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Remixthebook: Everything, all at once

Mark Hancock

Featured image: Remixthebook Cover

“For us, art is not an end in itself … but it is an
opportunity for the true perception and criticism
of the times we live in.” Hugo Ball.

The challenge in trying to review a book like Mark Amerika’s Remixthebook, is the feeling you can only do justice to the text by doing the same with your review. The apparent simplicity coupled with the multifarious outcomes are intoxicating. You could be mistaken for believing that every possible remix would produce fresh and exciting outcomes. The key of course, is to have good source material in the first place. Also, to have developed a keen eye for what blends and meshes together and what doesn’t. Even the most disparate work requires judgment and prior awareness. Remixthebook asks us to consider the idea of remixology as part of the work of modern artists. The tone and style of the book is a blend of ideas, voices and thoughts with a myriad of concepts, which attempts be the very embodiment of the ideas it espouses.

Amerika explores various precedents for the remixological concept and draws on some known practitioners from the past: amongst them, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. He explores existing ideas and welds them into his own armoury. Their ideas considered as part of his own creative practice, brought back to the now with new life, in our contemporary networked culture.

"Food Remix" is interdisciplinary performance artist Michelle Ellsworth's remix                                          of Mark Amerika's remixthebook. Video -
“Food Remix” is interdisciplinary performance artist Michelle Ellsworth’s remix of Mark Amerika’s remixthebook. Video –

Other than just being a systematic breakdown of the different types of remixing and their potential outputs (or artifacts, as they might be better known in an art critical framework?) Amerika considers the pathways and theoretical underpinnings of remix culture. Having taken this beyond his own practice of the written word and web-based projects, he considers his recent and ongoing VJ work. Blending and collage-making with images during live music performances suggests some of the instinctive, instantaneous ideas that come out of a lifetime’s collecting, collating and absorbing of diverse imagery, words and cultural concepts. It’s within this process that he believes more novel outcomes can arise, against the constant flux of media creation and dissemination. It is the ‘becoming’ of the media artist that is revealed in the live remixing performance.

Rick Silva and Woulg remix Mark Amerika's remixthebook.
Rick Silva and Woulg remix Mark Amerika’s remixthebook.

Reflecting on this process of cultural assimilation Mark Amerika, situates remixology within a wider creative output and theoretical framework. This involves a cross hybrid of everyday, mainstream references with high art and ‘high’ theory, all written in his at once complex and convoluted, yet easily read and enjoyable writing style. But like remixology, what looks simple is the result of deep reading and heavy conceptual thinking. This isn’t to say that you won’t have trouble decoding the writing and getting to the heart of his thinking, but it helps if you spend time with the text and allow the rhythms and structures to become second nature to you. Close reading allows the text to fall into place. For example, consider the following extract from the section eros intensification:

Here is where we enter the realm of
what I have been calling intersubjective jamming
which is different than the idea of a Networked Author
or Collaborative Groupthink Mentality that preys
on the lifestyles of the Source Material Rich
and seemingly forever Almost Famous.

It is worth remembering that Mark Amerika is a creative writer first and foremost. He uses theory as a palette from which to draw out ideas and situations for further reflection and to help give some context to the point he is trying to make. The text of remixthebook is an example of his creative practice in action, as much as it is a personal reflection on his attempts to develop a thought process for it. Theory becomes entwined in critical reflection and creative output. You don’t necessarily come to remixthebook for philosophical answers and hard academic points of view, instead you ride the maelstrom of thoughts and conceptualizing to gain a better handle on a way of considering artistic practice.

Will Luers remixes Mark Amerika's remixthebook
Will Luers remixes Mark Amerika’s remixthebook

The website of the book (probably a ubiquitous extra for any media art-related publication these days) follows a natural path of inclusion and invites artists to take sections of the book and remix them according to their own aesthetic and remixological preferences. While some of the work brings in extra visuals and places itself in a flowing context of media streams, allowing different work to become part of the project, Rick Silva’s The Isarithm sources Amerika’s Sentences on Remixology 1.0 and explodes them out of the screen and into a layered and playful vortex of shapes and lines.

Will Leurs uses some captured footage taken directly off the tv screen for A Pixel and Glitch Hotel Room and combines it with some source material supplied by Amerika from several ‘lectures’ he has supplied. These lectures appear within several other contributors work as well. The point of some of these remixes and the varied forms they take (the collection includes some purely audio work) is that, as well as being interesting works themselves, they are exemplars and guides to even further potentials of the remixological principle.

Mark Amerika’s Remixthebook at times may leave you looking beyond it to the appendix or for any footnotes that would fill out spaces or help make conceptual leaps for you. That isn’t the point of the book. The idea is to take the book as a starting point and expand on your own creative process.  Possibly the best approach is to literally cut-up the book and try some experimentation of your own, Brion Gysin style. Flex the covers back and pull out the pages. Through destruction and reconfiguration, the book might be bent to your will and become something that you can use. Perhaps the sight of a ripped and destroyed book would strike horror into some authors. I can’t help thinking that Mark Amerika would take great joy in the image and say that he’d planned it all along.

Other Info Related to Remixthebook & Remixing Culture:

The website

The remixthebook Blog

Remixology by – a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization working to advance and support an open and innovative communications system in Canada.

Society of the Spectale (A Digital Remix)
By Mark Amerika On August 16, 2011.

Remixology is a music blog based in Paris (France) devoted to remixes friendly music.

REFF- Remix the world! Reinvent reality! exhibition at Furtherfield Gallery between 25 February and 26 March 2011.

Visitorsstudio – an online place for real-time, multi-user mixing, remixing, collaborative creation, many to many dialogue and networked performance and play.

Brion Gysin. Essays & Stories, Interviews, Excerpts & Publications