Blesok no. 82, January-February, 2012
The Aesthetics of Remix
Remix theory is a game theory. The art of our time, interactive art, is based on interaction – that’s more than obvious. However, interaction can be (and is) aesthetically ambivalent, if playfulness is not introduced into the equation. The game factor, more than any other, can help us in the postulation of the remix as a juncture to legitimize interactivity as a phenomenon worthy of aesthetic elaboration. Otherwise, if playfulness is not brought into the investigation, interactivity not only remains devoid of attributes and is effectivelly equated with a simple mechanical interaction, but it also becomes aesthetically indifferent and even (if we want to look at it that way) ideologically ambiguous. Therefore, interactivity – just as any other phenomenon in the digital era, which resulted from the innovations in media and technology – will not possess aesthetic signifiers, if they are not recognized and identified as such. The concept of remix-game, as we will see, is more successful in fulfilling that task than any other common denominator of interactivity and art.
The simplest definition of a remix can be found at the beginning of the documentary film Everything is a Remix, by Kirby Ferguson: ‘To combine or edit existing materials to produce something new.’ The definition is correct, because in this case, the nominally-etymological approach to the concept is quite sufficient. Actually, the literal meaning of re-mixing adequately covers the substance of the term. Thus, in the aesthetic context remix represents the re-combination of the basic components that comprise a work of art (something new may be added in the process, though not necessarily).
Therefore, although any manipulation of an existing work/artefact (which certainly includes Dada and post-Dada arts/practices and, to some extent, hermeneutics and interpretation) can be considered to be a remix, still, the contemporary foundations of remix practices should be sought in Jamaican reggae music from the late 60’s and early 70’s in the 20th century. Eminent British historians and researchers of reggae music, Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton, testify to the benefit of this claim: ‘The technique of the remix was pioneered in Jamaica as far back as 1967, initially in the quest for sound-system exclusivity, but [was] soon exploited as an economic and imaginative way of reusing already recorded rhythm tracks.’ (Barrow and Dalton 215)
At that time, music producers and sound engineers such as Ruddy Redford, King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry began to produce instrumental versions of vocal reggae songs, which proved to be much more popular for the audience than the original vocal versions of songs. Those, so called “dub versions”, or simply “versions”, were characterized by a complete (or almost complete) exclusion of vocals and with an emphasis on the instrumental music performance, often enriched with additional sound effects and other auditory treatments. (Barrow and Dalton 215) (Those production techniques are commonly characterized by emphasizing the depth of the low tones in songs, by adding echoing effects to the high tones, with a purposeful delaying of the rhythm in the final mix, by a pronounced repetition of the main instrumental motives, etc.). This practice became so popular over the years that ‘the word “dub” is now used throughout the world of dance music to describe the remix’ (Barrow and Dalton 215). Therefore, dub music is one of the first musical forms (if not the first) which is not based on creating original, composed music, but rather on rearranging, recombining, remixing of previously composed music. Consequently, dub music represents a manipulated copy of a musical work of art, never an original musical work of art, per se. (In fact, the greatest and most popular dub musicians were, either music producers, or sound engineers; very rarely was any of them a composer.)
Interesting are the circumstances that led to the widespread popularity of the remixed dub music, first in Jamaica, and then worldwide. In the documentary film Dub Echoes, Steve Barrow notes that the volume of the deep low tones in dub music – volume which was not so pronounced in vocal reggae songs – was so enthusiastically accepted by the Jamaican audience, for it acted as a sort of an elixir for the harsh living conditions in Jamaica in those times. The deep bass lines in dub music were so pervasive (so much so, that they were often unregisterable by the ear) that they were felt by the body. As many interviewed dub/reggae musicians in the film testify, the bodies of the dancers are “filled” with joy (life is filled with “sense”) when exposed to the low striking tones of dub music. Therefore, how ever a woman/man feels empty in her/his life, she/he can, at least for a little while, feel a sense of “fulfillment” under the influence of dub music. Bearing this in mind, the American historian of reggae music, David Katz, notes that dub versions of reggae songs became so popular among Jamaican audiences, that two dub versions of a single vocal track were usually printed on the seven-inch single gramophone records in those times. The first side of the single usually contained a dub version with the same or similar duration as the original vocal track, while the other side had an extended dub version, which often lasted for up to 15 minutes. (Dub Echoes)
Another related consideration of the remix should be sought in hip hop music from the mid 70’s to the early 80’s of the 20th century. Hip hop music, similar to dub, emerged as a result of remix procedures, which were performed live this time, using two turntables connected to а audio mixer. Again, as was the case with dub music, the hip hop remix was based on the manipulation of existing music, not on the composition of new and original one. The three most famous DJ’s in those times – Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa (again, these were musicians who were not composers) – manually isolated and sequnced instrumental parts of soul, funk, jazz and rock songs from the records that they played at the parties. That way – by consequently blending only parts from the songs that lacked vocals and adding extra sound effects by scratching the vinyl records – they actually layed the instrumental basis of the music that would later be called “hip hop”. Therefore, the hip hop remix is also made up by manipulating original compositions; but this time, as a result of a successive mixing assemblage of their instrumental parts and a manual isolation of the pronounced breakbeats from the songs that the DJ’s played. (Toop 12-46; Coleman 64-70)
The answer to the question why DJ’s at that time isolated and sequenced only the instrumental parts of the records is of utmost importance for our subject. It is given by the British music journalists Dan and Tim Irwin, who dealt in detail with this phenomenon: ‘After [Kool DJ Herc] noticed that the audience was partying the most at the times when the instrumental parts of soul and funk tracks were being played, he began to extend them, by manipulating two copies of a same record.’ (Irwin 67-68)
According to this account (similarily as was the case in dub music), hip hop DJ’s that mixed music live only reacted to the signals transmitted by the audience. Therefore, the true creative subjects of the hip hop remix were the final consumers of the music. DJ’s and dub producers were “only” accurate at noticing what/how the audience wanted the music to sound, so they were only satisfying their demands. This means that they were not the real representatives of the new interactive music, but “only” mediators of interactivity between the music and the audience. The proactive and reactive audience was the one sending messages in which direction and how the music was to be restructured, rearranged, reimagined, reinterpreted… briefly, how the music was to be remixed. According to this view, DJ’s and dub engineers can be viewed as idiosyncratic receivers who “only” translated signals and reacted accordingly to them.
Hence, the remix, in the period of its very inception and in its essence, represents an interaction between the audience (the plural author) and the work of art (dub and hip hop music). Bearing this in mind, it can be concluded that the remix aesthetics decisively rejects the myth of the preferential singular authorship, according to which there is a clear distinction between the creator (the active artist) and the audience (the passive consumer). Once the audience becomes an active participant/factor in the remix practice (and doesn’t plan on letting go), the concept of the artwork as a finished product (as an object of conclusion, of closure) becomes finally obsolete. When the Australian aesthetician and theoretician of new media, Sean Cubitt, identifies the arts arising from diasporan cultures as nomadic arts without a fixed space-time continuum, he actually alludes to the remix aesthetics:
[D]iasporan cultures treat messages as what they are: relationships. Beats might originate in Jamaica, be remade in Senegal, get transformed in New York, find a new modification in London, catch another inflection in Cuba or Brazil, and so on and so on […] Central to diasporan circuits is that there is no closure to the loop, because there is far less emphasis on the integrity of the messages. Instead, the emphasis is on an improvisational bricolage embroidered on the incoming sounds before they are sent off on their travels again. (Cubitt 146)
The logic is clear! – Once the integrity of the messages (the works of art) is declared obsolete and nearly disqualified, then there can be no closure of the cycle of their recycling transformations. Consequently, to speak of a closed or final remix today would be nonsense, because the potential transformations of a work are well and truly beyond the control of its original creator(s). With the introduction of the plural remix author (the audience) in the equation of interactive arts, the remix aesthetics is based on the conviction that a space-time closure of the manipulative cycle in which the work of art is introduced is, in fact, nowhere to be found. Actually, the short reviews of the pioneering dub and hip hop remixes were given, among other things, to emphasize that the participatory democracy which is effectively introduced in the interaction between the audience and the works of art (music) could not be obstructed even 40 years ago. It would be absurd to think that today it should pose a problem, given the wide availability of new media.
The brief reviews of the concepts and practices of the dub and hip hop remix should give us a notion that the free interaction with music (a work of art) is the crux of the remix aesthetics. However, it would be misleading to claim that the remix practices emerged simultaneously with the conception of dub and hip hop. The concept of the remix was around (bashfully hiding) before the emergence of these musical forms: in any artform that openly accepts the worldview according to which art is only when it is interactive. Accordingly, the remix aesthetics can be recognized as far back as the palimpsest remixes in Dada installations, collages, interventions, performances etc.
We mention the Dada movement again to point out one unquestionable truth when talking about the remix aesthetics. Dada art has shown the need for a reproduction of a work of art (the Mona Lisa painting, for example), so that it can later be remixed (the drawing of moustaches and beard to Mona Lisa by Marcel Duchamp). In other words, in order for a remix to be even conceptualized, art should be disposable. There should be a possibility of an appropriation of a work of art, so that it can later be recontextualized, spinned, remixed etc.
Of course, appropriation of a work of art (and everything that follows from it) would be impossible without the existence of its copy. The ontology of the copy is the underlying ontology of digitally mediated work of art. New media in the digital age are obviously based on this principle, according to which the free flow of information determines the basis of contemporary culture. In this regard, the logic behind the free flow of information is clear: information is, primarily to be available.
Today, as media is being “liberated” from traditional physical storage media – paper, film, stone, glas, magnetic tape – elements of the printed word interface and the cinema interface that previously were hardwired to content become “liberated” as well. A digital designer can freely mix pages and virtual cameras, tables of content and screens, bookmarks and points of view. No longer embedded within particular texts and films, these organizational strategies are now free floating in our culture, available for use in new contexts. (Manovich 73)
Therefore, unlike the logic of the system of cultural hierarchization, according to which ‘the world can be reduced to a logical and hierarchical order, where every object has a distinct and well-defined place’, the model of new media stems from the assumption that ‘every object has the same importance as any other, and that everything is, or can be, connected to everything else’ (Manovich 16). When starting from such premises, a wide range of opportunities opens up, not only in terms of art. But above all, this means that art understood as disposable information is given in the very nature of new media, where it can not be represented otherwise, except as a copy designed for production of additional (recontextualized) copies.
Therefore, only when they are available, works of art may enter into a permanent recycling dialogue, because only when they are in such a relationship could we ever speak of digitally mediated arts. American artist and new media art theorist, Douglas Davis, is on the same page when he says: ‘The work of a primal filmmaker like Dziga Vertov could be received, deconstructed or rearranged, then archived; later, if we wished, the original signal could be represented in the state first intended.’ (Davis 384) In other words, today anyone can draw, if she/he wants, a mustache or a beard (or whatever she/he wishes) on the digital reproduction of Mona Lisa, while the original painting will remain intact in the Louvre Museum. Or, if we follow the context that Davis sets, the famous silent film by Dziga Vertov (Дзи́га Ве́ртов), Man with a Movie Camera (Человек с киноаппаратом), can be seen with a musical background composed by The Cinematic Orchestra, Biosphere, Michael Nyman or other contemporary music groups or composers. Of course, it can still be seen in its original silent version. However, what Davis wants to accentuate is of a far more essential nature.
Multimedia artist Paul D. Miller, who often works under the pseudonym DJ Spooky, seems to have beautifully illustrated the point that Davis wants to emphasize. His audio-visual remix of the controversial silent film from 1915, The Birth of a Nation, by D.W. Griffith, grasps the core of the contemporary remix aesthetics. Rebirth of a Nation is the title of DJ Spooky’s remix-film from 2009 and it represents a sort of a “review” or “re-vision” of Griffith’s original film. What DJ Spooky has done is a cinematic application of the remix techniques pioneered in dub and hip hop into the film landscape. – Introducing sporadic documentary narration into the film, new background music and graphic interventions in the scenes, DJ Spooky deconstructs and plays with the structure, the form, and the story of the original film. Furthermore, because the original film is based on an obvious racist premise, the remix-treated Rebirth of a Nation offers a justified disclosure and a consequent demystification of the stigmatizing tendencies towards African-Americans from the original film. Indeed, Rebirth of a Nation represents a radical twisting or conversion of the original film, both in terms of form (the duration of the film is reduced, new film music is added, and the graphic colour interventions comment and emphasize certain aspects in the scenes at the expense of others) and in terms of storytelling and message (the documentary narration gives proper interpretation and correction of all historical inaccuracies and frauds). Again, all this is done only by intervening in the original film (which can be viewed in its original version before/after). Thus, the transformation of the film The Birth of a Nation into the remix-film Rebirth of a Nation represents an ideal example for emphasizing the recontextualizing potentials of the appropriative remix interaction in art, when works of art are disposable (The Birth of a Nation is in the public sector and is not subject to copyright).
We notice that the interactivity of the digitally mediated remix breaks out of the simple Dadaist intervention (the age of mechanical reproduction) and enters the vast area of transformational intervention (the age of digital reproduction). Unlike the so-called palimpsest remix, which we can locate in Dada and post-Dada art, and unlike the extended and selective remix, which is noticeable in dub and hip hop remixes of the 60’s and 70’s, what we are faced today with is the so-called transformative remix. The transformative remix posesses, more than any other previously mentioned, the broad potential to freely play (figuratively and literally) with the integrity of a work of art, because only the transformative remix is the most suited to deal with a situation in which ‘there is far less emphasis [put] on the integrity of the messages’ (Cubitt 146). And when the supposed coherence of messages/works of art can be freely fragmented in the human-computer interface of the plural digital user, then the potential transformations and reconfigurations of a work of art can not be fully anticipated.
It is only in an ambient like this – where the potential of free-playfulness is released from its fixation/dependence to a solid center/source; when a work of art enters into a potentially infinite cycle of recontextualizations – that we can sense the aesthetic relevance of the remix-game…
The digital work of art is never finished (and the digital age is unique here), primarily because it is mediated by media which are easy to use, paricipatory, open-ended and which allow infinite digital reproductions and distributions. Therefore, it is never even intended to be (once and for all) completed and as such offered to the public. However, even when it is conceived to be complete, finished and/or closed, the work enters into an aesthetic sphere where closure is viewed as a collateral leftover from past times. In other words, it enters into a world in which the imagined apriority of closure and the orthodoxy of eschatological finality are being perpetually devalued and annulled by the aposteriority of interaction. Potentially every user (recipient) today may intervene in any work of art or cultural object (even when the work/object is not intended to be formally supplemented), if the work/object is networked.
Therefore, the concept of closure exists only when one continues to stubbornly believe, regardless of the current state of affairs, in Walter Benjamin’s myth about the intangible aura of a work of art. (Benjamin) However, digital interactivity exceeded (at least for now) the centralized and devaluated concept of art, according to which communication with it is determined by contemplations and meditations surrounding its aura. Of course, as we already stated above, even that type of modernist communication doesn’t have to be (and often it’s not) passive, but usually includes active participation on the part of the art public. (Eco 151-160; Gadamer) This leads us to the conclusion that (almost!) every work of art gets its completion through the unique process of its active experience, in the broadest sense of the word. Indeed, Jacques Derrida alludes to exactly this when he insists on the semantic supplementarity of free play:
One could say […] that this movement of the freeplay, permitted by the lack, the absence of a center or origin, is the movement of supplementarity. One cannot determine the center, the sign which supplements it, which takes its place in its absence, because this sign adds itself, occurs in addition, over and above, comes as a supplement. The movement of signification adds something, which results in the fact that there is always more, but this addition is a floating one because it comes to perform a vicarious function, to supplement a lack on the part of the signified. […] The superabundance of the signifier, its supplementary character, is thus the result of a finitude, that is to say, the result of a lack which must be supplemented. (Derrida 365-367)
This means that we are almost never just innocent bystanders, observers and decoders of the architectonics, laws and structures that govern the world (the worldview of Claude Lévi-Strauss), but are active participants in their transformation: by the time we notice it, the world has already changed. Therefore, although he alludes to free play in modernist art, Derrida can still be considered the rightful forerunner of interactive art – for his insistence on the superabundance of the signifier and its need for constant supplementation is always ‘before the alternative of presence and absence’ (Derrida 369), which is to say, before the possibility to determine the frameworks of something that can’t tolerate restrictions: (interactive) free play. Of course, the supplementation of the superabundant signifier is essential for modernist art, but Derrida insists that free game be concieved radically: ‘being must be conceived of as presence or absence beginning with the possibility of freeplay and not the other way around’ (Derrida 369). This is the vague and subtle turning point between modernist and interactive art. When one begins with the possibility of free play, it means that the emphasis in the process is firmly placed on the aposteriority of interpretation and supplementation (in the broad, interactive sense), and not on the supposed semantic apriority of a work of art. However, it also represents a firm belief in the expanding interactive potentials that modernist art helped set and that it should rightfully be considered the ultimate precursor of interactive remix art.
Therefore, a radical notion of free play represents the modernist/interactive shift, which is based on the conviction that aura in digitally mediated arts can not be reduced to a fixed category. On the contrary, aura is to be seen as a variable fluid that mutates and transforms depending on every unique reception, interpretation, recontextualization, deconstruction, remix of a work of art. However, by no means is this maleable, fragmented aura lost; it’s just in the hands of the consumer(s) – the plural author. They influence and shape it now, not the other way around.
Consequently, the distinction author/audience comes to its closure through the remix aesthetics. The Polish aesthetician, Ryszard Kluszczynski, notes that the maneuvering space of the artist in the interactive arts becomes so narrow, that the only thing she/he is left with (in terms of “creating” a work of art) is offering a context:
The artist/author ceases to be the creator of the sense of the artwork, which is created by the recipient in the process of interaction. The artist’s task consists in the construction of the artifact – a context in which the recipient constructs the subject matter of his/her experience and its meaning. […] All this is the reason why we have to reverse the ontological order of elements in this model of communication; what is created first – by the artist – is the context, not the work of art in the traditional sense of the expression. Such a work of art is in fact created by the recipient/interactor in the context provided by the artist.
The context understood in such a way is the only message of the artist in the communication process characteristic for interactive art. (Kluszczynski 28-30)
The Macedonian theorist of contemporary art, Nebojsha Vilic (Небојша Вилиќ), draws the logical consequences of this contextual feature of the digital artist, when he notes that ‘the work does not exist without the user’, because in digital interactive arts ‘the presence of the artist is lost’, from whose genuine creation remains ‘only his authorship of the initial’ (Vilic 80). Hence, the real completion or authorship of a work of art comes later, through the processes of context-completion on the part of the networked audience.
However, that being said, the artist too falls into the category “audience”, doesn’t she/he? She/he too is one of the many art lovers who can complete/remix their own or someone else’s contexts. Therefore, there seems to be no point arguing that there is no authorship today. Rather, the point is that author’s singularity is being lost in the plurality of the creative process. No longer is there a clear distinction between the artist and the consumer: the dualism implodes in its united plurality. Bearing this in mind, we are faced with a new kind of dilemma. – On which side of the dichotomy author/audience does the interactive plural authorship stand? The authors are either the ones who actively participate in the conception and/or continuation of a contextual work of art, or they fall into the category of the activelly participatory audience?! This oxymoronly relationship in the dichotomy leaves us with the only sensible conclusion: in the digital age the dualism author/audience is practicaly unsustainable. What we are left with are the nuances of authorship and/or participation, that the remix aesthetic provides, but not with a distinct authorship and participation, per se. Of course, we can still refer (for pedagogical reasons) to authors and audience, but the conditions in the artworld lead us to a conclusion that interactivity is to be seen as a forum for pluralistic free-play with art.
“I’ll play with it, turn it around and make it mine!” When dub pioneers tell the story about the appearance of the dub remix, they point to a universal intimizing condition which the appropriation of art offers when one does a remix. – It is as if they’re telling us (and I’m paraphrasing): “I like a particular tune, so now (with the help of the interactivity of new media) I can play with it (twist it, turn it) and remake it so that I will absolutely love it!” Therefore, once art is disposable (because it is mediated by media that are intended to make information available), once it is subject to free appropriation (because its integrity is fragmented), then the possibilities for plural remix intimization with art will exponentially and inevitably grow.
And if there is anything that could be concluded in the end, it would be the following. – The means by which art today is being made are not only appropriated by the “context-masters” (the artists). They are undoubtedly woven in a same interpenetrating relation with the audience; so the audience too can intimize with/penetrate into the art, as much as the artist, because there is no essential difference between them. We all can play with art, because…
…we are all potential cyborgs!
– Barrow, Steve and Peter Dalton. The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd Edition: Expanded and Completely Revised. London: Rough Guides Ltd., 2004.
– Benjamin, Walter. ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. Spring 2006. University of Colorado, 11. 02. 2012.
– Chance, Tom. ‘Remix Culture: Issues Surrounding Re-use in Creative Commons Licenses’. 15. 08. 2005. Free Software Magazine. 11. 02. 2012.
– Coleman, Brian. ‘The Long Cut’. Scratch Magazine.Volume 1/Issue 1, Summer 2004: 64-70.
– Cubitt, Sean. Digital Aesthetics. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 1998.
– Davis, Douglas. ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction (An Evolving Thesis: 1991-1995)’. Leonardo. Vol. 28, No. 5, 1995: 381-386. 11. 02. 2012.
– Derrida, Jacques. ‘Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’. Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge, 2002: 351-370.
– Eco, Umberto. ‘Introduction to the Limits of Interpretation’. Trans. Ana Alachkova. Hermeneutics and Poetics. Ed. Katica Kulavkova. Skopje: Kultura, 2003. 151- 160.
– Gadamer, Hans-Georg. ‘Aesthetics and Hermeneutics’. Trans. David E. Linge. 2006. Thinkingtogether.org, 11. 02. 2012.
– Irwin, Dan and Tim. ‘History of the Breakbeat’. Forum. Skopje: 08.-21. December 2000: 67-71.
– Kluszczynski, Ryszard. ‘Dissolved or Hidden?: On the Position of an Interactive Artist’. Internet Art Between the Interactivity, Void and Diss-authorization. Ed. Nebojsha Vilic. Skopje: Soros Center for Contemporary Arts, 1999. 23-32.
– Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. London: Bloomsbury, 2008.
– Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Mythologiques (Volume I: The Raw and the Cooked). Trans. Elizabeta Trpkovska, Skopje: Tabernakul, 2005.
– Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001.
– National Science Foundation. ‘Hearing Through Your Bones’. 15th May 2009. U.S.News.com, 11. 02. 2012.
– Navas, Eduardo. ‘The Three Basic Forms Of Remix: a Point of Entry’. 26th April 2007. RemixTheory.net, 11. 02. 2012.
– Toop, David. Rap Attack: African Rap to Global Hip Hop, Expanded Third Edition. London: Serpent’s Tail, 2000.
– Vilic, Nebojsha. ‘On the artist in the digital interactive arts’. A.D.A. Reflections on Art in the Digital Age. Author: Nebojsha Vilic. Skopje: 359 – Network for Local and Subaltern Hermeneutics, 2001. 77-80.
– Dub Echoes. Dir. Bruno Natal. Videograma, 2008.
– Everything is a Remix. Dir. Kirby Ferguson. Goodie Bag TV, 2010-11.
– Man with a Movie Camera. Dir. Dziga Vertov, VUFKU, 1929.
– Rebirth of a Nation. Remixed and dir. DJ Spooky. Starz! Network, 2007.
– Rip! A Remix Manifesto. Dir. Brett Gaylor. Eye Steel Film & National Film Board of Canada (NFB), 2009.
– Steal This Film. Dir. J.J. King. Peer to Peer Networks, 2007.
– The Birth of a Nation. Dir. D.W. Griffith. David W. Griffith Corp. & Epoch Producing Corporation, 1915.
– Afrika Bambaataa. ‘Death Mix’. 12” Vinyl Single. New York: Paul Winley Records, 1983.
– Biosphere. Substrata/Man with a Movie Camera. 2CD. London: Touch, 2001.
– Cinematic Orchestra, The. Man with a Movie Camera. CD. London: Ninja Tune Records, 2003.
– Grandmaster Flash. ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel/The Party Mix’. 12” Vinyl Single. New York: Sugarhill Records, Ltd., 1981.
– Pablo, Augustus. King Tubbys meets Rockers Uptown (Deluxe Edition). CD. Newton, NJ: Shanachie Records, 2003.
– Upsetters, The. 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle. Producer: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. CD. UK: Auralux Recordings, 2004.
1. It should be mentioned that the Mexican theorist of media arts and contemporary culture, Eduardo Navas, makes a fine division into three basic types of remix. According to him, there is extended, selective and reflexive remix. The extended remix is characterized, as its name suggests, by a simple extension of the formal properties of a work of art. This remix is most noticeable in music (DJ culture): extended remixes of tracks are often made for club DJ performances. Selective remix of a work of art involves adding and/or subtracting certain parts to/from the original work. This means that the recontextualizing interventionism in a selective remix is usually more pronounced than in an extended one. The reflexive remix, by contrast, additionally extends and allegorizes the remix aesthetics, with the remix often exhibiting a tendency to transcend the authenticity of the original. The reflexive remix imposes its own autonomy over the original copyrighted work, though it is largely based on it. (Navas)
2. Besides the ear, bones are the second most sound-sensitive part of the human body, especially to low tones. (National Science Foundation)
3. It should be emphasized that closure in arts, understood as an inappropriate concept for the artworld, was previously seriously shaken by the hermeneutic aesthetics of Hans-Georg Gadamer (Gadamer) and the aesthetics of open interpretation by Umberto Eco (Eco 151-160). Because the remix aesthetics would be basically unestablishable in conditions where the concept of closure is still to be considered as an unavoidable factor, it is obvious that the aesthetic concepts of hermeneutics and free interpretation should undoubtedly be considered as forerunners of the remix aesthetics.
4. One of the hottest debates going on in recent years is the one concerning the problem of regulating the availability of arts and cultural products. (It is, in fact an obvious oxymoron, because it implies the regulation of something that in its very nature can not and should not be regulated.) The monopolisation of copyright is implemented by criminalizing any kind of use and reuse of cultural products (i.e. a remix, recontextualization of Mickey Mouse, for example), under the excuse of the so-called copyright infringement law. All this happens in an era in which new media, paradoxically, are designed for exponential liberalization and democratization of communication with arts and cultural products. Local, regional and global initiatives for regulation/control of cultural products are going so far, that in the liberal/democratic circles the question on everybody’s mind is: “Who the hell owns culture: the monopoly or the people?” Although every culture upgrades itself by refering to its past (by rereading it, recontextualizing it, remixing it etc.), still the ideology of copyright (which, of course, is put in place not to benefit the original authors, but the powers that be) threatens to paralyze the culture’s vitality, if it continues to be based solely on market values and interests. However, similarly as was the case when the video cassette recorder (VCR) first appeared on the market – at which point the film industry got highly alerted about its own demise, fearing that the film production would not be able to withstand the threat of the pirate film copies – experience tells us that the cultural industry is the one that usually adapts to new media conditions, not the other way around. Namely, the film industry adapted and today it is alive and doing better than ever before. Therefore, we should have no doubts that culture’s vitality can only prosper from the open-ended new media conditions, if we only let it. For the legal aspects of this problem, see Lessig 1-114; Chance; and the documentary films Steal This Film and Rip! A Remix Manifesto.
5. The second part of Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, the one which deals with the Reconstruction Era in the U.S.A. (1865-1877), portrays African-American people as thugs, who abuse their newly acquired rights after the American Civil War (1861-1865) and harass the whites. Consequently, the infamous Ku Klux Klan is portrayed as a liberating movement of disadvantaged white Americans, and their racist anti-black campaigns are justified as defensive actions.
6. Praisals of the aesthetic deconstruction of meaning (free interpretation in art) are supported by Douglas Davis, when he notes the following: If the clutch of tendencies variously described as “poststructuralism”, “postmodernism”, “post-avant-garde”, and “appropriation” (together with a wide variety of post-painterly tendencies prefixed by “neo”) have any single, unifying thread it is the discordant power of unique interpretation, or reinterpretation. When I deconstruct meaning, I recreate it within a subjective context that is inevitably unique, no matter how ordered or predestined. (Davis 384)