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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/

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.

Data as an Informational Vector

Digital material such as videos, still images and texts uploaded to websites, blogs, databases and social media platforms become the building blocks of contemporary global communication. Just like we can separate a written text into multiple pieces, digital technology similarly enables us to take apart any digitally produced work, to then repurpose segments as we see fit. With computer technology, data becomes a type of informational vector that can be implemented as desired or needed. With the speed of network communication the perception of things being static is coming to an end, and the ever-changing state of forms produced (viral memes on YouTube and social media are an early example of this) will become valued more than a single instance of production; if technology keeps moving as it is currently, we may be able to view any regenerated object and its history, as well as a prognostication of where it may be going. In short, nothing is original, just unique to the moment in which it is experienced.

Extended, Selective and Reflexive Remixes

Music – or how remixing music changed over time –  is one aspect of our everyday reality where we can observe what I will call cultural regeneration at play. Generally, a music remix is a reinterpretation of a pre-existing song, which means that the «spectacular aura» of the original will be dominant in the remixed version.  Some of the most challenging – and often newest – remixes can question this generalization as we will see. Based on its history, it can be stated that there are three basic types of remixes. The first remix is extended: it is a longer version of the original composition containing long instrumental sections to make it more mixable for the club DJ. The first known disco song released on a 12 inch vinyl record to be extended to ten minutes was «Ten Percent» by Double Exposure, remixed by Walter Gibbons in 1976. The second remix is selective: it consists of adding or subtracting material from the original composition. This type of remix made DJs popular producers in mainstream music during the 1980s. One of the most successful selective remixes is Eric B. & Rakim’s «Paid in Full,» remixed by Coldcut in 1987. The third remix is reflexive: it allegorizes and extends the aesthetic of sampling, where the remixed version challenges the «spectacular aura» of the original and claims autonomy even when it carries the name of the original; material is added or deleted, but the original tracks are largely left intact to be recognizable. An example of this is Mad Professor’s famous dub/trip hop album No Protection (1994), which is a remix of Massive Attack’s Protection. A special kind of remix is the mashup, which depending on how it is composed, can be regressive or reflexive. The music mashups at the beginning of the twenty-first century follow the principle of the eighties megamix, and unlike the extended or selective remixes, they do not remix one particular composition but at least two or more sources. Music mashups are usually regressive, though if they were pushed to become works of art (along the lines of Mad Professor’s No Protection) they could be reflexive due to their critical position. This means that the music mashup often simply points back to the «greatness» of the original track by celebrating it as a remix. The term regressive here makes an implicit reference to Adorno’s theory of regression in mass culture, which for him is the tendency in media to provide consumers with easily understood entertainment and commodities. Arguably, the most popular, and historically important mashup up to date, is a full-length album by Danger Mouse titled The Grey Album, which is a mashup of Jay-Z’s special a capella version of his Black Album with carefully selected sections from the Beatles’ White Album.  The Grey Album also exposed the tensions of copyright and sampling with emerging technologies: Danger Mouse deliberately used the Internet for distribution and he was pushed by EMI (the copyright holders of the Beatles’ White Album) to take the Grey Album offline.

The Regenerative Remix

There is a fourth form of remix that moves beyond music, which I define as the regenerative remix. It is specific to new media and networked culture. Like the other remixes it makes evident the originating sources of material, but unlike them it does not necessarily use references or samplings to validate itself as a cultural form. Instead, the cultural recognition of the material source is subverted in the name of practicality—the validation of the regenerative remix lies in its functionality. This remix form is most potent when it functions as a binder of recycled material, which can only be of value when it continues to circulate. While circulation of ideas and the forms they take have been evolving since we developed symbolic language, which in essence is regeneration (reconfiguration of material for new purposes), it is only in the time of computers and networks that all circulation, all flows are being recorded and data-mined. With this in mind, it is important to understand that to sample does not automatically mean that one is creating a concrete remix (as in a music remix—meaning, an aesthetic object), but rather contextualizing the samples to express a new idea. One could sample from any song and use that sample to create a new composition, just like we can reuse a word in a new statement to make a different point in a different argument. Remix, once it enters a state of quantifiable and archivable regeneration leaves behind the perception of a static form. In this sense remix itself becomes something different from pre-networked forms of recycling such as music remixes, which one can experience repeatedly knowing they don’t change materially (our experience of them does, of course). The regenerative remix is constantly changing as it is linked to the constant flow of data.

Speed

The next stage is to produce without any lag. There may well be a time not too distant in the future when we will be able to access databases with image, sound, text, and video sources to express what we want just as fast as we utter a sentence. Allusions to this are already mythically proposed on television. During the month of April in 2015, a TV commercial aired advertising with the question «Can you deliver?» The ad is by Cognizant, a corporation which offers information technology services and data analysis. At one point, the TV spot shows a pair of headphones linked to a mobile device while the voice of a young person states, «can it download a song while I sample it?» The «it» in the sentence refers to the technology being used for the transfer and manipulation of data. The implied statement within the question is about speed and the ability to use all media as fast as one conceives of a possible use.  It is therefore not farfetched to consider the possibility that if technology is to move in the ever-increasing way it has thus far, we will leave our current speed of communication for another that may be as fast as a person can think and likely faster. What such forms may be is not clear at the moment, but technology is evidently invested in this type of innovation.

Eduardo Navas is the author of Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (Springer, 2012) and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies (Routledge, 2015). He currently conducts research and teaches on the crossover art and media in culture in The School of Visual Arts at the Pennsylvania State University.

DJ Set at the Opening Reception for Mashup The Archive, Bayreuth, Germany

Video: This video segment is from the early part of DJ Raph’s set at the Iwalewahaus’s opening event for the art exhibition Mashup The Archive.

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion for the Exhibition Mashup the Archive at the Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth. The opening reception took place on May 30, 2015. It was an amazing night. There were three DJs who performed: DJ Raph from Nairobi, who is also an artist and remixed songs from the Iwalewahaus’s sound and music archive, DJ Zhao from Berlin, and musician Spoek Mathambo from South Africa. Their sets were amazing and the sound was so loud that the microphone of the iPhone I used to record excerpts of the performances does no justice to the energy of the party. People danced into the early morning.In this post I share videos of their respective sets, which took place in the order the DJs are listed.

I want to thank Sam Hopkins,  Nadine Siegert, and Ulf Vierke for inviting me to participate in the events. I was fortunate to participate in a panel with Beatrice Ferrara, Nina Huber, and Mark Nash. It was a real pleasure to engage in a debate with them on what it means to mashup an archive of African Art. I will be sharing images of the exhibit along with a brief critical reflection in a separate post.

 

Video: DJ Zhao working the crowd at the Iwalewahaus’s opening for the exhibition Mashup the Archive.

Video: Spoek Mathambo working the crowd at the opening reception of Mashup the Archive.

Nike Remixed, by Pau Figueres

Image: Nike Swoosh installation in front of the Palmer Museum at Penn State.

Pau Figueres,Visiting Scholar in the School of Visual Arts (SoVA) at Penn State, installed a Nike swoosh composed of rocks in front of the Palmer Museum. It was a pleasure to host him and work with him in his research on remix and anti-consumerism during his Spring 2015 residency. A brief article of his installation and research was featured on the SoVA website. I quote part of it below:

(Read the complete story)

During spring 2015, SoVA hosted Pau Figueres, a visiting scholar/artist from Bilbao, Spain. Pau was working on a project, Remix and Sampling of Mass Media and Advertising in Visual Art: Aesthetics and the Problematics of Anti-Consumerism Critique, with New Media faculty member Eduardo Navas. While here, as part of his research, Pau staged a temporary ‘intervention’ of an ephemeral art piece in the form of the iconic Nike ‘swoosh’ that was placed in the Palmer Museum of Art plaza. His temporary installation brought to mind the malleability of the power of the commercial icon—an inference about how pebbles are eroded from river flow, yet the stones also shape the course of the river.

[…]

(Read the complete story)

 

Preliminary Notes on Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia Part 3

MinimaMoP2LongShot

Figure 1: Detail of Minima Moralia Redux Remixes 51 – 55. First set of entries part of the second part of Minima Moralia Redux.

Read the entire entry at Remix Data

Minima Moralia Redux, a selective remix of Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia, enters a second phase in 2015. This was not foreseen when I began the project back in 2011, because the work is not only a work of art, but also research on data analytics, as well as a critical reflection on networked culture.

The first part of Minima Moralia Redux (entries  one to fifty), consisted of updating Theodor Adorno’s aphorisms–that is to remix them as contemporary reflections of the way global society and culture is engaging with emerging technology. When I finished the first section, I realized that the project’s aesthetics were changing. This was for a few reasons. In terms of research, the first section provided more than enough data for me to data-mine Adorno’s approach to writing; therefore, I came to see no need in following this methodology. I plan to make my findings about this aspect  public in a formal paper in the future.

Read the entire entry at Remix Data

@Poemita Selected Poems in D3 Force Layout

Subaltern

Figure 1: Eduardo Navas,  #Subaltern, 2010 tweet rewritten as a poem, February 2015

Read the complete entry at Remix Data

Selected Poems in D3 Force Layout
2010:
#Nature || #Opinions || #Fatty || #Subaltern || #Migrants
2012:
#Modules || #Nano_specs || #Standards
2013:
#Abundance || #Plastic || #Universals || #Predominance

__________

During the month of January and February of 2015, I began to consider how to reconfigure selected tweets of  my @poemita twitter account as poems. The first outcome of this process was three sets of image-layouts of selected poems from the years 2010-2013 which I called “Poem Portraits.” They are available on the main @Poemita project page:

Poem Portraits 2010
Poem Portraits 2012
Poem Portraits 2013

Simultaneously, I had been working with D3 to develop a force layout for visualizations of selected entries from my project Minima Moralia Redux (This set of visualizations will be discussed in a separate entry). Such layout is designed mainly to show the relevance of words within each  of Adorno’s aphoristic essays.  At one point in this process, it occurred to me that I could use D3 force layouts not only for research based visualizations, but as an actual medium to rewrite poems. Hence, I repurposed D3 features to develop a set of poems as shown in figures 1 – 4.

Read the complete entry at Remix Data

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.

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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.

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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.

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