[iDC] notes on media remix

Paul D. Miller anansi1 at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 21 15:23:20 EDT 2006

Hey Curt and Ryan - I'm going to have to be brief 'cause I have a 
zillion things to do today, but yeah, basically I agree with what you 
say when you refer to "remix aesthetics" as a "personal cultural 
survival tactic" - this is something that Lev completely misses the 
point on: hybridity and its discontents posit that there was some 
kind of meta narrative that Europe's colonization imposed on the idea 
of "subjectivity" - being able to participate in the narrative was 
part of the idea of privilege - of belonging to the Enlightenment and 
it's ideals. If you look at the philosophical implications of "remix" 
culture, it's about dismantling meta narratives, and reconstructing 
subjective interpretations. This is something most non European 
cultures had to go through after de-colonisation, and this is sadly 
not reflected in the arts, in much of the theory scene, and in the 
way that "remix" culture is now become trendy in the academy. I know 
that's speaking broadly, but hey, take a stroll through Chelsea 
sometime...  Things are slowly changing, but yeah, I'd like to see 
more transformation of the contemporary art scene. It's the 21st 
century. Who would have guessed that things would be this boring in 
the artworld?

Anyway, the idea of textual poaching comes from the basic frame of 
multiple narratives co-existing simultaneously - this is something 
that Mcluhan pointed out on the record version of "The Medium is The 
Massage" - a rare record indeed! But it's also something you could 
find in an Ornette Coleman record like "Free Jazz" or the polyphony 
of painters like Wilfredo Lam who Picasso famously copied - Wilfredo 
Lam was Afro-Cuban, and Picasso, was of course, European - who do you 
think is more well known now?

All I can say is that I started out as an artist focusing on collage 
based aesthetics, and found that the artworld would not allow this 
kind of stuff. My work was received in a really different way than, 
say, Christian Marclay or John Oswald, and I felt that this kind of 
inability to deal with the material was based on my works 
relationship to hip hop and more rhythm oriented materials.

My book "Rhythm Science" is in its 6th edition, and is one of MIT 
Press's top selling books, and I think that's because the kids relate 
to this kind of thing, and I can only hope it will change people's 
incredibly limited visions of multiculturalism, theory, and the 
relationship between remix culture and the fine arts.

Instead of Lev Manovich's treasured European film makers - I offer:

Oscar Michaeux's 1920 "Within Our Gates" response to D.W. Griffith
Wilfredo Lam's Afro Cuban painting - yes, before Duchamp & Picasso
Valentine de St. Point's "Manifesto of Lust" - 1913
Ethiopian painting traditions (these have been widely discussed as a 
religious and secular forerunner to cartoon's representations of 
action occurring in multiple frames simultaneously etc etc)

anything by Orson Welles... Especially "F for Fake" and his radio 
play "War of the Worlds"

the list goes on, but you get the idea.

gotta run,

>Hi Ryan,
>For me, at least one significant difference between DJ Spooky 
>remixing spoken word Kurt Schwitters with Bill Laswell (what I'm 
>calling remixing) and MK12 putting a motion blur on a Mike 
>Cina-designed typeface (what I'm evidently now calling 
>"hybridizing") is in the intention of the artist and the purpose of 
>the genre.  As I read Paul, remixing is a personal cultural survival 
>tactic for him. The specific sources (content) are all-important. 
>As I've written elsewhere, the remix is "a sort of 
>talisman/immunization strategy against commodification."  As such, 
>it is far from content-agnostic.
>Whereas MK12 is hybridizing animation, motion graphics, stop motion 
>video, and typography, but they are generating their own source 
>content.  None of it is quoted.  It's not allusive to anything. 
>This is a big difference to me.
>On a very different but related note, it seems that much 
>contemporary theory is an obligatory race to delineate (or 
>manufacture) the socio-politico-cultural implications of every 
>freaking thing.  And that's fine.  But it clarifies things to first 
>unpack and comprehend what is happening on a functional level before 
>overlaying it with whatever theoretical grid you subscribe to.  (Can 
>this be done from a neutral position?  No.  But some form of 
>transparent functional analysis should be attempted nonetheless.) 
>Yes, there is definitely something important about the fact that 
>digital media is all 0s and 1s.  All  the media are stored in the 
>same format.  But to say that this digitization of media 
>constitutes/mirrors some sort of homogenization/assimilation of 
>actual cultures seems a leap.  Lead me there step by step and I'll 
>follow more willingly.
>To me, the most meaty thing for a culture theorist to latch onto in 
>this whole discussion is the idea of programmability.  Yes, it's 
>interesting that all the forms of media are now stored in the same 
>format.  And it's interesting that this media can be mixed.  But 
>what's more interesting and revolutionary is that it can also be 
>programmed/processed.  Is this new programmability a democratizing 
>force?  It depends on who is producing the new hybrid forms of 
>media. And it depends even more on who is designing the interface to 
>After Effects.  What forms of control do these meta-media interfaces 
>suggest?  What kinds of built-in, off-the-shelf hybridization 
>options are being offered us?  These questions are interesting to me.
>Are there any real, functional, operative  differences between Casey 
>Reas's Processing language and Macromedia Flash's ActionScript 
>language?  Are there any real, functiotnal, operative differences 
>between Jitter and Nato?  If so, what specifically are these 
>differences, and what culturally do they imply?  It's easy to say , 
>"jitter and flash are corporate and not open source, so they 
>represent capital and empire."  But is it really that facile?  Does 
>an open source programming language or software interface somehow de 
>facto lead to the creation of more "liberated" art than a corporate 
>programming language or software interface?
>This doesn't even begin to address digital media and its 
>rerlationship to the network, a topic ripe with cultural 
>implications because the network is social, much more than a graphic 
>designer offline in a room using after effects.  (In any digital art 
>discussion, some net artists always tries to turn the conversation 
>to net art.  Ryan, you are busted!)
>McLuhan claimed TV was more interactive than film because TV was 
>viewed on a screen that constantly refreshed its own lines, and the 
>viewer had to interactively fill in the picture that was missing. 
>Here McLuhan hones in on some arbitrary technical fact and imbues it 
>with an inordinate amount of theoretical importance.  This would 
>mean that a DVD of Casablanca viewed on a TV monitor in your living 
>room is radically more interactive than a 16mm film of Casablanca 
>projected on a screen in your living room.  This would mean that the 
>Simpsons on a tube TV is radically  more interactive than the 
>Simpsons on hi-def TV.  (Of course McLuhan was forgivably pre-DVD 
>and pre-hi-def TV, but his mistake is still instructive.)
>We should attempt to acquire a nuanced, foundational grasp of what 
>the media is functionally doing before we begin extrapolating its 
>cultural implications, or things get really muddled.
>Ryan wrote:
>Maybe i'm taking this in a totally unproductive, and obviously
>irrelevant for some, direction, but it seems like our discussions of
>the "remix" seem to keep the focus on an internal reading of
>form/content. In other words, we're not really discussing the
>implications of all of this input becoming "data" and
>reformulated/archived/transmitted through one, dominant systemic
>mechanism - even if that system includes the ability to reformat the
>data along highly customizable lines (RSS, data visualizations, etc).
>i'm wondering if there's something to consider in Galloway and
>Thacker's work on notions of protocols and systems as a way to think
>about the importance of the framing of all this remixing. And also
>critiques of the notions of "hybridity" used in earlier post-colonial
>theory seem relevant - the relationship between commodity fetishism and
>80s-90s multiculturalism for example could be looked at in a parallel
>manner to the fetishism of the remix.
>(for Curt - is there really a difference between meaning derived from
>"content" - your idea of remixing - really different from meaning
>derived from "form" - what you call "hybridizing" [technical
>appropriations like motion blurs]?)
>Is the infrastructure/frame entirely covered by the shiny, bright
>surface of the remix?
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