Remix and the Celestial Jukebox – The Contemporary Artist as Cultural DJ

elevator6Research Paper 1
Peter Rostovsky – Advisor
Fall, 2014

Remix and the Celestial Jukebox – The Contemporary Artist as Cultural DJ

EXCERPT – These are only the first two paragraphs, plus related footnotes!
To read the entire paper, please download or open the complete PDF File: RP 1 2.0_Web

We live in the age of remix. Not just an appropriative phase, but an era of remix as cultural mediation—where recombination is a fundamental approach to cultural exchange (Manovich 1). Remix is the language of the Information Age[1], the coinage of Post-Postmodernism[2], rooted in long-developing systems of commercialism and communication. The very fiber of our social connectivity rests in an endless rewrite of materials, mashups,[3] pastiche and database sensibilities, intrinsically tied to everything from Google searches to language, television, art and text.

Remix is a manipulation and integration of cultural space, wherein the author-reader generates (and regenerates) moments in a self-curated, postproduction world. The resulting experiential theater is populated by fragments drawn from diverse sources, spinning elements with a cross-cultural, archival impulse that is both eclipsing and fragmentary.[4] Remix in contemporary art is the ‘appropriation’[5] of the 21st century, no longer the re-photography of Richard Prince, but a mutable landscape that uses a vast media-archive of memory and material: referred to here as the Celestial Jukebox.[6] It is a manifestation of the filter bubble’s[7] “parallel but separate universes” and the ghost-in-the-machine of convergence culture (Pariser 5).[8] Remix is bigger than the art world, bigger than commerciality—an invisible, increasingly normalized framework that provides strategies for communication and interaction. Conscious use of remix allows contemporary artists like Jennifer & Kevin McCoy and Anthony Discenza to build an interrogative, self-reflective investigation of the Information Age itself. The artist becomes a cultural DJ, a manipulator of archival compulsions that leads to “a kind of hunter-gatherer milieu…” (Miller). Such artists draw from the Celestial Jukebox, remixing, mashing and re-contextualizing material—providing a “systematic reworking of a source,” grounding individual perspective in a de-centering of authorship (Manovich 3).  Investigating contemporary recombination also critically anchors my own body of video work, where remix and manipulation open dialogue about the nature of televisual space-time, recollection and iconographic culture.


To read the entire paper, please download or open the complete article as a PDF File: RP 1 2.0_Web

Footnotes

[1] Recognized as the period in human technological history following the Space Age and associated with the Digital Revolution.

[2] The period immediately following Postmodernism. Theorist Alan Kirby considers Post-Postmodernism, or Digimodernism, a paradigm shift that ruptures existing cultural relationships: “Digimodernism identifies as the critical event in contemporary culture the profound and shattering encounter between computerization and the text. Its most recognizable form is a new kind of digitized textuality—onward, haphazard and evanescent—that disrupts traditional ideas about authorship and reading…” (“Successor States…” Kirby). I would argue that it erodes the broader concept of ‘text’ itself, re-orienting the idea of the original.

[3] Common in music, a ‘mashup’ is a combination of elements, often overlaid, which results in a new composition that may retain recognizable elements of the sampled material. To cite a form of remix culture at its most ubiquitous, today’s ‘mashup’ page on Wikipedia defines the process as: “a song or composition created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another. To the extent that such works are “transformative” of original content, they may find protection from copyright claims under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law.” The term ‘remix’ and ‘mashup’ are sometimes used interchangeably, though ‘remix’ offers are more complex description of the variability of appropriation, recombination and transmutation of elements than ‘mashup.’ ‘Mashups’ can also refer to hybrid, overlaid apps and programs (Manovich 1).

[4] DJ Spooky suggests that “our semantic web is a remix of all available information… the result is an immense repository—an archive of almost anything that has ever been recorded” (Miller).

[5] ‘Appropriation’ is the preferred art world descriptor, in place of  ‘remix,’ ‘mashup’ and ‘rewrite’—bound in part to cultural notions of ‘remix’ as copyright violation. ‘Appropriation’ grants a sense of acceptability. Theorist Lev Manovich believes “…‘remixing’ is a better term [than appropriation] because it suggests a systematic re-working of a source, the meaning which ‘appropriation’ does not have” (“What Comes After…” Manovich 4). When we remix, we rework previously existing cultural works (“What Comes After…” Manovich 2).

[6] “Celestial Jukebox” stems from a 1995 US Government white paper concerning media flow and consumer access. The paper “invoked the image of a technology-packed satellite orbiting thousands of miles above earth, awaiting a subscriber’s order—like a nickel in the old jukebox, and the punch of a button to connect him to a vast storehouse of entertainment and information through a home or office receiver combining the powers of a television, radio, CD and DVD player, telephone, fax, and personal computer” (Goldstein 187). Since then, theorists like Paul Goldstein and Lawrence Lessig have broadened this idea, adapting it to suit its obvious relationship to data pooling (Wasow). It describes not only services like Netflix or Hulu, but also the Internet, and the ‘Cloud.’ It encompasses an entire database—a universe—of information, images, sounds, video, experiences… it describes the Information Age itself, not an idealistic subscription-based service. It is Manovich’s cultural database (“What Comes After…” 5).

[7] Social theorist Eli Pariser refers to the “unique universe of information for each of us” (9), which are “parallel but separate” (5) as we navigate and extrapolate information and experience from the filtered digital experience. Search engines and websites use algorithms that constantly filter and adjust what we see, denying the idea of a free, democratic web, while simultaneously allowing us to completely privatize and customize our knowledge base.

[8]   ‘Convergence Culture’ is a concept developed by Henry Jenkins which describes a fundamental, information-age paradigm shift (243): “Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content… spectators perform in the new media system” (Jenkins 3). It also recognizes a new kind of participatory culture, the fractured nature of parallel but separate realities and data streams (not unlike theorist Fredric Jameson’s recognition of language privatization) and the ability of culture recipients to “construct [their] own personal mythologies” from a stream of information (Jenkins 3). Convergence culture relates to an integration of media, data formats, art and styles—“convergence thinking is like interdisciplinary thinking” (Jenkins 12).

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Remix and the Celestial Jukebox – The Contemporary Artist as Cultural DJ

  1. Ann K. Olsen

    I am amazed at (and respect) how focused you are about your work this semester and your specificity moving toward your thesis. I am all over the place right now but cautiously optimistic that it will all come together in a way that I can’t see right now.

    Reply
  2. plasticpumpkin Post author

    Thanks, Ann! I appreciate your comment. I feel like I’m hot on the trail, entering dangerous, uncertain territory–but I’ve got my roll of duct tape. 😀

    I’ve been following your posts, as always, and I can see the formative process. It’s as if you’re playing both archaeologist and creator–simultaneously uncovering and shaping important artifacts.

    I am sure it will all come together. The threads are falling into place.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s