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Generate / Regenerate / Transform
by Martha Ladly
Sub-rosa 8.2 (May, 2003)
Welcome to REMIX 8.2, where we continue our exploration of the vibrant Canadian remix art and culture scene. (For an introduction to our original April installment, REMIX 8.1, see below.)
This month we are very much honoured to feature writing by Anne-Marie Boisvert, editor-in-chief of the Centre international d'art contemporain de Montréal's Electronic Magazine. In her essay On Bricolage, Anne-Marie draws upon the work of numerous cultural theorists to talk about assembling culture with whatever comes to hand. Elsewhere, there are yet more Montréal Revolutions in Étienne Côté-Paluck's personal spin on the Québec DJ / VJ scene's remix renaissance, while media theorist Bernard Schütze offers up a heady brew of plunderphonics, compostmodernism, mash-ups, and bastard pop in his essay Samples from the Heap.
From Montréal to outer (audio) space: In this issue's Transference column, our French Editor Sylvie Parent takes us to Riga, Latvia to discover the interstellar remix soundworks of the Acoustic Space Lab. And extraterrestrial emanations from Quebec recur in Destination Moon 2003, a special commission from Montreal VJ artists K-Project that reflects on the history of space travel.
Closer to home, in his essay Poetry at the Digital Divide, Ian Samuels looks at "cyberpoetry" and the "neo-orality" of pop-culture as informed by John Sobol's book Digitopia Blues (Banff Centre Press, 2002). Calgary artist M.N. Hutchinson takes us out to Grass with an Incident on the Prairie in the Horizontal section. Vancouver poet Wayde Compton blends cultures through hip hop turntablism in an essay and special audio recording of his collaborative turntable poetry project The Reinventing Wheel. And Shane Breaker, Editor of Alberta's New Tribe Magazine, looks at the rise and rise of Native hip hop artists in Canada. Check out the video by War Party, and listen to Neo-Genesis, Shane's contribution to REMIX's Audio Reconstruction Zone.
Look out also for more additions to the Reconstruction Zones: On the audio side, HorizonZero team mate Jeff Dawson offers up My Hardcore Gift, and Mitchell Akiyama finishes off the audio remix sequence with his Fold and Fell. And on the visual side, look for new graphic reconstructions from Net-artists Peter Horvath and David Clark.
And now, some further musings on the hot topic of intellectual property: I stated in last month's column (Sub-rosa 8.1) that I thought it was possible to respect copyright holders, observe copyright law, and to fairly compensate the holders of intellectual property, all while legitimately creating a vibrant alternative remix culture. This topic is germane to REMIX, and has been the subject of many a heated philosophical debate at HorizonZero and throughout our wired and wireless world.
The Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) is an organization determined to do something about it. Founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, the group took inspiration from the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License (www.fsf.org). Creative Commons' stated aim is to increase raw source material online and to make access to that material cheaper and easier. They believe that this will reduce barriers to creativity, by encouraging public education and increased innovation. Here's the smart part - they have developed metadata resources that can be used to associate creative works with their public domain or license status in a machine-readable way. Creative Commons have also developed a Web application that helps people to dedicate their creative works to the public domain, or to retain copyright while licensing them as free for certain uses, on certain conditions. Unlike the FSF, Creative Commons licenses are intended for artists and educators - creators of Web sites, music, film, photography, literature, pedagogical materials, courseware, and so on.
This means that, for example, a photographer can display their images on a portfolio site and tag those images that are free to use, providing that an appropriate credit is granted. Or bands can tag songs that may be copied, distributed, or sampled without restrictions. This not only increases online creative resources, but can also be a very effective marketing strategy for artists and musicians. (Listen up, Sony.)
Creative Commons want to go even further: They are currently building an "intellectual works conservancy" which aims to protect works of special public value (in the same mode as a land trust, heritage fund, or a genome trust) from exclusionary private ownership. Power to the People.
We at HorizonZero salute the work of our REMIX artists, and the intelligent assistance of these Internet-based intellectual property pioneers.
Sub-rosa 8.1 (April, 2003)
Remix is recycling. Remix embraces circles of creation and destruction, decay and renewal. Remix process acknowledges the expressive power of others. Remix is about letting go of ownership and sometimes the creation itself. Remix is about recognizing that an artwork may be destroyed, or made unrecognizable, as the cycle continues. Remix is multicultural, multilingual, multi-generational. Remix can be dangerous, tactical and political; it is socially engaged. Remix has been around for a long, long time. In a world where all types of media are endlessly recycled, remix is a logical part of the evolution of digital forms.
Remix is both destructive and optimistic - a manifestation of hope. It's hopeful because it's creative, and because it digs the past while looking forward to the future.
Remix is also the first genre of art and music that truly fulfils the "anyone can do it" promises originally made by DADA and later by punk. The power of the average home computer, the rise of file sharing networks like Gnutella (http://www.gnutella.com/) and KaZaA (http://www.kazaa.com), and the adoption of increasingly user-friendly software like Photoshop, Acid, and Protools finally make it possible for kids to teach themselves and make this stuff in their bedrooms. Questions of legality don't occur to teenagers downloading the latest Ms. Dynamite tracks, chilling to the superstylin' samples of Groove Armada, dancing to a bootlegged Biggie (the Notorious B.I.G.), or burning their own remix CD for their friends. Now kids can "talk back" to pop culture with their own voices.
According to author Pete Rojas in his excellent article for Salon.com about bootleg culture1, Siva Vaidhyanthan - an NYU professor and author of Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity (New York University Press, 2001) - believes that "what we're seeing is the result of a democratization of creativity, and the demystification of the process of authorship." Vaidhyanthan explains, "It's about demolishing the myth that there has to be a special class of creators, and flattening out the creative curve so we can all contribute to our creative environment."2
While many insist that remix is about the destruction of ownership (and there is no denying that some of the best remixes are in fact bootlegs), it is my belief that remix culture can thrive within the boundaries of legality (though this legality is often perilous, given the obscurity and loopholes that characterize most current legislation, which is also not internationally harmonized). This is a contentious position - but, properly acknowledged, the imitative content of remix can be allowed to be the sincerest form of flattery. Artists and copyright holders can do one another a service by observing, granting, and paying for the rights to use the very intellectual property without which remix culture could not exist. In keeping with this belief, this present issue of HorizonZero has been created with the highest respect for Canadian copyright law. Wherever possible, samples have been cleared, permissions have been obtained, and appropriate fees have been paid to use the work you'll find here.
Remix is right for right now. And because we live it and believe it, because we don't just talk about things, HorizonZero has created a digital space in this issue for guest remix artists, and our own creative team, to work and play. We're recycling, recreating and re-making things in REMIX - and we're very proud to present original art from Canadian digital hyper-stars Yohan Gingras (aka Evil Pupil) and K-Project (Montréal duo Valerie Leduc and Frédéric Beaulieu), along with many other brand new works specially commissioned for Issues 8.1/8.2.
In our two "Reconstruction Zones", for example, a stellar group of digital audio and video artists will be busy creating new works, and handing them off to one another for remixing, in a process resembling a combination of the DADA "exquisite corpse" creative stimulator concept, and Coudal Photoshop Tennis (see www.coudal.com). Check out the work of remix artists Mitchell Akiyama, Yan Breuleux, Carole Guevin, David Clark, Peter Horvath, Shane Breaker, Susan Kennard, Myron Campbell, Jeff Dawson, Joseph Lefèvre, and Martin Tétrault. These remix "battles" will be added to weekly during April and May, so check in regularly to chart their creative progress.
It is no accident that many of these artists come from the Quebec DJ and VJ scenes. After all, the practice of "bricolage" is fundamental to this kind of performance, and a thriving community has developed in Quebec around the practice. In Issue 8.2's written articles, we will look at this and other aspects of the history of remix. In particular, we'll also consider another important Canadian cultural phenomena: the energetic hip hop scene, specifically as it has emerged lately among West coast performance poets and Canadian Aboriginal communities.
All this and more will be included among the editorial "Cut-ups" in our upcoming May instalment: REMIX 8.2. Don't miss it!
Martha Ladly is the Director of HorizonZero.
1. Pete Rojas, "Bootleg Culture", Salon.com, August, 2002. See: http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/08/01/bootlegs/print.html
2. Requoted from Rojas.