22 February 2006

REMIX(1) Authoring the Digital Remix: Images Under Strain.

Throughout 2006 I will publish a series of short discussions about 'remixing' in context to how memory, authorship and the image share an uneasy position.


While it is clear that the idea of 'the remix' is not a recent invention or singular by-product of the Postmodern era and has, in fact, been represented in most facets of human communication for thousands of years, the symptoms of re-appropriation in a twenty-first century context has changed, and from this influenced the dominance of the visual image throughout new media orientated practice.

By the very nature of the digital, transference and manipulation of data occurs through linear appropriation imbedded through narrative structures - from 'A' to 'B', up and down, from here to there. To achieve a methodological process in creative fields, the establishment of images survives because of a remixing of a first image (the original) into a second image (the copy). We can see this when digital photographs are uploaded into a computer: the image becomes a copy of the original file stored from inside the cameras hardrive and transferred to its new location.

Archiving data, whether it be photographs, text or otherwise is dependant on the process of copying. The problem that exists here rests on the image itself — under strain and, to what Australian art theorist Charles Green states as 'under pressure'. Can it be that through the digital there are no original images and from this, what of the ethical dilemmas that attach themselves to a future of generational copies?

If the visual image is indeed under tension from the digital process, then any sense of ethical involvement must address two factors: authorship and deliverance. The first must objectively generate mediation with the second and the latter faces a crisis of authorship through outputting the first. If we agree that the digital process creates a version of the original through the action of ‘remixing’ then one might argue that the authorship of the copy does not necessarily relate to the authorship of the original, it is a new authorship centred on the creation of a version of something else. Moreover, has the originality of an image been superseded by the digital remix? Evidence of this can be found in the manipulation of images through software such as Photoshop giving users the option of collating one image with another to form a third image, and so forth.

Hense, digital technology can no longer be seen as portable photocopiers in filing cabinets – moving, storing and transmitting data between file to file. The strain of the image has taken hold in such a way as to become part of a generational, and accepted, way of life (can a 16 year old imagine life without Mp3 players?) where this fundamental logic is intertwined with the process of the remix: an old dog with new tricks.

(This version will feature in a forthcoming Italian publication titled Lev Manovich: 5 questions about digital culture, edited by Vito Campanelli and Danillo Capasso)