Becoming a Remixologist : Art, Theory and Sound Practice

by Mark Amerika


Still from "Society of Spectacle" (Digital Remix), Mark Amerika


What does it mean to become a remixologist?


Guy Debord wrote in his Methods of Détournement


Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations. The discoveries of modern poetry regarding the analogical structure of images demonstrate that when two objects are brought together, no matter how far apart their original contexts may be, a relationship is always formed.


Contemporary remixologists play on Debordian détournement

by détourning lifestyle situations that feed into

their artistic methods as artist-agents

intervening in the creative process using whatever

inherited auto-affection and processual filters they have stored

inside their image-making body/brain apparatus


Though Debord appears to not to have had as much fun

as the contemporary remixologists his work inevitably informs

he still challenges them to take hold of

the available source material

so that one can then manipulate it to their heart's content

as a way of leaving the propaganda machine behind

or at least creating a counterpropaganda force

that will lead to more dynamic COMPOSITION BY FIELD

(to capitalize a theme introduced by poet Charles Olson)


But can this propaganda machine ever truly be left behind?


Debord outlines what he refers to as

methods of détournement

suggesting to his readers that

"only extremist innovation is historically justified"


In this regard we might also ask ourselves

"What does it mean to become an extreme remixologist?"


Whereas Debord samples from the Society of the Spectacle

as a way to turn remixology into a materialist practice

that becomes manifest via a radical anti-art political ideology

that at once feels belligerent and anachronistic

in its never ending desire to "upset" the status quo


the procedural approaches that he articulates

in his various manifestos and films

indicate his anticipation of what we now call mash-up culture


Debord informs the contemporary remixologist that


Restricting oneself to a personal arrangement of words is mere convention. The mutual interference of two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of two independent expressions, supersedes the original elements and produces a synthetic organization of greater efficacy. Anything can be used.


This is something that contemporary remixologists

creating on the fly multimedia assemblages

as part of their open source life style practice

now take for granted


And with that in mind, Monsieur Debord,

to paraphrase a quote from Dragnet

a famous law and order American TV show

"Anything can and will be used against you."


For example

Alfred North Whitehead

whose process"theory of feelings"

proposes a more creative approach to remix practice

by introducing us to his "concrescence of prehensions" organic and collaborative unity of intersubjective action

where network connected agents of an applied aesthetics

continually participate in what amounts to

the ongoing, synthesized postproduction of sampled things


Mashing up the process theory of Whitehead

where he writes in his "Theory of Feelings"


A feeling is a component in the concrescence of a novel actual entity […] The process of the concrescence is a progressive integration of feelings controlled by their subjective forms [...] feelings of an earlier phase sink into the components of some more complex feeling of a later phase [...] each phase adds its element of novelty.


with the quotes from

the proto-typically materialist Debord above


I tweak my own processual filters and release

my latest micro-track of DIY remix philosophy

that reads in part:


A feeling is an expression in the concrescence of a remixologically inhabited language space. The process of the concrescence can serve in making new combinations of aesthetic experience forming an ongoing and progressive integration of feelings that supersede the original expression of an earlier phase producing a synthetic organization of greater efficacy. Each expression of feeling sinks into the components of some more complex feeling of a later phase and each phase adds its element of novelty. If the production of novel togetherness is to be historically justified at all, then it will occur in the extreme reaches of remixological practice.



For Debord as for Whitehead

the remixological act

is what's of utmost concern


and if cultural critics or connoisseurs

cannot just get over it

then that's their problem


The bottom line for Debord is that this is the direction

contemporary practice is heading and we better get used to it:


For the moment we will limit ourselves to showing a few concrete possibilities starting from various current sectors of communication -- it being understood that these separate sectors are significant only in relation to present-day techniques, and are all tending to merge into superior syntheses with the advance of these techniques.


For Whitehead

the remixological act

is an inherent birthright

one that informs the creation of

intense experiences as

an ongoing aesthetic fact

one whose "categoreal conditions

are to be generalized from aesthetic lawa

in particular arts."


Of course Debord and Whitehead before him

could have never seen the Internet coming

(although Nicola Tesla may have)


With the advent of the Internet and what

I have previously dubbed Source Material Everywhere

we can now alchemically transform Whitehead's

"concrescence of prehensions"

into what I have previously referred to

(in 1996 in relation to something that had no name

but that soon materialized into net art)

as the practice of surf-sample-manipulate

where the nomadic net artist circulating

in the networked space of flows

begins sampling sounds as any DJ / VJ would


but instead of using vinyl or iPods or mix tapes

or any of the advanced image manipulation software programs

that facilitate the postproduction sets of

hyperimprovisational live A/V [audio-visual] artists


are now scouring the net

for websites that deliver interactive sounds

remixing them in a live performance setting

as part of a new breed of remixologist

we might now call a Webspinna

(to borrow a term from Trace Reddell)


The DJ's "cut and paste as you go"

open source lifestyle practice

now becomes experienced in a live

Webspinna postproduction set

where the self-conscious remixologist

begins intersubjectively jamming with The Network

as a way to engage with or otherwise manipulate

the Source Material Everywhere


The Network is many things to the Webspinna:


Archive, Medium, Default Co-Conspirator


i.e. one significant player among many

although absolutely loaded with potential meaning

(and one that produces a kind of ongoing

bandwidth co-dependency and the secret hope

that nothing crashes during the live gig)


At the University of Colorado at Boulder

I teach a seminar on Remix Culture

where the students are required to read Debord

as well as arch-appropriationist Kathy Acker

literary cut-up inventor William Burroughs

post-photography philosopher

of the networked image Vilém Flusser

and Paul Miller's Rhythm Science where we undertake

the difficult task of innovating our own rhythmanalysis of

what it means to be both of one's time and ahead of one's time

while caught in the heat of perpetual postproduction

(the classic position of the avant-garde artist but now one

where becoming a postproduction medium

requires the applied remixologist to mean what they do

and do what they mean)


After digging in deep and remixing Gertrude Stein

Raymond Queneau Jorge Luis Borges and various

other writers and net artists


the students eventually prepare for their first live sound remix


and this is where the Webspinna project

becomes the focus of everyone's attention


At the March 19, 2010 Webspinna performance

seventeen students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds

including creative writing, photography, ceramics, sculpture,

cultural anthropology, journalism, and philosophy 

all jammed with the sound of the Internet

and together postproduced a 110 minute

audio assemblage that at times sounded like

an underground pirate  radio station gone wild

and other times a subtle discourse on the call of the wild

whether it be reflected in the moan of a moose

in its natural habitat


or the crack of a whip from a disembodied S&M video


(If the species remixologist

is about anything at all

it's about finding inner wildness

i.e. using the creative process itself

to attract more intense aesthetic experiences)


The beauty of the performance as a durational achievement

composed of multiple postproduction sets conducted

by emergent remixologists

was captured in the way the Total Gig Environment

became what Umberto Eco once termed an OPEN WORK


According to Eco:


these poetic systems recognize 'openness' as the fundamental possibility of the contemporary artist or consumer. The aesthetic theoretician, in his turn, will see a confirmation of his own intuitions in these practical manifestations: they constitute the ultimate realization of a receptive mode which can function at many different levels of intensity.


Let's face it :


in general it could be said that

art students do not prefer to write

long academic papers that conform to a preconceived

scholarly format that has been done and re-done

a million different ways to Wednesday


Many of them don't mind reading it

but the truth is (in case this has still not

become clear to you yet)

they would rather have their creative work

articulate their theory for them


But what happens when the remix process itself

becomes a kind of live, theoretical performance

where you mean-what-you-do / do-what-you-mean?


With a collaborative remix performance

like the one referred to above

and linked to [HERE]

Eco's "aesthetic theoretician"

is converted into a remixologist

whose historical empathy for the Source Material Everywhere

creates an open-ended opportunity

to innovatively postproduce (surf-sample-manipulate)

the next version of the OPEN WORK


HISTORICAL EMPATHY is a way of creating


with the Source Material Everywhere


Perhaps Duchamp was right when in 1957

he spoke in Houston at the Convention of

The American Federation of the Arts and said



If we give the attributes of a medium to the artist, we must then deny him the state of consciousness on the esthetic plane about what he is doing or why he is doing it. All his decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis, spoken or written, or even thought out.




All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even   more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists.



Rehabilitation starts with remixological inhabitation





Author's Note:



The following texts were sampled from as part of this remix performance:


Debord, Guy. Methods of Détournment.

Accessed on March 22, 2010


Duchamp, Marcel, The Creative Act


Accessed as mp3 and transcribed on March 22, 2010


Eco, Umberto, The Open Work, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989.


Whitehead, Aldred North, Process and Reality, New York:The Free Press, 1978.






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