1.5 x 3.5 at the Orlando Museum of Art. This piece is directly related to the tradition of minimalist art. As such,  the artists cite the work of Tony Smith; specifically his writing about the time he drove over an unfinished turnpike in New Jersey. Smith’s incident became known through an interview that was published in the art magazine Artforum in December 1966,[3] and eventually was mentioned by Michael Fried in his essay “Art and Objecthood” as an example of “literalist art” or “ABC art” as he came to define minimalism and other art production that he deemed not to follow Greenbergian aesthetics, taking place during the seventies.[4] Fried’s contention with work such as Smith’s is that it emphasizes a theatricality in art, something that he argued should be distanced from visual art practice because it devalued the experience that art could provide the viewer.  In short, for Fried the work of Smith and his contemporaries diminished the aesthetic experience that art (all the arts including theater) could provide the viewer because it did not offer “presentness”[5] but instead it made reference to the context and the environment which makes the art experience possible.

Cultural Politics
New media art, certainly work similar to Dietrick’s and Mundy’s, has a direct relationship to minimalism. This begins to be apparent in the museum of Kassel’s installation, it becomes evident in the Washington D.C. exhibition, and is fully manifested in their exhibition properly titled Packet Switching at the Orlando Museum, in which the influence of, particularly, the work of Smith is clear.  They write when describing the work:

Ubiquitous as an article for the construction of buildings, as well as a formal, minimal, primitive shape, the 2 x 4 here is transformed through its incorporation into a virtual space. The simulation of the generic form becomes an index for any building material, physical or digital, and its manipulation, a metaphor for the fragmentation of digital communication.[6]

One of Fried’s criticism of Smith’s experience on the New Jersey turnpike is that it points to an inexhaustible possibility which needs no object.  The highway in front of Smith is interpreted by Fried as the possibility to experience “endlessness,”[7] which for him takes away from the presentness that the work of art is supposed to offer the viewer. In fact, Fried considered the hesitance of Robert Morris (another contemporary of Smith), to place minimal objects into the open air, in nature as proof that what literalists art performed in the gallery was what Smith experienced on the turnpike.[8]

The animation by Dietrick and Mundy reenacts the sensibility which Fried critiqued. In their installation, a single beam not only moves in space, but also multiplies to eventually construct, or allude to the possibility of building some type of living space.  Following the hint from Smith’s drive down the incomplete highway, the beam was inspired by a housing development just northeast of Orlando, nestled between the Florida Turnpike and Old Country Road 50. In this sense the potential of literal art to let the world experience a moment that is supposed to privilege presentness comes to take effect, and again one is reminded on the fluctuating economy of the real estate market in the United States, because one has to acknowledge the politics of the U. S. economy and culture.

Switching Packets
At the time of this writing it is well accepted that minimalism, and other forms of art practices, such as performance, and conceptualism, fully acknowledge their relation to the world beyond the white cube. If anything, many contemporary artists strive to make this connection the very core of their practice.  Dietrick and Mundy contribute to this paradigm by taking on the minimalist tradition to comment on the frictions of real estate and architecture in the specific places where their works are exhibited. And by using the concept and technology of packet switching to develop their wall-prints and installations, they remind the viewer of the social context that consists of class relations and the economy that informs the very moments in which we may have an aesthetic experience; one which paradoxically is contingent on information access and interpretation. In other words, in Dietrick’s and Mundy’s work the viewer can appreciate art for its presentness while also understanding that it is informed by complex social and economic issues which paradoxically make the aesthetic experience in the art gallery possible. Their work makes evident that trying to create an art work in which one can escape to have an aesthetic experience without politics is to play into the very politics one is trying to escape, especially in a time when information flows to be remixed everywhere.

Remixing Packets
Presenteness is mashed with politics in Packet Switching. Dietrick and Mundy update and reposition the principles that informed minimalism but they do so with no actual object. There is only information, data at play, which is displayed as a projection on gallery walls.  What’s more, one is aware that such simulation is basically code reconfigured–remixed–to appear as a series of objects that one can recognize as an open-ended, ever-evolving piece of construction.  Packet Switching is a body of work that takes on the very principles of the society of the spectacle; it takes theatricality as critiqued and defined by Fried, and makes art that demands critical reflection from the viewer, but at the same time is abstract and open-ended as a visual experience. One can evaluate the works in terms of aesthetics, but one eventually must also face the social infrastructure that makes such experience possible. It is the balance between these two areas of cultural production that is not always easy to touch upon successfully. Like true hackers, then, Dietrick and Mundy crack into the codes of both the economy and aesthetics to expose the relation among information exchange, architecture, and social issues which are part of a network that affects all aspects of society and culture.

[1] Paul Edwards, The Closed World (Cambridge, Massachussetts: MIT Press, 1996), 43 – 74.
[2] For a consise history see “Brief History of the Internet,” Internet Society, http://www.internetsociety.org/internet/what-internet/history-internet/brief-history-internet, accessed December 15, 2013.
[3] Tony Smith, “From an Interview with Samuel Wagstaff Jr.,” Art in Theory, eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (Oxford, U.K. and Cambridge, U.S.: Blackwell Press, 1995), 741.
[4] See footnote 8 in Fried’s text, where Fried claims that theatricality links the minimalists to other artists in different disciplines, such as Kaprow, Cornell, Rauschenberg, Oldenburg, etc: Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” Minimal Art, ed. Gregory Battcock (Berkley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1995),  130.
[5] Ibid, 147.
[6] Owen Mundy’s website, http://owenmundy.com/site/1.5×3.5, accessed on December 15, 2013
[7] Fried, 144
[8] Ibid, 135.

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

Preliminary Notes on Analysis of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia

Detail of Minima Moralia 21 and 22 and their respective remixes

Image 1: Word cloud visualizations of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Morlia, aphorisms 21 and 22 on the left and their corresponding remixes on the right. (Click image for detail)

My first post for Minima Moralia Redux is dated October 16 2011, but I had done much research prior to this date. I had been reading extensively on Theodor Adorno and his work, while also creating visualizations of YouTube viral memes for my post-doc at The Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen in affiliation with The Software Studies Lab in San Diego, now also based in NYC.  As I analyzed meme patterns, it became evident that much of the material that is discussed in terms of remixing in music and video, which is also quite popular across media culture, usually relies on acts of selectivity–meaning that with the ubiquity of cut/copy & paste, people tend to re-contextualize pre-existing material, much how DJs and producers used sampling to remix in dance music culture during the eighties. [1]

Image 2: Word cloud visualization of the first thirty aphorisms in Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia. (Click image to view large file)

Minima Moralia Redux is a type of mashup, itself, of art, writing as a literary act, and media research that explores how data visualization is providing new possibilities for understanding creative processes. The project explores the selective remix, which arguably is quite popular across culture since cut/copy and paste became a common act due to daily use of computers. Certainly this is the type of remixing that most people debate over in remix culture. The selective remix consists of evaluating the source material and deciding what to leave and what to omit, as well as what to add, all while making sure that the source material remains recognizable.[2]  This means that large parts are kept as originally produced while others may be radically different. A tension in authorship develops, as the remixer clearly shows creativity quite similar to an “author’s.” At the same time, the remixed work relies heavily on the cultural recognition of the author and his/her work.  Much has been written about such tensions, but it is my hope that the research I am now introducing here in preliminary fashion will be a contribution to understanding how we come to create works that appear to be autonomous and credited to a single person, and how we can move past such conventions to more productive approaches that do justice to the way culture is communicating at an ever increasing pace.

 

Image 3: Word cloud visualization of the remixes of the first thirty aphorisms in Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia (Click image for large file)

Minima Moralia Redux has various layers of significance. First, I wanted to explore, as I already explained, how the selective remix functions. I decided to do this by embedding myself in the process, as opposed to studying another person’s remix. In this project, I examine each entry carefully, do research on it, and eventually re-write it to make it relevant to issues that are taking place in contemporary times. While doing this, I keep in mind that it is the voice of Adorno that is at play here. This means that I need to make sure that Adorno’s theories remain his.  In other words, it is not necessarily my opinion that is expressed in the remixes, although I do take creative license and adjust– even critique Adorno’s views within his own writing. This is no different than a music remixer who often times will create a different piece of music, one which nevertheless, is not credited to him/her as author/artist, but only as a person who remixed the author’s work. In the case of music this is done in the commercial sector for increasing sales, but in remix culture, it is done because people may simply love doing it, and/or are fans of the artist/author.  Taking this approach with Adorno’s work, I argue, is only fair given that Adorno himself believed in revising one’s view on life and the world. In the 1960s, he admitted that some of his critical analysis in Dialectic of Enlightenment, which he co-wrote with Horkheimer, no longer stood their ground in 1969. He considers the book “a piece of documentation.” By this Adorno and Horkheimer let the book be part of history. [3]  Based on this critical position on his part, it is very unlikely, for instance, that in 2013, he would use the word “savage” as he did when he wrote aphorism 32.[4]  The result of this approach in Minima Moralia Redux is a new text that is clearly still in large part Adorno’s, but which I hope resonates with the language and issues of the twenty first century.

I rewrite each aphorism  one sentence at a time, evaluating it word for word. I study the history of particular words, and evaluate the sentence’s relevance during the times when the book was written. I then consider how it may be understood and at play in contemporary times. When I rewrite the aphorisms I am conscious of the way remixing functions in music and video, and apply it to writing to see what the results may be. At the same time, I become immersed in the creative process based on intuition as I am also interested in exploring aesthetics.  I use two translations for the rewriting of each entry. The first is by Dennis Redmond, available on Marxists.org, and the other is the official English publication of Minima Moralia translated by E. F. N. Jephcott for Verso Press. I combine parts from both sources, while adjusting sentence structure, and I add and delete material to come up with a statement that is relevant to contemporary times.

For the word cloud visualizations I use Many Eyes, an online resource developed by Martin Wattenberg for IBM. The clouds are useful to evaluate how often words are repeated in the original entries. The visualization of the original text appears at the top of each blog entry. The main section of each post consists of the remixed text with a link to the original source available on Marxists.org. At the bottom is a thumb image of the same visualization along with a second visualization of the actual remix. These thumb images are presented with each post to provide a quick understanding of how key terms are reused and others omitted, while others are added in accordance to the principles of selective remixing. The reader can click on each thumb image to view a detailed version and compare them. I provide two visualizations of aphorisms  at the top of this entry (image 1).

The visualizations expose the constant usage of particular words, and when comparing the original entries to the remixed versions, it becomes evident how selectivity is at play. For instance, one can notice in aphorisms 21 and 22 that some of the words that are more pronounced in the original entry are still repeated often in the remixed versions, while others disappear and others are added (larger words means more repetition, smaller, less frequent). This is similar to how remixing functions in music as well.  I am also evaluating sentence structure and actual number of word repetition for each visualization. I will be releasing a concrete analysis of all this in the future in connection to viral memes, as well as a set of YouTube video mashups. The latter research I have not made available online at all, but two of the videos part of this research can be found on page 106 in my book Remix Theory.  My research of the selective remix as found in the thirty entries that I share on this post is part of my examination of selectivity in other forms of online media production. The idea to look at how remixing functions in text developed out my research in analyzing video. My findings so far have been that there are patterns that certainly crossover among image, music and text, which enables the viewer or reader to sense how remixing is at play in particular pieces.

So far I have remixed thirty-five aphorisms, and provide visualizations of thirty of them as part of this post. Image 2 offers an overall sense of the originals, and image 3 a comparative sensibility of how they were changed after they were remixed.  The process behind the production of each remixed entry takes quite some time to perform, so it will be a while before I can release my final version of this project. This brief entry should at least provide some details on the process that makes Minima Moralia Redux possible.

Below I provide a two column comparative visualization of the first thirty aphorisms (image 4). On the left are the original entries, and on the right appear the remixes. Examining one next to the other provides an idea of how different patterns are at play within and across the originals and the remixes, while looking at them as a large group gives a sense of the aesthetics of writing as a creative act–something that certainly cannot be fully measured, but one could hope can be appreciated.

Image 4: A two column comparison of the first thirty aphorisms of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia and their remixed versions. Comparing each aphorism with its corresponding remix shows the process of selectivity that takes place in remixing text, which is deliberately performed, in this case, along the line of music remixing.

 

[1] I go over much of this in my book: Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling.

[2] If  too much material is omitted, then the remix may start to lean towards other types of remixes which will not be discussed in this instance. See chapter three in Remix Theory.

[3]Mark Horkheimer & Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), xi -xii.

[4] See my remix, which is an extensive critique of Adorno’s conflicted bourgeois position, by using his own words: http://minimamoraliaredux.blogspot.com/2013/06/minima-moralia-32.html

Remix Image Inspired by the Title of my Book, Remix Theory

I received a tweet with the image above.  I think it’s a good remix in its own right. It appropriates not only the title of my book but also the concept behind the sound of music quite well.

Thanks to Harold Schellinx; his tweet: https://twitter.com/hefferman/status/321968978903851008/photo/1

Text Release: Modular Complexity and Remix: The Collapse of Time and Space into Search, by Eduardo Navas

Note: This text was written for the peer review Journal AnthroVision 1.1 | 2012 : First issue. It was published in September of 2012. It is released here with permission from the editors. A special thanks to Nadine Wanono and the peer reviewers for all their support in the process of revising and publishing the text.  This essay is the first formal release of my post-doc research for The Department of Information Science and Media Studies at The University of Bergen, Norway in collaboration with The Software Studies Lab at Calit2, University of California, San Diego during the period of 2010-2012. I will be releasing more of my research in the near future. For now, you may also look over related material, available under Projects.

For proper text citation use:

Référence électronique
Eduardo Navas, « Modular Complexity and Remix: The Collapse of Time and Space into Search  », Anthrovision [En ligne], 1.1 | 2012, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2012, consulté le 15 mars 2013. URL : http://lodel.revues.org/10/anthrovision/324

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Excerpt:

If postmodernity consisted of the collapse of time into space, then the time of globalization at the beginning of the twenty-first century consists of the collapse of time and space into search.  Culture has entered a stage in which time and space are redefined by modular access to knowledge in unprecedented fashion with the use of search engines. Search redefines the way people come to terms with historical developments that are constantly recycled and remixed with the use of new media technology.  A search is usually performed with engines such as Google and Bing; technology that is founded on research that brings together private and public interests.

This text is a reflection on the implications behind search algorithms that provide people with material that is relevant in correlation to a hierarchy of supposed importance that may reach great popularity, and perhaps even go viral (large circulation online) according to the use of key terms known as meta-data. This text is an evaluation of the aesthetics of search made possible because of what I call modular complexity; meaning, the ability to function within a system of modules that are autonomous but that also effectively inform and redefine each other.[1]  This, in effect, leads to the collapse of time and space into search; meaning, if the postmodern gave way to a sense of historical dismissal, such attitude is fully at play in networked culture as ahistoricity.  This shift, which informs emerging markets on the global network, repurposes interdisciplinary methodologies across fields of research in the social sciences as well as the humanities.

[1] I first introduce the concept of Modular Complexity in the Essay “Remix: The Ethics of Modular Complexity in Sustainability,” written for CSPA Journal’s Spring 2010 issue.  See: http://remixtheory.net/?p=461

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