Saturday, 22 June 2013

The tactile, aural, visual language of Remixing


Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, a urinal presented as a piece of art, he remixes media to create an entirely different experience of an object.

In 2005, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails released an Open Source track called The Hand that Feeds available in a 'remix ready' file for Garage Band, on Apple Mac. The idea was successful enough to warrant Reznor releasing another track, only this time it was available for remixing on a wider variety of audio engineering software. This story was blogged in 2007, and you can read the write-up here. The art of remixing with music has been a professional and amateur practice as far back as 1940s with the development of recording sound.

Gregorio Paniagua with his album Musique De La Grece Antique remixed ancient artefacts, references, studies and re-constructed ancient instruments such as the aulos, and hydraulic organ in order to re-interpret music from Ancient Greece and Imperial Rome.

Another form of Remixing can be found in literature and lyrics. William S Burroughs and David Bowie both used 'cut-up' techniques to write prose and songs. Kurt Cobain was also inspired by using the 'cut-up' technique, which is taking sentences and sentiments from other written media and placing them together to form a song or a larger body of work such as novel or prose poem.

Herman Melville remixed parts of the Bible in his work The Confidence-Man; His Masquerade.

Remixing as a visual art-form however can be traced back to creating Mosaics with pieces of painted plaster, stone, or glass. A Mosaic would take randomly broken pieces and create a new image, sometimes over  an object like the Volkswagon below, or a house, or wall.


Picture from: Pop Art Minis (Blog)

Mosaics are not limited to 2D imagery, and have been used to create textures for other objects and used as the structure of sculptures. Other forms of remixing may include découpage, collage, décalcomanie and Found Object Art.

Another cultural medium that embraces remixing is Fashion. This blog post by Lev Manovich takes an article from a fashion magazine that uses imagery from Anime and transforms it into wearable fashion. Most fashion will take references from certain cultural practices such as music, art, cinema and even itself, in order to blend and adopt those components to create or represent a new style.


Image from A Post Punk on Tumblr.

The image above of Adam Ant, as seen as Post Punk, blogger Simon Reynolds describes Post Punk as 'Rip it Up and Start Again'. Adam Ant was a blended figure of Goth, Punk, New Romantic, and Glam. His look was styled by Vivienne Westwood. In his fashion we can spot a Hussar Jacket (1700s), the braids fashioned into his hair was a popular fashion of Pirates (1600s), and on his face is the adoption of Tribal War Paint, which Fashion, particularly Make-Up in Fashion has drawn inspiration from. From all of these components we can derive meaning, or analyse context of this Remix. All the Fashion in the image of Adam Ant's 'look' says rebel warrior, the ethos behind the look was derived from early Punk, but the presentation is glamorous - the Fashion became known as New Romantic, in art movements, Romanticism (18th Century) was about emotional responses to aesthetics. Therefore in the New Romantic music movement, the aesthetic qualities were drawn from Punk and remixed into a new-wave style and music.

Soft Cinema on the Net allows Remixing to occur through the interface, content and editing. Soft Cinema is 'computer driven' cinema where the tools are not limited to a traditional visual capturing device in order to 'render' the media. Soft Cinema incorporates such components as Data Visualisation, Interactivity and Software as a tool for creativity.

Remixing in mainstream cinema can be seen with Carl Reiner's 'Dead Men don't wear Plaid' featuring Steve Martin, Rachel Ward and Humphrey Bogart. How can a film made in 1982 feature Humphrey Bogart?



Carl Reiner took 1940s and 1950s film noir footage and weaved it through contemporary footage to create a totally new work. The outcome a Remix of nineteen film noir films produced by no less than six major Hollywood studios. Although considered a 'gag' film, 'Dead Men don't wear Plaid' is actually a fine example of Remixing cinema.

Finally, Remixing can be approached in many different ways, in either form or content, context or platform. It can be derivative or transformative. It can be achieved by a collective, an individual, a software tool or hardware device.

Remixing has found an even broader audience with the Internet, together viewer/editor in a GUI environment, it has made creating visual media in either linear or non-linear remixes even easier.

Here is the link to RIP! A Remix Manifesto, a splendid documentary by Brett Gaylor and you may be interested in A Swarm of Angels is an Open Source feature film that is being produced using a method of collective remixing - however the process has been slow, A Swarm of Angels has been in production since 2008.


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