Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Artistic Expressions and Copyright: The theory and practice of remix culture

Short Course
7 April kl. 13:00 - kl. 16:00 in HUMlab
Carl-Erik Engqvist, Jim Barrett
Background and Theoretical Perspectives

How have artists critically appropriated the concept of copyright in their works? In this course we will take a closer look at remix culture from the perspectives of text, image and music, and how different artists over considerable time have related to the idea of using already copyrighted materials. We will also investigate some of the different software programs that have, and are, important in the process of creating contemporary remix culture.

Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. Copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression. In most jurisdictions copyright arises upon fixation and does not need to be registered. Copyright owners have the exclusive statutory right to exercise control over copying and other exploitation of the works for a specific period of time, after which the work is said to enter the public domain. Uses covered under limitations and exceptions to copyright, such as fair use, do not require permission from the copyright owner. All other uses require permission. Copyright owners can license or permanently transfer or assign their exclusive rights to others.

Initially copyright law applied to only the copying of books. Over time other uses such as translations and derivative works were made subject to copyright. Copyright now covers a wide range of works, including maps, sheet music, dramatic works, paintings, photographs, architectural drawings, sound recordings, motion pictures and computer programs.
The British Statute of Anne 1709, full title "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned", was the first copyright statute. Today copyright laws are partially standardized through international and regional agreements such as the Berne Convention and the WIPO Copyright Treaty. Although there are consistencies among nations' copyright laws, each jurisdiction has separate and distinct laws and regulations covering copyright. National copyright laws on licensing, transfer and assignment of copyright still vary greatly between countries and copyrighted works are licensed on a territorial basis. Some jurisdictions also recognize moral rights of creators, such as the right to be credited for the work.
Remix deals with the discursive, the meanings of the remix exists in relation to a dialogic referent. When we see a video such as Star Trek; The Sexed Generation

This fan-create video can be interpreted both in relation to the original work (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and what is evoked by the remix. The changes between what the scene, word, sound or image 'meant' in the original context and in the remix can be partially explained by the Kuleshov effect;

Lev Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mozzhukhin was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl, a little girl's coffin). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mozzhukhin's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was "looking at" the plate of soup, the girl, or the coffin, showing an expression of hunger, desire or grief respectively. Actually the footage of Mozzhukhin was the same shot repeated over and over again. Vsevolod Pudovkin (who later claimed to have been the co-creator of the experiment) described in 1929 how the audience "raved about the acting.... the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead child, and noted the lust with which he observed the woman. But we knew that in all three cases the face was exactly the same."

Kuleshov used the experiment to indicate the usefulness and effectiveness of film editing. The implication is that viewers brought their own emotional reactions to this sequence of images, and then moreover attributed those reactions to the actor, investing his impassive face with their own feelings.

Remix is discursive, where signs, symbols, motifs, characters, settings, images, sounds, expressions, phrases, and so on are manipulated, removed from their 'original' contexts (if there is such a thing) and reconfigured according to the contexts of a remix. Other examples of remix and radically different contexts include the genre of remix film trailers, where The Shinning becomes a feel-good family comedy and Mary Poppins a suspense thriller.

Today, the material and aesthetic remix is an established form of cultural production. While legal action and artistic endeavour push remix to new heights of sublimity and farce, the massive growth of what Lawrence Lessig calls the “read/write” culture continues unabated as a source of music, visual and literary arts. Recent examples include the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Paper Planes (2007), which uses the riff from The Clash’s song ‘Straight To Hell’. The works of the 2010 Art Remix exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts also contain many examples of remix in the visual arts.
(2009) as a work of remix literature, and MIA’s
Remix is an important part of digital culture, as this video illustrates,

As a result of the extent to which remix has developed in relation to digital technologies, it has become a popular topic in theoretical and academic contexts as well. This interest has resulted in debates concerning how we should understand remix in a wide variety of practices and genres. For example, Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear explain,
“Remix means to take cultural artifacts and combine and manipulate them into new kinds of creative blends. In this sense, remix is as old as human cultures, and human cultures are themselves products of remixing.

Since the late 1980s, however—originating with highly contrived forms of music remix by dancehall DJs—remix practices have been greatly amplified in scope and sophistication by recent developments in digital technologies. These make it possible for home-based digital practitioners to produce polished remixes across a range of media and cultural forms. This has in turn strengthened remix culture, encouraging seemingly endless hybridizations in language, genre, content, technique, and the like, and raised questions of legal, educational, and cultural import.”
– Abstract from Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2008, September). Remix: The Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(1), 22–33. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.52.1.3

Remix can be divided into the aesthetic and the formal; a remix through references or a remix of materials. Remix as both a theoretical field and practical concept is discussed on the excellent blog Remix Theory by Eduado Navas, as well as in the work of Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid), and in documentary films such as Good Copy Bad Copy (2007). As I have already mentioned, the work of Harvard University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is well-known in relation to remix culture, and to Lessig’s name we should add Henry Jenkins as a source of valuable writing on the topic.
While quotation and pastiche are parts of the geneology of remix, I believe the practice has gone from existing outside the norms of cultural production to become the staple of it. As Lev Manovitch argued back in 2002:

"Think Internet. What was referred in post-modern times as quoting, appropriation, and pastiche no longer needs any special name. Now this is simply the basic logic of cultural production: download images, code, shapes, scripts, etc.; modify them, and then paste the new works online - send them into circulation. (Note: with Internet, the always-existing loop of cultural production runs much faster: a new trend or style may spread overnight like a plague.)"
The advent of new ways to legally frame and claim copyright, such as the Creative Commons (CC) Licence options, has given new scope to the practice of remix. Combining CC licensing with online archives, such as the Internet Archive or the Freesound Project, provide remix artists with the raw materials for their work. To say anything about the digital tools that are available for remixing here would not do justice to the topic. The number of digital tools available for remixing audio, image and text today is huge.

Finally, we should be wary of making assumptions about what is happening to culture as it operates under digital regimes of production. It is not enough to say that the
avant garde no longer exists, that art is dead or that we are all authors now. I believe we should consider the words of Jörgen Schäffer and Peter Gendolla who wrote recently in Reading (in) the Net

If we approach computer-controlled processes in the context of industrial production from the producer’s point of view, we could argue that manual work has been replaced by industrial work and automation technologies. This can also be observed in the arts: Whereas the Cubists and Dadaists had to work with paper, scissors and paste, contemporary artists trust in fast word processing, communications, image editing, graphics, animation and motion tracking software. Tristan Tzara’s instruction how to make a Dadaist poem or Burroughs’ cut-up poetics—to name only two examples—have turned into cut-and-paste or “StorySprawl” tools, and Mail Art is being succeeded by web logs and wikis. From the point of view of a reader, spectator or listener, we could argue that these tools demand a much higher grade of activity than the coughing, snorting and hawking which John Cage activated in his famous composition 4’33”. As regards the work of art, it seems as if the individual piece with beginning, middle and end had actually vanished from the scene or—to put it more mildly—had been transformed into an open and recursive process between producers, programs, and readers/spectators/listeners.
Some Links





Remix and Literature

The Cut Ups (1961) William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Anthony Blanch

The cut-up technique is an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. Most commonly, cut-ups are used to offer a non-linear alternative to traditional reading and writing.

The concept can be traced to at least the Dadaists of the 1920s, but was popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by writer William S. Burroughs, and has since been used in a wide variety of contexts.

It is important to remember that Surrealism began as a literary movement. During the First World War, André Breton, who had trained in medicine and psychiatry, served in a neurological hospital where he used Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic methods with soldiers suffering from shell-shock. Meeting the young writer Jacques Vaché, Breton felt that Vaché was the spiritual son of writer and pataphysics founder Alfred Jarry. He admired the young writer's anti-social attitude and disdain for established artistic tradition. Later Breton wrote, "In literature, I was successively taken with Rimbaud, with Jarry, with Apollinaire, with Nouveau, with Lautréamont, but it is Jacques Vaché to whom I owe the most."

During a Dadaist rally in the 1920s Tristan Tzara offered to create a poem on the spot by pulling words at random from a hat. Collage, which was popularized roughly contemporaneously with the Surrealist movement, sometimes incorporated texts such as newspapers or brochures. Prior to this event, the technique had been published in an issue of 391 with in the poem by Tzara, dada manifesto on feeble love and bitter love under the sub-title, TO MAKE A DADAIST POEM

Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist word game that can be described as proto-remix, as while it does not re-work exisiting examples of language, it does manipulate the gramatical forms of language. Exquisite Corpse is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. "The adjective noun adverb verb the adjective noun") or by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed. Like the OULIPO, Exuisite Corpse introduces both chance and rules into the composition of language. There is now an Exquisite Corpse app for the iPhone.

Burroughs cited T. S. Eliot's poem, The Waste Land (1922) and John Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy, which incorporated newspaper clippings, as early examples of the cut ups he popularized.

Gil J. Wolman developed cut-up techniques as part of his lettrist practice in the early 1950s.

Also in the 1950s, painter and writer Brion Gysin more fully developed the cut-up method after accidentally re-discovering it. He had placed layers of newspapers as a mat to protect a tabletop from being scratched while he cut papers with a razor blade. Upon cutting through the newspapers, Gysin noticed that the sliced layers offered interesting juxtapositions of text and image. He began deliberately cutting newspaper articles into sections, which he randomly rearranged. The book Minutes to Go resulted from his initial cut-up experiment: unedited and unchanged cut-ups which emerged as coherent and meaningful prose. South African poet Sinclair Beiles also used this technique and co-authored Minutes To Go. A chapter on the cut-ups from Minutes to Go is available here as a PDF. Other works on the cut-up by Burroughs can be found here.

Gysin introduced Burroughs to the technique at the famous Beat Hotel. The pair later applied the technique to printed media and audio recordings in an effort to decode the material's implicit content, hypothesizing that such a technique could be used to discover the true meaning of a given text. Burroughs also suggested cut-ups may be effective as a form of divination saying, "When you cut into the present the future leaks out."[2] Burroughs also further developed the "fold-in" technique. In 1977, Burroughs and Gysin published The Third Mind, a collection of cut-up writings and essays on the form. Apart from this publication, at the time, another important outlet for, the then radical technique, was Jeff Nuttall's publications entitled "My Own Mag"

Argentine writer Julio Cortázar often used cut ups in his 1963 novel Hopscotch.

Since the 1990s, Jeff Noon uses a similar remixing technique in his writing based on practices prevalent in Dub music. He expanded upon this with his Cobralingus system, which breaks down a piece of writing, going as far as turning individual words into anagrams, then melding the results into a narrative.
The Internet and Literary Remix

The Grafik Dynamo is an example of language remix for the Internet. Random visual and written elements are combined in the familiar comic strip format, which blend them together in a three part narrative sequence that is often funny or ironic.

The Postmodern Generator: communications from elsewhere, is a website that scripts the composition of so-called postmodern texts.
It is described on the site as "a parody of the postmodern school of academic writing written by Andrew C. Bulhak, using a system for generating random text". By refreshing the web page a net text is generated each time. The essays are produced from a formal grammar defined by a recursive transition network. It was mentioned by Biologist Richard Dawkins in his article Postmodernism Disrobed for the scientific journal Nature and in his book A Devil's Chaplain. This installation of the Generator has delivered 4933206 essays since 25/Feb/2000 18:43:09 PST, when it became operational.

Cutup machines are online programs that rearange texts according to the sequences they have been programmed with. This is a cut-up machine that works in similar ways to "those used by Burroughs in his own work. Basically it works along similar principles to photo-montage, create an new image of words out of whatever was put in."
A nifty little text cutter-upper for all those would-be Burroughs out there.
Fanzines are another form of literary remix with texts produced from cutting up other texts, rearranging them, often involving glue. A fanzine (blend of fan and magazine or -zine) is a nonprofessional and nonofficial publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon (such as a literary or musical genre) for the pleasure of others who share their interest. The term was coined in an October 1940 science fiction fanzine by Russ Chauvenet and first popularized within science fiction fandom, from whom it was adopted by others.

Typically, publishers, editors and contributors of articles or illustrations to fanzines receive no financial compensation. Fanzines are traditionally circulated free of charge, or for a nominal cost to defray postage or production expenses. Copies are often offered in exchange for similar publications, or for contributions of art, articles, or letters of comment (LoCs), which are then published.

A few fanzines have evolved into professional publications (sometimes known as "prozines"), and many professional writers were first published in fanzines; some continue to contribute to them after establishing a professional reputation. The term fanzine is sometimes confused with "fan magazine", but the latter term most often refers to commercially-produced publications for (rather than by) fans.

Touch and Go, a classic of the fanzine format
Fan Fiction
Fan fiction (alternately referred to as fanfiction, fanfic, FF, or fic) is a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters (or simply fictional characters) or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator. Works of fan fiction are rarely commissioned or authorized by the original work's owner, creator, or publisher; also, they are almost never professionally published. Fan fiction, therefore, is defined by being both related to its subject's
canonical fictional universe and simultaneously existing outside the canon of that universe. Most fan fiction writers assume that their work is read primarily by other fans, and therefore tend to presume that their readers have knowledge of the canon universe (created by a professional writer) in which their works are based.

In relation to remix, fan fiction takes elements from one work and reworks them into new and sometimes very different contexts.
Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction that focuses on the depiction of romantic or sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex.

Fan fiction works are often character-centric, where a well known character is altered according to the genre or expanded ideas of the appropriating author. In this way fan fiction works with discourse, using established elements, such as character sexuality, to either counteract or comment on themes and images across a wider spectrum than may have been evoked by the original work.

Buffy vs Edward: Twilight Remixed
In this remixed narrative Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer at Sunnydale High. It’s an example of transformative storytelling serving as a pro-feminist visual critique of Edward’s character and generally creepy behavior. Seen through Buffy’s eyes, some of the more sexist gender roles and patriarchal Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed in hilarious ways. Ultimately this remix is about more than a decisive showdown between the slayer and the sparkly vampire. It also doubles as a metaphor for the ongoing battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21ist century.

Written examples of fan fiction can be found on MuggleNet (Harry Potter), FanFiction.net (General), Trekfanfiction (Star Trek), and Whispered Words (Slash Fiction).

The Tools

Gathering Tools


This is a short list of sites on the Internet where you can find Creative Commons and other open copyleft materials that can be remixed: 





3D Models



These are some of the tools you can use for remixing and manipulating sound. 

Remixing Sound

Sound Machines

Image Manipulation

Word and Text manipulation work with few tools. Once you have written text you can record it, animate it or publish it.

Word and Text



Anonymous said...

..................NICE…. ^_^v.................

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