High Tech Art in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology
By Katherine Sweetman
All images courtesy of the gallery@calit2
REMIX. The term is as abundant and accepted as it is overlooked. We remix music, videos, art, recipes, and ideas so casually that we rarely even recognize the practice. But an art exhibition curated by Eduardo Navas at the gallery@calit2 on the campus of The University of California, San Diego, gives us a point of reflection. Three Junctures of Remix examines the idea of remix though art work of international and respected artists such as Mark Amerika, Giselle Beiguelman, Arcángel Constantini,and Elisa Kreisinger.
In his own practice, curator Eduardo Navas researches the crossover of art and media in culture. His production includes curatorial projects as well as visual art and critical texts. He is the author of a new book on remix titled Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling. And he has presented and lectured about his work nationally and internationally. I had to opportunity to ask him a few questions about Three Junctures of Remix and his research.
What follows is an interview with Eduardo Navas EN and interviewer Katherine Sweetman KS
KS I know you have a long, complex, and scholarly relationship to the concept of remix, but can you describe briefly how you became attracted to the topic and then also when you realized it was going to be an area of your long term research?
EN I was first a DJ. I got my first set of turntables in 1987, and in 2003 I realized that my interest in remixing music was part of a bigger picture that included all aspects of culture. In the 1990s I attended art school where I constantly approached my artwork closely informed by conceptual art. My teachers at Otis College, where I received my undergraduate as well as Cal Arts, where I received my masters, were conceptual artists themselves, or had studied under conceptualists. I realized that my training in art school was basically a form of remixing with ideas.
When I decided to attain a Ph.D. I came to put all these influences together and noticed that the concept of remix culture was used by Lawrence Lessig and others who became collaborators through Creative Commons.
Initially I was going to write a dissertation on conceptual art, appropriation, authorship and new media. This interest actually did come through as part of my long term research as it is chapter 4 of my book on Remix.
KS Let me jump into the exhibition, Three Junctures of Remix, that you recently curated at Calit2 gallery on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. You chose to exhibit work from four main artists working in the realm of new media art; Mark Amerika, Giselle Beiguelman, Arcángel Constantini, Elisa Kreisinger. Tell me a little about these artists and why you feel their work exemplifies “three junctures of remix”?
EN When the opportunity to curate an exhibition about remix came about, I thought of remix’s history. I considered a show that functioned as a type of historical pinpoint to a bigger picture that was much more abstract, but which could only be made evident with specific examples. At the same time, I did not want the work selected to be illustrative. I wanted the work to slip away from the theme of the exhibit while also showing how there was definitely a relation between the works and the curatorial approach. This is in part why I chose four artists, as opposed to three. If I had chosen three, then people would want to equate each of the three junctures with a particular artist, but this is not possible. So, my expectation is that the audience will approach the work understanding that they have a relation to the junctures, but it is not so clear which one or how.
The three junctures are the pre-digital/analog, which would be the time before computing became ubiquitous, around the 1970s and ‘80s; the second is the digital, which is when computing was introduced and became part of daily life throughout the nineties on to the mid ‘00s; and the post-digital, which is our time, when computing is a given, and one cannot imagine living without a networked device.
Each work demonstrates a relation to all three, but each has a closer relationship to one over the others. Some of the artists developed projects specifically for the exhibit, which means that the works end up exploring one or two of the junctures. Constantini, for example alludes to the pre-digital by hacking an analog projector, but which actually runs with an Arduino chip. Beiguelman developed an iPad app that could only have been done with the current technology, but remixes common gifs from the early days of the Internet; Amerika remixes Duchamp, pointing to a pre-digital period, but he does so with a clear aesthetic of glitch which is directly linked to the second and third junctures; and Kreisinger remixes footage from popular shows such as Mad Men and Sex and the City. A strategy that goes to the early days of digital video editing, but which can only be done with an attitude of the post-digital.
KS Can you speculate on the future of the remix in visual art — through the post-digital and beyond? Are there other artists geniuses working in totally new areas of remix that would be hard for us to even imagine at this point?
It’s always difficult to speculate on the future. But one thing that I can observe is that, based on how previous creative moments have been assimilated by culture, it is safe to say that the awareness of remix will become common ground in all aspects of production. What this means is that people will take for granted collaboration and the fact that we all borrow from each other. This also means that the concept of genius, which was previously questioned in postmodernism is definitely irrelevant for the coming periods, at least in how it was understood in the past, meaning, as someone who somehow was inspired and came up with amazing ideas or cultural objects. That concept was first questioned in postmodernism and is now fully eradicated in the age of remix. But perhaps someone can be called genius if one defines it as a re-contextualizer, as a person who is able to come up with a unique thing/object/idea based on personal experience. This is what has always happened in any case, only we were not in a position to be aware of the creative process as we are now that we have the ability to archive all activities and trace how ideas and objects are recycled.