Some Qs without As with remixthebook author Mark Amerika

September 6, 2011 · Print This Article

Mark Amerika and I corresponded over the past several weeks while he has been jet-setting over the western hemisphere promoting and sharing ideas behind his recent University of Minnesota Press publication remixthebook. We discuss below, in a univocal, non-hierarchic, feedback looped way some of the tenants and relevancies of remix to post-studio/post-production art practices. I’m especially keen on the blurred lines of authorship that we have undergone as a result of wanting to continue the conversation Amerika puts forth in his writing. Our effort to synthesize voices in relation to our individual perspectives on remix act as a performance of identity that often gets manifested through the mechanisms of social media and networked culture. The repartee below offers a stream-of-consciousness glimpse into a perpetual state of curiosity and subversion of the self that remixthebook confronts, wrestles, and plays with.

This interview comes at a timely moment as well since I will be acting as this weeks micro-blogger-in-residence for the remixthebook twitter feed. I’ve also put some thoughts down about remix in relation to my own visual/creative practice for the publication’s blog.

Why is remix relevant for you right now? I mean, if we look at the history of remix, do we not see a diversity of methods that are employed across a wide range of practices and disciplines, everything from Cubist collage to Rauschenberg’s combines, to the cut-up technique of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, to Situationist détournement, OULIPO styled proceduralism, appropriation, DJ/VJ culture, plunderphonics, codework, what Bourriaud refers to as “postproduction art,” and of course the whole mashup scene on the Internet and beyond? Do not all art methods at some point relate back to what you call remix? Isn’t it almost like asking what does it mean to dream? Because in a very real sense, navigating through remixthebook, which is both a print book AND a work of conceptual performance art AND a website composed primarily of other artists and writers sampling source material from your writing and postproducing it into new iterations of performance theory, the question you seem to be asking is what is NOT remix? And if EVERYTHING is remix, would it not be the job of the contemporary artist to take what media culture has made common, in this case the act of remixing our identities for us, and destroy it from within? Or is that reading into it too much? Perhaps it’s too romantic a notion, one that once again positions the artist as a cultural outsider and what we really need to do is to investigate how remix opens up The Total Work as a collaborative, ritualistic daily practice? What would a remix of the Gesamtkunstwerk look like? How would this collaborative ritual of remixing everyday life, something that de Certeau addresses in a slightly different way, be situated inside the history of the avant-garde? In remixthebook the idea of an artistic and literary avant-garde almost disappears since everyone is doing it which then challenges the 2.0 crowd to ask ourselves can a vanguard art scene even exist in social networking culture? Perhaps we need to look at the various contemporary approaches toward what Duchamp refers to as The Creative Act — but that you see as The Act of Remix — and put them in their proper cultural context? In this regard, maybe what you’re doing is turning theory into a social media art practice that has its roots in conceptualism but is really not that either because of the way you confuse or problematize this whole issue with the body? That part in the book about the legendary Bruce Lee, and his book Artist of Life, and his take on Gestalt Therapy? I guess you see him as remixologist too? Didn’t he Chop and Screw? That brings up another important question: which remixologists are influential for your own practice? Or is it even necessary for artists to address that question? I’m thinking here specifically of that passage in the book where you write about how “we don’t even need to be aware of our past influences … they reside in the body like second or third or fourth nature / something that enables us to play ourselves without having to think about it”? I also wonder how this book, if we can even call it a book, especially since so much of the content is created by others on the remixthebook.com website, situates itself between the “trickle-down” of high-art and the “bubbling-up” of low-art? Obviously this dichotomy cannot sustain itself any longer, but is there a location within that spectrum that you’ve decided to build an outpost in? You say that these influences from the bodies of work postproduced by others are IN you in a way you have no control over and that it’s really a matter of mirroring neurons which is an interesting use of neuroscience because I know that in your recent keynote at that big symposium in Rio de Janeiro you were trying to suggest that this relational agency that makes daily remix practice even possible, on a base creative level, or a biological level, also takes place in social networking culture too, and that we are just now learning how to show empathy or respond to the “actionary” agenda of the others we engage with while on the Internet, yes? Because this intersubjective jamming among the digital personae who play themselves on the Net is also a kind of social or emotionally engaged remix, right? And of course this intersubjective jamming is not limited strictly to the social networking protocols of the online junkies getting their next hypermediated fix, in fact — where is the Net in our everyday physical performance of self? How have we augmented ourselves to a point where the biological self can be irrelevant to establishing creative identity? The word you use is copoietic, which I think you sample from Bracha Ettinger, yes? You seem to be asking how we might consider the historical trajectory of various remix-related art practices themselves as source material to reinvent what it means to a social agent, but to do it as part of some ritualistic, boundary-blurring art/life practice where the social networker exhibits their performance art in the field of digital distribution, right? I guess a question all artists, those who identify as such and not, would be how does remix infiltrate your work? If we can assume that are creatively invested in acts of perpetual postproduction, then when does the ingenuity or initiation of a mix start and end? When does the metaphorical record change, the cross fader cut, the midi-controller nob turn, the splice interrupt, the click trigger? Can language even do this subject any justice? What other metaphors can be used to discuss remix that don’t rely on the rhetoric of the turntable or sound engineering console? Because in the book you suggest that we are always sampling from the Source Material Everywhere and yet this also then brings up the question about whether anything is outside the boundaries of being considered remix? Can we ever just wake up and consider ourselves off the remix grid? Especially given the fact that when the grid is encroaching upon biological realization, how does one unplug? Or is it a permanent condition that we’re wired to deal with as part of a this daily, ritualized practice, i.e. the so-called practice of everyday life? It’s as if we can never get away from it … for example, could not this dialogue we’re having right now also be a remix? The language is so fluid and malleable on the screen either one of us could be typing these words, no? Isn’t language, as the foundation of technological society, already a hack, a remix, a short-circuit of our biological selves into virtual experience? This makes me wonder: how do collaborations influence remix? And also, how can young artists continue to engage in radical transparency without forsaking their identity being consumed by mass culture? That may seem out of the blue, but if you think about it, given all of the data mining and how Google and Facebook now pretty much OWN our data which they would love to monetize without us even knowing it, I guess what you’re saying is it’s up to the remixologist to creatively intervene in their own identity construction and the best way to do that these days is to actively manipulate their data into a simultaneously and continuously shifting version of themselves? This would then be a kind of conceptual performance art project, yes? A post-studio, post-personae creative research practice? And a metafictional process too, right? Aren’t you suggesting that by manipulating the metadata that informs our online identity we need to convert the act of remix into a kind of auto-fictionalization process that morphs identity at will? But would that not do a disservice to any potentially genuine forms of communication? Two-wrongs make a right? Would physical, non-screen, remixes help mediate the tension of the over-performance of self as a shape-shifting fiction-in-the-making? Maybe we could read remixthebook as another one of your fictions? Like your novels? What’s the difference? Is it all part of the same remix of an impermanent state of being? But can we get back to network culture specifically? Because I’m curious, can we distinguish network culture as an aside or subset of (mass) culture? How is network culture providing the context for auto-remixology? How does identity get remixed through the variable contexts of network culture? How do we develop versions of ourselves – alpha, open/closed beta, release candidates, RTM, General Availability, sustained support, End-of-life (all terms borrowed from the software industry) – based on a combination of personal drama and creative meta-fiction? Are you suggesting that we can literally immerse ourselves in actionary (to sample Paul Miller’s phrase), practice-based art research that borrows from appropriation and remix and postproduction art and out of this immersion build a performance personae that has its ancestral roots in the lineage of canonized art history? And what about narrative? Or else furthering the “progress-march” of the canon? In its written form, remixthebook is really about storytelling, yes? Is creating a narrative of remix – historically speaking – important for remixologists? How do we circumnavigate that linearity? Or is it not really about linearity at all but a kind of simultaneous and continuous fusion of the moments that were never meant to be but get documented as a formal trace left behind nonetheless and that we then are trained to read as narrative? How do we avoid the “old-trappings” of making contemporary art that looks too familiar as contemporary art? How do we borrow from art history without romanticizing it? This begs even more questions: how does time effect/affect a remix? How does space effect/affect a remix? What are the physical limitations of remix, if there are any? Or else how does a remixologist play between their activities and performances on or within the screen and in physical manifestations? You must have had this feeling of co-existing in different mediated and embodied spaces while performing your live VJ sets around the world, yes? But even so, ARE there boundaries and limitations to remix? What are some of the fundamental foundations for a successful remix? Do remixologists even need to be concerned with success per se and what would the criteria for a successful remix be? Who determines what does and doesn’t have value as a form of remix art? And finally, what does remix have to do with craft? Or even better, what does craft have to do with remix? And when did remix “come to you?” Or, as you suggest in META/DATA, your prior book of contemporary art theory, are we actually all born remixers?

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