[iDC] Re: notes on media remix

Myron Turner mturner at cc.umanitoba.ca
Sat Apr 22 11:19:13 EDT 2006

Curt Cloninger wrote:
> 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.)

I share Curt's frustration. On the other hand, Manovich lets himself in 
for these kinds of critiques by substituting formalist/functional 
analysis for cultural analysis. We see this in his "Summary" of his 
INFO-AESTHETICS (http://www.manovich.net/IA/index.html), where he 
rejects the idea that there's a discontinuity between modernism and 
post-modernism. But the continuity he has in mind is technical and 
formal, eg. photographic (modernist) techniques feed into current 
(computer) techniques.
> I also claim that new media does represent a “new avant-garde” of 
> information society even though it often uses old modernist forms. If 
> the 1920s avant-garde came up with new forms for new media of their 
> time (photography, film, new printing and architectural technologies), 
> the new media avant-garde introduces radically new ways of using 
> already accumulated media. Thus the new avant-garde is the 
> computer-based techniques of media access, manipulation and analysis. 
> In other words, information society may not need new visual languages, 
> new forms and new representational techniques because it can use 
> computers to re-configure the old . . .in radically new ways.
I find a statement like this confusing, because if the difference is 
"radical", then by definition there has to be a breach with the past. 
It's true that there's a difference between a method and a product, but 
if the method reconfigures the old in radically new ways, don't we have 
a new product? Can a form still be its old self, if it has now been 
reconfigured, re-shaped, re-formed in "radically new ways"? I am with 
McLuhan on this one. If there's a radically new way/form, then there's a 
radically new meaning: the medium is the message.

In Manvovich's last post to this list he describes the many ways in 
which info-media hyrbridizes, "juxtaposes", different formal and 
technical elements--text, video, stills, computer-graphic, filtered 
visuals--and I am reminded of David Harvey's description of 
postmodernist technique as use of overlapping "ontologies". Harvey uses, 
as one of his examples, a painting by Davide Salle ("Tight as Houses") 
which shows a voluminous, mannerist nude, receding from foot to head, 
which is over-painted with a calligraphic, contour drawing of another 
figure. From the purely formalist point of view, this is just a 
juxtaposition of two technically diverse modalities; but onotologically 
it is a rupture in the cultural matrix.

Taking the other side, however, I felt it unfair that some of us seemed 
to hold Manovich liable for such a dazzling cacaphony of cultural 
responsibilities, from Jamaica to Japan. Remix unversalis. A far cry 
from the good old days when, in literature, for instance, F. R. Leavis 
held us responsible only for The Great Tradition (sort of a Great Books 
of English Literature). It was a hierarchical, hieratic, stifling, and 
snobbish take on reality. But it had certain benefits: you knew what you 
were responsible for and you had some inkling of how much of it you 
might be able to master in a lifetime. Now, when the word "consumer" 
plays so large a role in our discussions, where the author/artist has 
diminished authority, we get the situation that Curt complains about, a 
" race to delineate (or manufacture) the socio-politico-cultural 
implications of every freaking thing. " The dead-end of this road is 
described by a panelist that Christiane Robbins quotes to us, Dorothea 
Von Hantelmann, for whom art is valued not for its capacity to organize 
experience but for its"experiential intensity"; it's art that "exists 
more in situation instead of complete works -- setting this hic et nuc, 
live and in real time into action -- supplies the 
spectator/consumer/participant with a direct corraboration of his or her 
participation and receptivity to experience". Art loses its depth and 
power to organize and is as much any one of the multiplicity of consumer 
responses we bring to it as anything in itself. I think Fredric Jameson 
calls this the "schizoid" face of post-modernism.

Myron Turner

More information about the iDC mailing list