Remix Culture

Remix Culture Professor Mark Amerika
Fall 2017
Thursday, 2:00 - 4:30 PM
VAC 1B23-25 (Digital Seminar Room and TECHNE lab)
Office hours: By appointment only
email: Mark.Amerika@Colorado.Edu
The Study of Remix Culture

Remix culture is everywhere. Although popularized in music culture and now the online networking scene, we find it in literature, photography, video, Net art, sound art, hactivism, game art, assemblage, sculpture, painting, bricolage, installation, DIY publishing, machinima, etc. We can trace its history through many other practices such as Cubism, collage, combines, cut-ups, and Duchampian readymades (where the artist recontextualizes "found source material"). As part of our goal to seek other perspectives that will help us explore these exciting areas of study, we will engage with a provocative mix of readings, screenings, Web interactions, and in-class visitors throughout the semester.

Visiting artists / scholars this semester include:

  • August 28: Surprise Guest
  • October 2: Jenny Odell
  • October 9: Alex Watkins and Casey Fiesler
  • October 23: Chad Mossholder
  • December 4-11: Jon Satrom

    Here is a tentative schedule of class events:

    • August 28: Roll Call + Syllabus Reading + Course Introduction + Opening Exercise! + Special Guest

      Readings for September 18:

      1) Exercises in Style, by Raymond Queneau
      Here is the entire book and here is an extended excerpt of the book in its original form
      2) Jonathan Lethem: "The Ecstasy of Influence"
      3) Jorge Luis Borges: "Borges and I"

      Two assignments due September 18:

      * After reading Queneau's Oulipian book, Excercises in Style, create your own "exercise in style" by a) giving your remix a title that indicates the name of your "filter" and b) tells the same story Queneau tells over and over again in his experimental book

      * After reading Borges' "Borges and I," remix his philosophical / biographical / fictional story so that it becomes "your" own short work of pseudo-autobiographcal fiction that investigates notions of "self," "identity," "persona," etc. and how might actively engage ourselves in acts of "constructed presence"

      Post both works on the blog you create exclusively for this class (see below for blog requirements)

    • September 4: LABOR DAY - NO CLASS THIS WEEK

    • September 11: Artist presentations from Angie Eng, Ryan Ruehlen, and Ryan Wurst

    • September 18: Literary Remixes

      • Discuss "The Ecstasy of Influence" and the history of text based remix practice
      • Discuss and present your "exercise in style"
      • Discuss and present your remix of "Borges & I"

      Assignments due next week:

      Reading and web viewing for September 25:

      1) Vilem Flusser: Excerpt from "Toward a Philosophy of Photography"
      2) Steve Shaviro's response to Flusser
      3) Tina Laporta: "Distance"
      4) Times Square Internet Photo Opp
      5) 9-Eyes
      6) Lake Como Remix and WeRMediumZGoMetaOnU

      Assignment due September 25:

      Remix a short online narrative using "Distance," "9-Eyes," "Lake Como Remix" and "WeRMediumZGoMetaOnU" as potential models of creative discovery and the Flusser text as your theoretical source material.

      Your still image/text sequence can be 12-15 images-with-text total or, if you choose to make a video or animation with subtitles, it needs to be between no more than three minutes.

      Suggested ways of sourcing/creating images:

      1) Use Google Earth and Google Street View to navigate Planet Earth and find images from your virtual travels that may be accessed as readymade source material.

      When you have the exact image you want, take a screen capture and then crop and resize the image as necessary.

      2) Surf the internet for live web cams, take screen shots of selected web cam images, and then crop and resize the selected images as necessary.

      3) Capture laptop, tablet or desktop images with a mobile phone and crop/resize as necessary. Consider using mobile phone apps that artificially mimic various filters and effects. Question: What is your procedure for capturing this data with these particular filters?

      4) Take screenshots of live video chats (i.e. Skype, iChat or Chat Roulette) and crop/resize as necessary.

      These are just suggestions. It's up to you to find the best research, capture and manipulation methods that will assist you in exhibiting your remix / stylistic tendencies.

      Focus on themes that resonate with the ideas generated in the Flusser text. You are also encouraged to explore other contemporary ideas related to issues surrounding the "virtual self," "networked identity," "online role playing," "electronic narcissism," or any other phrases and concepts you research, remix, or mash-up on-the-fly. It is required that you remix / integrate textual source material into your project. These texts can appear as captions, subtitles or another form of accompaniment. You are also welcome to remix the Flusser text so that it resonates with autobiographical data, creative fiction or poetry writing and/or your own artist theory on the "remix of the everyday life."

    • September 25: Discuss Flusser and assigned web sites and then everyone will present their image+text remix assignment.

      Assignment due October 2: Investigate the work of Jenny Odell. Write a 500-750 word blog entry about her work and come to class prepared to discuss her work and take a workshop with her.

    • October 2: Visiting artist presentation and workshop with Jenny Odell

      Some background reading for Oct 9:

      Professor Watkins requests that you read

      CAA Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts (the whole article is short but pay particular attention to

      Appendix A: Fair Use
      Section three: Making Art

      Also, in preparation for your blog entires, please read:

      1) Wikipedia: The concept of Open Content
      2) Creative Commons
      3) Copyleft
      4) Copyright vs. Copyleft
      5) Flash Remix of a lecture by Lawrence Lessig

      Assignment for October 9:

      Write a 500-750 word blog entry addressing the following questions in short essay form:

      • What are the advantages of an "open source" and/or "open content" approach to remix culture in general, and consumer culture at large? Do we really need a "free culture" or is it in our best interests to restrict rights?
      • Does the idea of copyright and intellectual property become more obsolete in digital/networking culture? Must the effort to protect intellectual property be valiantly fought in cyberspace as in other (more material) spaces? Why or why not?
      • What about an artist's labor? Where is the balance in protecting ones "original" creative output versus opening up the collective's creative output imagined by some as freely accessible source material for active reconfiguration?
      • Give an example of a work of visual or media art that you personally value where the artist(s) were clearly remixing / postproducing / reconfiguring source material from other visible sources. Was the final result for the betterment of culture in general? At what risk/cost?
      • Give an example of how you recently sampled and remixed source material from the general culture into something that you felt was an original form of expression (not including what you have created for this class). What kinds of issues do you take into account while accessing material from other sources?

    • October 9:

      Assistant Professor and Art and Architecture Librarian Alex Watkins and Professor of Information Science Casey Fiesler

      Discussion of copyright, copyleft, open source, fair use, etc.

      Readings/viewings for next week:

      1) Guy Debord: "Methods of Détournement"
      2) Guy Debord: "Society of the Spectacle"
      3) Nicholas Bourriaud: ""Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World"

      Assignment due October 16: 500-750 word essay encapsulating the ideas discussed in the readings above.

      How does the Situationist method of détournement indicate an early form of remix practice and how does it relate to contemporary forms of political remix art i.e. the remix of images and ideas to make a political statement.

      Are there any political artists or artist groups who use remix that you are looking at? What is it about their work that attracts you to their message?

      What is postproduction art as detailed in Bourriaud's small book above? Why does he focus on the DJ and the software programmer as part of the same cultural tribe?

      Notice how Bourriaud cites the Situationists as an early precursor of contemporary forms of remix art. Other concepts that will help inform your investigation into political "hactivism" and remix as a contemporary art practice are culture jamming and tactical media.

    • October 16: Détournement, Postproduction Art, and Hactivism

      Session theme: "Remix Meets Hactivism: Situationist Practice and The Politicization of Source Material"

      Discussion of your blogs.


      "Society of the Spectacle (A Digital Remix)" - DJRABBI

      "The Yes Men"

      Reading and blog assignment due October 23: TBA

    • October 23: Presentation by visiting sound artist Chad Mossholder.

      Demonstrate Webspinna style for next week's midterm group performance and potluck.

      Create list of things to bring for midterm potluck.

      Assignment: Listen to the WWW and develop a virtual library of sounds via URL that you can use to participate in the midterm group performance scheduled for October 30th.

      Prepare a 5 minute Webspinna remix performance.

    • October 30: "Future Sounds of Boulder" Webspinna performance and potluck party.

    • November 6: Workshop from the TECHNE Research Ensemble.

      Making Contact: Mics in the Mix: a sound/performance workshop with Ryan Ruehlen

    • November 13: Workshop from the TECHNE Research Ensemble.

      modul8 your live remix experience: a VJ workshop with Angie Eng

      choosy artists choose GIFS: an overview of animated GIFs with Laura Kim

      Lightning round of project proposals:

      Prepare a quick "elevator pitch" for your final project. In less than two-three minutes, tell us:

      *what your project idea is

      *what will the format be? (video screening, live performance, stand-alone sculpture, web site on LCD, something other?)

      *what medium(s) it will be presented in

      *what technology will be needed to execute the project

    • November 20: FALL BREAK

    • November 27: Group strategy session

      Presentation of prototypes for final project exhibitions, installations and/or performances.

      7 minute presentations and 7 minutes for feedback.

      Rehearse your presentation so you nail it in seven minutes or under!

    • December 4: Visiting artist presentation and workshop with Jon Satrom

    • SATURDAY evening December 9: Final Project Event

      We can start installing on the afternoon of December 8 and all day on December 9th.

    • December 11: Last day of class. Wrap-up session.

Tagging the Present  
Bling Bling Blogging

This course requires that you maintain and regularly post entries to class-specific blog. If you do not know what a blog is or have never started one before, look it up on Wikipedia.

YOU ARE REQUIRED to compose a weekly entry to your "blog" detailing your thoughts about the various readings, art works, artists, theories, screenings, events, and classroom discussions you encounter over the course of the semester. Try and make at least two links to external sites from each of your main entries to help document your online research. Quote from these sites if possible. Each entry should be 400-500 words unless otherwise noted.

Feel free to embed digital images, YouTube or Quicktime movies, and any other useful media in your "blogs" in addition to your writing.

Keep in mind that these "blogs" need to be well-thought out subjective responses to various issues covered throughout the semester. Although they are not traditional "papers" you will be evaluated on the originality of your writing style, correct punctuation and grammar, and your ability to comprehend and discuss the subject matter.

You are encouraged to express your own spontaneous artist theories that reveal your own personal writing style. Feel free to speculate and offer insights into how the work you are being exposed to this semester is starting to affect your own developing practice as an artist, writer, teacher, theorist, interdisciplinary media practitioner, performer, etc.

Since these will be online, that means they are "always already published" and, as such, are open to the public. Keep that in mind!

NOTE: Your weekly blogs are due at noon on the Sunday of each week.

Measure for Measure
You will be graded in the following manner:

  • Attendance, participation, presentations: 20%
  • Blogs, weekly exercises, etc.: 20%
  • Image + Text Project: 15%
  • Webspinna performance: 15%
  • Final Project: 30%