CCTP 725: Remix and Dialogic Culture (Media, Art, Technology)
Professor Martin Irvine
Spring 2014

Required Books:

  • Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Penguin Press, 2008. ISBN: 0143116134
  • Philip Smith and Alexander Riley, Cultural Theory: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Blackwell, 2008. ISBN: 1405169087
  • Klaus Honnef, Pop Art. Taschen Books, 2004. ISBN: 3822822183
  • Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), Rhythm Science. MIT Press, 2004. ISBN: 026263287X
  • Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture: Global Melange. 2nd edition. Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. ISBN: 0742556069
Recommended Books:
  • Klaus Honnef, Andy Warhol: Commerce into Art. NY: Taschen Books, 2000.
  • Hans Holzwarth, ed. Art Now: Vol 3. Cologne: Taschen Books, 2008.
  • Editors of Phaidon Press, The Photography Book, Mini Edition. Phaidon Press, 2000.
  • Mark Taylor, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Course Procedures and Requirements:

This course will be conducted as a seminar, and students will work together to make new discoveries about the seminar themes, which are always ongoing and developing in real time. The course syllabus exists only on this site. Grading and evaluation will be based on weekly seminar mini-essays in a collaborative Wordpress site, in-class seminar participation, an individual bibliography-research project, and a final rich-media article/essay (instructions). See weekly essay instructions.

1   Introduction: The "Always Already (Re)Mixed": Dialogic Combinatorial Culture []

"I'll play it for you first and tell you what it is later." --Miles Davis

An introduction to methods for studying dialogic and remix culture: the generative principles behind hybrid combinatorial artefacts and expression in all cultural genres, technologies, and media forms.

Overview of the seminar:

  • Methods, grading, the seminar Wordpress site, weekly participation and presentations.

Useful Tools for Doing Research: For this Course and CCT

Introductory Readings: Ways of Thinking about "Remix" and Hybrid Forms

Professor Irvine's Introductions and Background for the Course

Examples and Case Studies for Discussion

  • Generative combinatoriality in blues and jazz: music history examples.
  • Hybrid and new combinations in technologies and media.
  • Hybrid technologies creating new media forms: remixing image sources and genres in film: Avatar [Apple HD trailer | movie site], The Matrix series, Life of Pi
  • Apple iPhone: hybrid combinatoriality: Apple site | Wikipedia |
    Henry Jenkins and The Convergence Culture Consortium
  • Examples from art, music, movies, TV, technology, photography (class discussion)
2   Core Theory Readings (I): Globalization, Postcolonial Theory, Network Society []

Key concepts from Media Theory, Postmodernism, Postcolonial Theory, and Globalization Theory

Learning Objectives:
Orientation to the Major Theories, Concepts, and Terms

Our beginning sequence of units will require some "front loading" of key readings across several disciplines to become familiar with the concepts, terms, theory, and major arguments that provide important models for investigating the central issues of cultural hybridity and dialogism.

The topics this week--globalization theory, media/technology convergence, and the network society--are closely interconnected, and are best understood in a macro-level overview first. You can then pursue these fields further as you develop your interests. Each topic now has an overwhelming bibliography of published research in many subdisciplines, which makes a top-level orientation difficult, but very necessary at the beginning.


Major Topics in Post-Colonial and Globalization Theory:

  • Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange (2nd ed. Rowman & Littlefield, 2009).
    Read chaps 1-3. (Excerpts from the first edition online: Intro | Chap. 3)
    [A very perceptive book on the processes behind globalization and culture. Begin reading now, finish by next week.]
  • Marwan Kraidy, Hybridity, or the Cultural Logic of Globalization. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005). Read Preface and Chapter 1.
    [Good overview of issues from the point of view of international communications.]
  • Stuart Hall, "The Question of Cultural Identity," excerpt from Stuart Hall, David Held, Don Hubert, and Kenneth Thompson, eds. Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies. Oxford, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1996, pp. 596-601, 611-623.
    [An important and clear exposition from a major founder of "cultural studies" on the question of identity formation in late- and postmodern societies. Hall states in this book chapter: "All modern nations are hybrids." A synopsis of arguments explaining why racial and class hybridity is repressed in the formation of dominant national and ethnic identities. Provides useful sociological tools for understanding current identity conflicts in a globalized, networked world.]

Media/Technology Convergence

  • Henry Jenkins, "Introduction to Convergence Culture," excerpt from Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, NYU Press, 2008.
    • "By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, the search for new structures of media financing which fell at the interstices between old and new media, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted. Convergence is a word that manages to describe technological, industrial, cultural, and social changes, depending on who's speaking and what they think they are talking about." Jenkins, article in Vodaphone Receiver magazine, 2005.
  • Anders Fagerjord, "After Convergence: YouTube and Remix Culture," in J. Hunsinger et al. (eds.), International Handbook of Internet Research, Springer Science+Business Media, 2010.

The Global Network Society

  • Manuel Castells, "Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society," British Journal of Sociology, 51/1 (January/March 2000), 5–24.
    [A densely argued article; may be difficult at first because it assumes a whole background of prior research and debate. An overview of Castell's underlying arguments in his longer, influential books on the Network Society.]
  • Bruno Latour, "Networks, Societies, Spheres: Reflections of an Actor-Network Theorist," International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), 796–810.
    [A perceptive essay that draws on the author's lifelong study of social-material networks written as a conclusion to a major collection of papers on the network society in the journal cited here.]

Case Study Examples

  • El Anatsui as Artist in the Global Artworld (presentation) (Irvine): a look at a global cultural system and some of the rules and codes behind the production of a hybrid art form.
  • The Google Art Project (part of the Google Cultural Institute): How can we interpret this platform in the context of global questions? How can (can?) a Google platform mediate the cultural function for different societies? Can it be a democratizing tool, leveling the field for cultures with fewer resources? What happens to the representation of cultural artefacts when represented in the structure of this database and interface system?
  • Other examples for building out global networks of interdependence and dialogic combinations:
    movies (e.g., Life of Pi), music (global traditions, sounds, styles used as common resources by musicians).
  • "Globalization" as filtered through dominant industries: the "World Music" category in the Grammys. Grammy site World Music nominees and award winners 1991-2012. What is "World Music" as a market category in the recording industry?

Begin Student Discussions (Wordpress site)

Discussion Topics
There is a lot to take in for this unit. Don't be discouraged if the ideas and problems seem difficult (they are). The value of the knowledge base formed by the approaches and research programs in these readings will become clearer and more understandable as you work with this foundation and return to them after more background in the course.

For your weekly writing, use the concepts and terms from two or more of the readings and consider one or two examples of cultural works or genres that are best understood from a global, convergence and/or networked perspective. There are many examples in music, all the arts, movies, and TV and Web content programming in which global conditions have enabled and hindered the production, distribution, and reception of works and expression. Or think through an example by researching the background of its network of conditions (economic, technological, political, social).

Some questions you could ask for specific forms and genres experienced today: Is "cultural identity" leveled or flattened or a more complicated situation by iTunes or other Internet distribution? What does distribution on Youtube mean? Is "globalized culture" hegemonic (reinforcing dominant cultures) or anarchic/democratic? Or both simultaneously? If cultures and societies are always already hybrid (comprising a mix of classes, ethnicities, language groups, subcultures), then why is there major resistance to accepting mixed identities in the world?

3   Core Theory Readings (II): Postmodernity to Post-postmodernity []

Learning Objectives:
Working with the Concepts in Debates about the Postmodern and the "Post-postmodern" (or, Whatever We Are in Now)

Postmodernism/Postmodernity is associated with an awareness of societal and cultural transitions after World War II and the rise of mass-mediated consumerist popular culture in the 1960s-1970s. Interpreters of this era describe the kinds of cultural hybrids that emerge from mixing (or rendering inoperative) the categories of "high" and "low" cultures, and hybrids in cultural forms that have developed in regions where local identities seek definition against, or in dialog with, Western "hegemonic" cultures (the mixing of "official" cultures and those defined as "other" in modernist ideologies). Postmodern views of history and national identity typically cancel a commitment to modern "master narratives" or "metanarratives" like progress and goal-directed history, and disrupt myths of national and ethnic identities as "natural" foundations of "unity."

Complicating the study of "postmodernism" is the wide range of terms and assumptions in statements and arguments from different schools of thought and movements in the arts. In all the discourse, we need to differentiate the terms and concepts of the postmodern (as a condition of a historical era) or postmodernity (as simply what we are in whether we know it or not), and postmodernism (reflected in movements with varying levels of intention and self-awareness),

When interpreters of culture discuss postmodern strategies or features in architecture, literature, philosophy, and the arts, this usually includes uses of irony, parody, sampling, mixing "high" and "low" (popular) cultural sources, horizontal vs. vertical analysis, and mixing historical and cultural sources and styles. The view that cultural hierarchies (high/low; official/local; dominant culture/subcultures) are unstable and constructed and that history is not a source of authority underlies the creation of many forms of pastiche (combinations from unrelated sources), collage, parody, and nostalgic stylization where earlier, historically situated styles are abstracted and imitated as stylization.

Some scholars see the macro context of "the postmodern condition" within functions of globalization and the information/network society. The global economic system since the 1960s has moved toward the international merging of cultures and the global marketing of cultural goods.

Many see the features of postmodernism that are associated with the self-reflexive critique of society, culture, politics, and economics as already part of modernism, and thus an extension of "modernism." But whatever the phase of "modernity" we accept now includes abandoning the hope or belief in the necessary progressive movement of history toward a goal, an end, a fulfillment.

The post-postmodern viewpoint (wherever we are today after having absorbed the issues in postmodernism) seems to be taking the "postmodern condition" (postmodernity) as a given and creating new remixed works disassociated from the modern-postmodern arguments and oppositions. The post-postmodern takes the "always already" mixed condition of sources, identities, and new works as a given, not a question or problem. The metaphors of "network" and "convergence" in creative subcultures (e.g., musicians, artists, designers, writers) are seen to be live operations or conditions received and re-performed, not just abstractions. From this more recent perspective, living in remixed hybridity is thus obligatory, not a choice, since it is the foundation for participating in a living, networked, globally connected culture.

We could also argue that the terms in the discourses about the postmodern are no longer useful, or need to be redefined to be useful for today. Either way, the point is thinking through the problems and seeing if there are terms that do useful cultural work for us.


Introductions, Lecture Notes & Discussion Topics (Irvine)

Overview of theory Fredric Jameson on the postmodern, late capitalism, pastiche, irony, and hybridity
  • Jameson, "Postmodernism and Consumer Society." From E. Ann Kaplan, ed. Postmodernism and its Discontents (London and New York: Verso, 1988): 13-29. His first statement of the argument that appears in his Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.
  • Jameson, Excerpts from Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. (Duke University Press, 1991.) [expanded argument from the earlier article]
  • Jameson's arguments and assumptions have been very influential in the humanities. For a critique, consider the course of history that he assumes, and his determinist views of popular culture.

Ways of Describing the Post-postmodern: Post-Production, Always-Already Remixed

  • Nicolas Bourriaud: An art historian and museum curator's interpretation of "post-postmodern" art:
    • Remix Culture as Altermodern (his exhibition at the Tate Britain, London):
      Bourriaud, "Altermodern Explained: A Manifesto" and Video Interview
    • Nicholas Bourriaud, Postproduction (2002). (excerpts, read Introduction and last chapter, "Use of the World.").
      Our new production platforms--increasingly using or  modeled on digital production--allow an explicit awareness of new works being remixed like the post-production process in music, movies, and television. How can our current hybrid/remix era be described as "post-producing" what has already been produced/expressed?
  • Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky): Remix philosophy in "The Secret Song" (video).

Reference and Supplementary Readings and Sources

Examples: Artists' Practice as Embodying Theory

Dario Robleto

I find no use in locating myself in a "postmodern" moment because it is already a given. All I know is a chopped up world. I didn't have to ponder the potentials of that world as a generation of theorists and artists did. I am surprised when someone doesn't use a hybrid approach. What this moment will be about, what it is already about, will be pushing hybridity into new territory and laying a ground work for new conceptual thinking.

I am trying to utilize the techniques of DJ culture and electronically produced music because I see in them potential for reinvigorating artists in their conceptual and political concerns as well as on a material and scientific level.    --Dario Robleto, hybrid media artist

Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), Rhythm Science.

Mark Amerika, Professor VJ site: On "Source Material Everywhere" and remix/postproduce.


Interview segment from PressPausePlay documentary. (On mixed composition and software production).

Moby on re-recording "Extreme Ways," the Bourne Legacy theme song, in his studio and with a classical orchestra: Hollywood and the music studio on the same digital platform.

Examples of postmodern and post-postmodern productions (for in-class discussion)

  • Madmen: What genre is this? Retro-sendup, period drama, soap opera, nostalgia? History as a style.
  • Wangechi Mutu: post-postmodern post-globalization artist?
  • Avatar [Apple HD trailer | movie site]: hyperrealistic cinema, the cinema/film experience is now a continuum of filmed (photo-lens-based imagery), digitally edited, and seamlessly inserted CGI 3D imagery. What is the code/category of the "real" in imagery today? Do we care?
  • Irvine, Postmodernism to Post-Postmodernism: Examples to Think With (presentation)

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • Discuss a popular culture example in its genre or category context that represents some of the issues in "postmodernism" or the era of "the post-postmodern" that we may be in now. How does the work act as a nodal point of prior and contemporary relationships, connections and assumptions (movie, music, Website, TV program)?
  • Some examples to think through together in the seminar:
  • What could we learn from describing a Hitchcock movie (North by Northwest, for example) as belonging to "modernism" (use of cinema canons, genre forms, etc.), and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner as "postmodern" (mix of genres and period stylizations). Are Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and the Wachowski brothers' The Matrix beyond "postmodern"?
  • In the context of photography used as an art form and cultural history of the 1970s, how can Cindy Sherman's "Film Stills" project be considered "postmodern"? How would you describe Andy Warhol's use of photo-based imagery in the 1960s-80s (we will study Warhol in more detail later)?
  • In popular music, does "modern jazz" (bebop, Parker, Davis, Coltrane, Monk) fit in with "modernism" or "postmodernism"? What about rock and hip hop? Are the general categories not useful enough? Consider Daft Punk's recent Random Access Memories as an example of the "post-postmodern" where musicians start from the premise that the contemporary musical encyclopedia is always already remixed, and the new statement has to take a position in that context.
4   Core Theory Readings (III): Dialogism, Intertextuality, Appropriation []

Key Concepts
The underlying cultural principles of dialogism, intertextuality/intermediality, and appropriation are the underlying conditions for remix and cultural hybridity. Many currents of postmodernism are closely linked to a self-conscious use of these concepts, but the underlying principles function as a generative process like the grammar of a language, and are independent of any explicit awareness.

Intertextuality/intermediality and dialogism are not theories of influences, quotations, references, and explicit sampling, though we often start with the explicit or recognizable level to visualize cross-textual and cross-media relationships. As we'll see, this is only a small part of the "deep remix" of all cultural expression in any medium.

Learning Goals:
Understanding the core theories of dialogism and intermediality as a key to understanding the ongoing hybrid process of living cultures. Dialogism also helps to reveal that this process is a condition of all cultures, and not a feature that appeared with modern or postmodern culture. In fact, understanding these key theories as a grammar of culture also helps to understand why they are normally misrecognized or suppressed.  Intertextuality (the presupposition of a network of other works in any "text") is now redefined as intermediality, or the ongoing dialogue among many kinds of cultural expressions in any medium. A new work emerges within a network of prior and contemporary works, and we interpret expressions in a variety of genres that cut across our popular media forms--TV, Web, books and magazines, art works, music.

Readings: The Core Theory: Dialogism/Intertextuality

  • Irvine, Introductory Essay: Hybridity/Remix/Dialogism (read Main Concepts and Part 2)
  • Martin Irvine, "Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A Model for Generative Combinatoriality". To appear in The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies, ed. Eduardo Navas, et al. (NY: Routledge, 2014).
    [This book chapter provides a synthesis of key concepts and research methods from many disciplines that converge on the question of combinatorial meaning making for a re-description of "remix" in all its forms. Read the sections through "Remix+" for this week. We will work out ways to use these concepts for a analytical method in the course.]
  • Roland Barthes, "From Work to Text" and "The Death of the Author."
    Foundational texts in the theory of intertextuality. Barthes inaugurated an approach to writing and literary texts as a system of relations, implicit dialogues, and cultural statements that required understanding the symbolic system as a whole, not the identities or intentions of "authors" or the simple unity of an individual "work." While Barthes saw the importance of meaning systems (the structuralist starting point), he did not have access to concepts and models for generativity and dialogism, which are needed to explain how meanings are produced in understanding and in creating new expressions in a continuum with prior and other expressions. For these principles we need to draw from Peirce and Bakhtin.
  • Mikhail Bakhtin, Major Theory: Dialogism, Polyphony, Heteroglossia (major statements with commentary, Irvine)
    Bakhtin is the key theorist of dialogism/intertextuality. His model of the dialogic principle of culture is usefully extended to all media and forms of expression. You should work through some of the primary statements by Bakhtin, before using summaries (although the Wikipedia entry on Bakhtin is good).
  • Julia Kristeva, excerpt from "Word, Dialogue, and Novel." From Toril Moi, ed., The Kristeva Reader [New York: Columbia University Press, 1986]).
    The key essay and interpretation of Bakhtin that brought his work to a broader community of theorists in many disciplines.
  • Daniel Chandler, "Intertextuality." A useful overview by the author of a popular guide to semiotics. The outline omits dialogism and the more important presuppositional foundations of intertextuality. Remember that intertextuality is not about sources, borrowing, or direct noticeable "influences."
  • Gunhild Agger, "Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies." Canadian Journal of Aesthetics, 4, 1999. [Good overview of theories as they apply to media studies.]

Supplementary Background

Appropriation, Remix, Postproduction

  • Jonathan Lethem, "The Ecstasy of Influence," Harpers Magazine, Feb. 2007. [All writing has always already been a hybrid collage of language, sources, references, unconscious quotations, remix of inherited written culture.] (Revisit from Week 1)
  • Clement Greenberg, "Collage" (1959). A classic article on 20th century "collage culture" or the "collage aesthetic," which carries over into music (jazz and rock) and awareness of popular culture post-1960.
  • Douglas Crimp, "On the Museum's Ruins." (1993). Google Books preview. A seminal essay on the post-modern assemblage and remix art genres, especially Robert Rauschenberg (whose work we will study later).
  • Kirby Ferguson, prod., Everything is a Remix: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
  • Dossier on Appropriation in Art Theory (Major Statements) (Irvine)

Film and Video Examples: Case Studies for Recombining Genres & Styles

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • Using concepts and models for interpretation in the readings, discuss a recent work (one that most of us would know) in its intermedial network of relationships with other works, presupposed expressions/works, genre codes, and conceptual types (as much as you can find of both historical and accrued relations and those part of our interpretive context today). Try working with the concepts in the readings and the idea of a work as a "node in a network" as discovery techniques. Try to go beyond explicit recognized quotations, samples, or references to other works, and map out the underlying system of codes and encyclopedic knowledge that made the work possible and allows us to understand it. The most important foundations of a work in how it has meaning for us won't be visible on the surface. Example: Some of the most powerful "influences" will be those presupposed works, styles, and genre conventions that an artist, musician, designer, writer, or movie director is rejecting, negating, subverting, or cancelling to work in a different direction. The new or different expression always presupposes what is already expressed: "new" or "different" is only possible in relation to what's presupposed. What makes a "new" musical expression/work sound new? Example: styles of things are very powerful in our culture's systems of meanings. How does a style (a way of representing, doing, expressing something in a systems of ways of expressing) work in its relation to other styles, how is it encoded for value, meaning, significance, and how is it a function of the dialogic/intermedial process that comes from?
5   Remix Culture and Copyright: Authors, Property, Commons, Fair Use []

Learning Objectives and Research Questions
Thinking about cultural production as an ongoing dialogic network when we consider the status of individual works. The modern legal regime for copyright and intellectual property is based on old concepts of "authorship" and the status of individual works and expression in tangible form as kinds of property. It derives from mainly 18th century philosophical and ideological concepts of individuality, originality, and ownership.

This week, we will do a top-level overview of issues in the post-digital environment, focusing on the question of authorship/ownership and fair use policy in US law, and think through some cases for the issues that they reveal.

Essential Reference Texts (Review for Primary Resources)

Readings: Background on Copyright, Authorship, Property, Fair Use

Reference Resources and Case Studies

Film/Video Documentaries

Case Study:

The Associated Press v. Shepard Fairey in the "Obama Hope" Image Case

Other Significant Recent Cases

Reference and Resources:

Law References

Questions for Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • Can we redefine "authorship" and "work" ("expression in tangible form") in ways that correspond to what we know about collective and generative culture? How can legal philosophy accommodate the "always already" state of remix culture? How can artists' or any citizens' created works be allowed commercial rights as well as reuse in the common culture?
  • Are current legal/economic issues caused by technological-media shifts (technology effects), and/or do these shifts simply expose combinatoriality and remix as normative in symbolic expression through media representations (digital) and software tools that implement these pre-existing features and functions?
  • Digital Ontologies / legal ontologies: What is a digital media object? How can there be "copies" of identical digital files?
  • Are there other models that provide for both an economic base and creative reuse in cultural production? How can we recognize the foundations of innovation and creativity as well as insure the foundations of an economic system that provides returns for both creators and owners of distribution and publishing industries?
6  Optical Representation and the Technically Reproducible Image: What is "Photo-graphy"? []

Learning Objectives and Discussion Topics

Learning the history and background of photography and optical lens-based image making in media socially invested with special representional and "reality" encoding functions, and how "photographic" representation became the reference point for "the real." Understanding how photography is a paradigm of hybridization--from combinatorial technologies to remixed genres and incorporation with other media (print, graphics, film, video, computer multimedia).

The very medium of photography has been hybrid since the beginnings--combinations of technologies (optics and chemistry), assumptions about "mechanical arts" vs. "fine arts," genres of image-making inherited from painting, drawing, and print-making. And today, digital imagery can be camera/lens-based, or totally CGI, software generated. (Remember that film and video are composed from sequences of still images edited to produce the illusion of continuous "reality" outside the camera.) How do we use and interpret all these hybrid/mixed combinations?

The technical reproducibility of images in photography (and as used in high-speed mass produced printed images in newspapers, magazines, books, and advertizing) introduced a new set of questions and problems in Western and global culture. What is representation? What do we mean by "real," "truth," and "realism" in representation? How/why is the photographic image assigned the code of "the real" in our representational system? How does reproducibility in many multiples of technically identical image "copies" change the way we represent history, cultural works, art, religion? How do photographic and cinematic images work in combinatorial hybrids and ongoing technical photographic image technologies?

Image-making, especially after the use of optics and photography, has been dominated by the problem of representation, truth (or truth value), the "real," reference (the world or things outside the picture and outside a camera lens). Today, we experience photographs of all kinds in a long sliding scale of images accepted as presenting "quotations of reality" to those we recognize as imaginary, fictional, digitally created, and combinations of lens-based imagery and digital composition. Hybrid representation is also part of the ongoing question of the status of images and cross-mediation of visual content (representation of "the same" images in multiple media forms that we experience today).

Why are photography/video/film-based images given the code of "reality," an assumed direct relation to something outside the image that it mediates, represents, refers to, or depicts? How do we receive and understand images in all media that have no necessary connection to a referential world outside of the image? How much of our visual culture has no connection to a non-mediated world? How does the current mixed source and cross-mediation environment encourage hybridity?

Readings and Sources:

Optical Representation and Images Before Photography

  • Background to the photographic image and its social values:
    Recent historical research establishes that artists used optical devices and equipment (camera obscura, concave mirrors, lenses) since around 1480 AD, and, more important, that the social awareness of optical (lens-based) thinking about images and "the real" began much earlier than the modern "photographic" era. What we call "photo-realism" is actually "optical realism," mon-optical projections on a 2D surface/plane that can also be captured, drawn, or imitated in various kinds of media. This social-cultural shift to an optically created image reference has huge historical consequences because we find that the anxieties about the photo-representionally "real" and digital technology are part of a far deeper history of optical consciousness and cultural codes for "true" and "real" representation. We need to rethink the whole history of representational and reproducible images and revise common assumptions about photo-technologies. The "real" has been a learned code associated with optical projection on a 2D surface for hundreds of years, and these values and functions are social, not properties of technologies themselves.
  • Brief backgrounds on the History and Prehistory of Photography (Reading and Video Sources):
  • Background and early history of optics and photography (video)
  • Charles Falco, Optics and Art: Renaissance Painting (research findings and documents). Survey to get a sense of the research and reinterpretations of images assuming an "optical look"--with or without actual optical aids.
  • Mark Osterman and Grant Romer, History and Evolution of Photography (Eastman House and Museum of Photography) (excerpt) (pdf). Review intro chapter for technical background, and section on examples of 19th c. photographs as reference.
  • Martin Irvine, From Optics and Camera Obscura to Photography and Post-Photography (study first two sections)

Photography, Technology, and Culture

  • Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility" (1936; rev. 1939).
    This is the more accurate translation of the title of the work known in the English-speaking world as The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (html) (English trans., Harry Zohn, 1968). Compare both versions, but use only the new translation for reference in course work and research. Focus on sections: Pref., I-VI, X-XII, XV.
  • Important background:
    Benjamin's title in German is "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit" = "The Work of Art in the Era of its Technical (or Technological) Reproducibility."
    The first link above is to an excerpt from the new edition of Benjamin's writings (Harvard Univ. Press, 2003) with the revised title. Use this version for reference (and avoid the terms "mechanical reproduction.")
    Benjamin's essay is a famous starting point for a long series of debates about the role of mass technical reproducibility in culture--for both traditional cultural history and modern popular culture (with the development of photography and cinema). Benjamin was part of the Frankfurt School of neo-Marxist writers who were engaged in a serious struggle with Fascism. This school of thought attempted to counter the threat of a state-controlled economy, press, media, and popular culture. He was writing as at the time when World War II was beginning and Fascist capitalism and state-controlled cultural economies threatened to convert all media and cultural forms into tools of ideology and blind submission. He hoped that democratic uses of the technical media could lead in a different direction--but at the time he didn't know where or how.
    For further background on Benjamin's philosophy, see Philosophical Background (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy): see sections 6-8.
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Statement on Photography" ("The Decisive Moment" theory), 1933.
    Bresson is famous for summing up a philosophy of the immediate snap shot and the photographer's "framing" and "capturing" a real moment. This view continues to be an unexpressed assumption in many uses of photography.
  • André Malraux, "La Musée Imaginaire (The Imaginary Museum)" (1951). Excerpts and introduction.
    Overview and excerpts. English translation unfortunately as "The Museum Without Walls", a chapter in The Voices of Silence, 1951). Malraux picks up the problem of photographic mediation of cultural history after World War II. Further implications of art and culture mediated through photography, and the assumption of a global "art encyclopedia" informing the modern concept of art and art history.
  • Jean Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations" (excerpt in pdf; requires GU login) (excerpt also in html version).
    From Simulacra and Simulation, 1981; English trans., 1988.
    This essay is often cited but seldom understood. It exemplifies Baudrillard's theory and style (full of rhetorical hand grenades and provocations), and needs to be worked through and critiqued. Important points are the view of mediated "reality" as interpreted through the code of "the real," which is a mediation and style of representation, not a transparent, direct connection with a non-mediated or pre-mediated lived experience (in all it's messy, chaotic complexity). Baudrillard's works forms a chain of argument that begins with Benjamin's essay.
    For background, see my presentation, "Mediation and Representation: Plato to Baudrillard and Digital Media."

Discussion Examples: Photography, Codes for the Real, and the Hyperreal

  • Cindy Sherman: Images on Masters of Photography site | Artcylopedia |
    Cindy Sherman is widely regarded as a main example of postmodern photography, or even post-photography. Consider the questions and challenges that her work raises about the photographic image as an index to truth or reality, the genres of figurative representation (the portrait, the film image), and codes for gender.
  • The photographic and televisual: TV images and computer/Web images as hyperreal.
  • "Post-photography photography": post-film cinema (virtual cameras, optical flow technology, 3D virtual imagery)
  • The Matrix series: development of bullet time, virtual camera, virtual frame rates, virtual point-of-view, combination of still and motion camera HD frame captures, green screen and software/CGI
  • James Cameron's Avatar: The seamless flow between camera work and CGI: software and digital editing cinema.

For Discussion in class:
The Deeper History of "Optical Representation" (lenses, camera obscura, mirrors)

  • Recent studies and arguments by David Hockney (Secret Knowledge), Philip Steadman (Vermeer's Camera) and Martin Kemp (The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat) have created a stir among traditional art and cultural historians because the rediscovered optical techniques disturb the Romantic view of "artistic genius". As Susan Grundy expressed, "There appears to be a deep-seated collective paranoia attached to the possibility that the camera lurks within the art-historical canon, and this may have engendered an unnecessary and quite furious territorialism." (Source)."
  • The "Hockney-Falco Thesis" (David Hockney, artist, and Charles Falco, physicist) developed an interpretation of "optical realism" in 15th-17th century art through the use of optical devices (camera obscura, concave mirrors, lenses) from the late 14th century on. Optics enables a way f seeing and representing, even for artist who didn't actually use the devices in specific works. This optical way of seeing established assumptions about "realism" in painting, drawing, and pictorialism. See the book and BBC documentary:
    Excerpts from the BBC Documentary: [1] [2]
  • David Hockney, Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, Expanded edition (New York, N.Y.: Viking Studio, 2001/2006).
    See review of book and issues in the NY Review of Books; Lawrence Weschler's expanded essay, "Looking Glass Issues," (revisiting issues in his New Yorker article) on the controversy and issues surrounding the questions (excellent survey).
  • Hockney, David, and Charles M. Falco. “Optical Insights into Renaissance Art.” Optics and Photonics News 11, no. 7 (July 1, 2000): 52–59.
  • Charles Falco, "Art and Optics" (University of Arizona): Research site for the Hockney-Falco hypothesis about optics.
  • Consequences, hypotheses to test, validate, and revise:
    The common assumption about the imposition of monocular perspective as a Renaissance "scientific" principle for 2D representation isn't enough to account for the "leap" to optically "correct" representation after around 1400. What we have been calling "photo-realism" -- or re-modelling the sense of "realistic" representation on photographic images -- is actually a longer history of "optical realism" -- of which photography is a more recent implementation. What kind of re-reading of optical image history would this new awareness provide?

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

Image making technologies and everything optical-photographic have always been embedded in many social functions. Questions for writing assignment: With reference to the readings and sources in this week's unit, discuss examples that illustrate the cultural values associated with photography (and/or optically "correct" images), and how these values continue to work in a digital era (e.g., news media, photographic representation of art and artefacts, snapshots as souvenirs/memorials and social tokens of social rituals). Many of Benjamin's earlier questions about the status of photography in culture are being replayed today: we could replace the word "technical (mechanical)" with "digital" in his argument, and many of the insights come alive again. How do mediated images become "hyperreal" (in Baudrillard's sense): is visual mediation the mediator/medium of the cultural ideology of representation?

7   Introduction to Pop and Appropriation Art: Everything is Post-Rauschenberg []

Appropriation Art and Pop Art: Case Studies for Dialogic Culture, Hybridity, and Remix

Learning Goals:
Gaining proficiency in interpreting hybrid art works from the foundational era of appropriation and Pop art in the 1960s, and Robert Rauschenberg's methods as a paradigm of this new kind of thinking and working. We will continue our method of using art and artefacts as interfaces to the larger social and media systems of which they are a part.

Pop and appropriation art (as defined in art history) appeared at a moment when high and low ("popular") culture were circulating in new ways through the mainstream media and in galleries, museums, and art discourse. The era from c.1960-c.1972 saw explicit remixing, hybridization, and appropriation from all sources in art, music, design, and graphics.

As counter-arguments for art, where high-art values emphasized "uniqueness, originality," Pop artists used repetition, serial forms, mass media imagery, commercial mediums like screen printing; where high art institutionalized the myth of "genius, unique hand of the artist, the work of art as expression of an artist's soul," Pop artists removed most of the marks of an artist's direct "touch" and subverted expectations by hand-making paintings, sculptures, and prints to look like they could have been machine-made or "anyone could make it" knowing the techniques.

Activating Combinatorial and Dialogic Principles for New Forms
The remix of materials, mediums, sources, genres, traditions, histories, and subcultures that are part of the Pop Art story provide an important case study for the generative principles of dialogism and combinatorial rules within artmaking concepts. "Pop" principles of combinatoriality and a hybridity of means, materials and sources have remained a permanent way of working in contemporary art.

Warhol and other Pop artists raided the "cultural encyclopedia" and presented new kinds of imagery and works in a "high art" context that had never been done before. Pop de-aestheticized canonical art history, and aestheticized popular mass media imagery, commercial design, and commercial mediums. The rest is (our) history.

Readings and Resources (Read in this order)

  • Eric Shanes, Pop Art. (Excerpts. Available only to GU students.)
    [A good survey with historical background. Many good full-page images. Study for contexts and many examples of art works that form the art historical definition of pop and related art forms from the 1960-80s.]
  • Honnef, Pop Art, 6-26; sections on Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Warhol.
  • More advanced art theory background reading: first definitions of "Pop Art":
  • Martin Irvine, "Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture." See the concluding section on dialogism and remix in visual art (Rauschenberg as the example).
  • Working with the idea of "the cultural encyclopedia" and institutionalized "art history":
  • Useful review of Rauschenberg Exhibition
    • Michael Kimmelman, "Art Out of Anything," Review of Robert Rauschenberg, Combines, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Times, 12.23.2005.

Image Library for Study: Image Library (Irvine): Click on slideshow and full screen.

Lecture and Discussion Notes

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

Using the terms and concepts from the readings and from prior weeks, discuss 2-3 works by Rauschenberg or by a related artist in the 1960s for the methods of combination and hybridizing used of sources and kinds of "content". What categories are combinable? What difference do shifts in medium and inclusion of non-"high art" materials and subject matter make to the meaning of the works?

8   Andy Warhol and After: Hybrid Art Forms and the Global Artworld []

“Pop art is liking things.”
"It’s just taking the outside and putting it on the inside or taking the inside and putting it on the outside."
—Andy Warhol

Warhol and the New Argument about Art: A New Generative Combinatoriality for Making Art
Pop artists mobilized postmodern ideas and strategies: combining high and low culture, appropriation, and new materials reframed for the artworld. Warhol, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein and many other artists in the 1960s-70s shared several parallel strategies that are now the common language of contemporary art. Here we'll focus on the concepts of hybridization that motivated Warhol's work, especially in his print making, paintings, and sculptures. (His films and photography are equally important but are best approached in a focused way beyond this brief introduction.)

What happened with Pop and Warhol was a new operational  theory of art: art was no longer a question of what could be determined by a traditional aesthetics and connoisseurship (class-based insider knowledge). Pop exposes the fallacy of believing that there can be obvious properties of art embodied in individual artworks that define the boundary between "art" and "non-art". For Warhol, "Art," continuing as an artworld production, was being redefined with many more kinds of arguments and positions, including irony, parody, pastiche and campy excess, as codes for making hybrid works based on popular media sources. Warhol used repetition and serial form (repeating images in different ways in a work and across works)--methods associated with industrial and machine processes for mass reproductions question core cultural values: originality, authenticity, uniqueness, the artwork as an expression of an artist's mind, soul, or intentions. Without stating so explicitly, of course, he grasped intuitively the function of combinatoriality and dialogism in making something new, the dialogic hybrid, and the way it can change the cultural conversation.

In the 1960s, popular media based on photography--TV, advertising images, movies, magazines--dominated attention (and they still do today!). Mass cultural imagery came bundled with popular consumer culture beliefs and values, which had been defined as the opposite of "Art" (capital "A" artworld art) in established culture for over a hundred years. But what if popular culture could be used as a source to merge with art history? Warhol de-aestheticized art history (as a body of imagery and history of prototypes to be reinterpreted) and aestheticized the "non-art" of popular culture imagery by selection, appropriation, and re-contextualizing. A transmedia collage provoking a new view of the recombinations.

Warhol’s friend Henry Geldzahler, then the curator of modern art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, recognized that the artist’s two great innovations were “to bring commercial art into fine art” and “to take printing techniques into painting. Andy’s prints and paintings are exactly the same thing. No one had ever done that before. It was an amazing thing to do.”

Warhol expanded the combinatorial and generative rules of art so that ideas, concepts, media, and techniques formerly excluded from the category of "art" were brought into a new art argument. He is also considered a "conceptual" artist with close connections to Dada and Duchamp, and can be considered a leader of the move toward conceptual art, positioning art as more about the artist's idea rather than the material artefact assumed to be made by an artist's craftsmanship. An art concept can be embodied in many kinds of material form (or lack thereof), including performance, ephemeral works, and time-based works.

So many art practices and genres today are Post-Warhol--street art, many kinds of hybrid and found imagery works, photography, appropriation art genres--in that they presuppose the ways of making art arguments with new materials that Warhol set into motion. Warhol understood the generative and combinatorial principles of art making, the ongoing dialogism of the art conversation, and mobilized the principles for his time and place. For those who take the time to get inside what he was up to, Warhol remains a "case study" for discovering how new hybrid forms are possible in specific cultural contexts. With the multiple cultural and institutional shifts that parallel the reception of Warhol and appropriation art through the 1980s-2000s, the concepts, techniques, and practices of this approach to art is now international, global, and taken for granted as part of the working methods of all artists.

Image Library: Warhol and the Pop Art Diaspora
[click on slideshow icon for fullscreen view]

Readings: Art Historical and Art Theory Contexts for Warhol (read in this order)

  • Metropolitan Museum, NY, "The Warhol Effect: A Timeline."
    A good overview of major events in Warhol's life, accompanying the Regarding Warhol: Sixty Years, Fifty Artists Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. Read for contexts and connections to other artists.
  • Richard Dormant, "What is an Andy Warhol." Review essay, The New York Review of Books. Oct. 2009.
    This essay reviews recent books about Warhol and also presents important conceptual details about Warhol's reuse of images and removing the hand of the artist from production. Selection of images and conceptual recontextualization became the primary "act" of the artist.
  • Arthur Danto, "Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary," From After the End of Art (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997): Chap. 1, pp. 3-19 (New York Times excerpt). (Pdf version here).
    Danto has an influential argument about the accepted logic of "art history" and how Warhol and 60s artists reject the "mission" to fulfill the accepted history. It's a good launchpad for considering the "end of art" debate in postmodernism, and the question of what comes after the grand narrative of art history ended (in one ideological form) and got reinvented (in another). Danto does not argue that art has, or will, end, but that the master narrative of art history that drove the concept of art until the 1960s had ended in its validating and justifying function within both the artworld and popular visual culture.

    Danto expanded on his earlier argument about the conceptual basis of Pop Art in "Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1974):
    • "what they [post-Duchamp and NY pop works in the 1950s-1960s] are about is aboutness, and their content is the concept of art. The artists might as appropriately have written a paper like this, called it The Transfiguration of the Commonplace--and counted their effort a contribution to the philosophy of art, the line separating the two having all but vanished."

    • Ben Davis, "What Arthur Danto Meant to Me." ARTINFO, Oct. 30, 2013. [Accessible appreciation of Danto's theories of art history and "the end of art."]
  • Thierry de Duve, "Andy Warhol, or The Machine Perfected," October 48 (1989).
  • Hal Foster, "Death in America," October 75 (1996). [On Warhol's Death and Disaster series and contexts of interpretation.]

Warhol Resources and Documentation on the Web

Post-Pop, Appropriation, and Hybrid Art, 1980s-2000s:

Martin Irvine, Presentation Background on International Post-Pop, 1980s-2000s (review first, will discuss in class)

Jeff Koons

Takashi Murakami and Japanese International Post-Pop

Wangechi Mutu: African-American Feminist Hybrid Art

Video Documentaries: Warhol (Andy would have loved YouTube)

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • Revised Assignment (instructions on Wordpress site)
    [Choice of topics: using the terms, concepts, and background in the readings (1) Choose a work (or group of related works) by Andy Warhol as a case study for thinking through the productive concepts of dialogism, hybridity, and intermediality that we have studied so far. Read the Art Historical Readings contexts for background, and refer to ideas in at least one of the arguments in the Major Art Historical studies readings. Do a bit more background research on the work(s) you have selected for the dialogic relationships involved in making and understanding the work(s). (2) Do a similar reading and interpretation of 1-3 works by an artist above who exemplifies the development of post-Pop hybridization (choose from Koons, Murakami, or Mutu).]
9   Street Art: Appropriation and Hybrid Art Remixed []

"Pop art took the inside and put it outside, took the outside and put it inside." --Andy Warhol

Street art has become a global hybrid art form, and is the first contemporary art movement fueled by the Internet and the easily accessible tools of blogs and social media sites for images and artist communities. There are countless forms, genres, and strategies for street art, but the defining characteristic is art that responds to a city, setting up a dialog with the streets in the sense of a context of visibility, a communication site, and an assertion of meaning and recognition in the dense visual culture of cities. Like any art form that merges with popular culture and populist messages, street art has prompted many imitators or wannabes, lame derivative works and acts, and all kinds of superficial pranks. We will consider some of the leading practitioners and innovative kinds of dialogic work being done from the 1990s to the present.

A Note on Doing Research:
Research on this topic requires background in multiple cultures and communities of practice (street and graf subcultures, art historical connections, mergers with the artworld and now hybrid forms in mainstream art practices, popular culture appropriations, music subcultures). Most of what you will read from quick Google searches will be useless fan and ethusiast rants and raves. The important historical digging and contextual interpretation will be difficult because not much of the street and graf movements have been seriously documented and studied, and, of course, because the genre is moving and developing in real time as a global contemporary art form.

Discussion Questions to think about:

  • How did "street art" and "graffiti art" become recognized cultural categories? What are the current hierarchies and categories of all this work inside and outside the established art world?
  • How does the "outside" become a privileged category "inside" the established art and media institutions?
    • Media coverage, rebel artist persona's, identity politics, art world institutions.
    • "Street cred," "authenticity," outsider status.
  • How do the people and genres continually cross-over institutional boundaries? Multidimensional cultural categories and differentiations, cross-category sourcing for hybrid art forms.
  • How is street art a form of Post-Pop: beyond, after, "pop," but possible only through the cultural preconditions and new market categories assumed since Pop.
  • Is "street art" also following the path of Pop art from a break-through, disruptive, or avant-garde movement to institutionalization, stylization, and commodity form?

Background theory, history, and context:

Sources and Readings

1980s: First Wave of post-Pop "street art": Jean-Michel Basquiat & Keith Haring

Street Art, 1990s-2000s: Documents and Sources

Major Museum and Gallery Exhibitions

Magazines and Websites Devoted to Street Art and Hybrid Art

Interviews and Videos

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

Using the background readings and drawing from the concepts we have been developing about the dialogic process, consider one of the exemplary street/hybrid artists above to discuss in the context of the approaches we have been using in the course so far. Choose from Keith Haring, Swoon, Shepard Fairey, and JR, or artists in the Art in the Streets exhibition above, for building out contexts, dialogic relations, and hybidization methods/principles in the works and situations of viewing and experience. Consider how all artworks are "site specific" in how we interpret meanings and values (street, studio, museum, gallery, etc.). How do you see the hybrid genres and media being used by street artists in a dialogic situation with cities and the complexities of visual culture in urban environments?

10   Photography to Post-Photography, Film, and Digital Imaging []

Photography is How We See, and Always Encoded in Specific Genre Frames

Photographic Genres as Ways of Seeing:
We never experience "photography" (in the abstract): we experience photographs, specific kinds of photographs (genres) framed by their uses and reception contexts (social and material).

Optical (Lens) Experience: The Social-Technical Assumption of Representation:
After around 150 years of being socialized into ways of seeing with photographs (and all lens based media, including film and video), and before that, becoming "optical" since the 15th century through paintings and drawings made with optical aids (lenses, camera obscura, mirrors), we arrive at an important social-technical intersection with digital photography. We have to learn how to look at photographs as social and cultural forms of representation to see how they work, and how we see and think "photographically".

Photographs and ritual use:
The genres and functions of the photograph have continued through many technical shifts: the iPhone and inexpensive digital cameras have confirmed Bourdieu's view of "the middle brow art form" in the millions of family and personal snapshots taken everyday, records of highly ritualized events, poses, contexts, views that conform to learned beliefs about what's pictorial, a portrait, the camera-moment.

From optics to pixel grid:

Photography has always been formed from hybridizing/new combinations of technologies and methods: the invention of photography involved optics (lenses) + chemistry + material support = photographic image.

Since the introduction of digital photography and the digital darkroom (Photoshop), we have seen a shift in thinking about/with photographic images:

from what the lens "sees" (principles of optics, focus, perspective, light sources), and metaphors of capturing, registering, mechanical means

to what a screen can display (digital pixels, imitation of camera lens point-of-view, focus, and perspective).

Now many images are made to look photographic, and are still called "photographs," whether a lens, or many lenses, were used in the making of the image.

Intersections of technologies and institutions:

Photography has always been linked to developments in technology for the film medium and cameras as optical light capturing devices. But the interesting history is found in the many conceptual uses of photography, the institutions and social organization of the medium, and the mass adoption of cameras in the middle class for "taking pictures" of family and domestic life.

What important ideas can we extrapolate from the social and technical history of photography, from early cameras to digital cameras and camera phones (iPhone)?

Post-Photographic Era: The Era of Ubiquitous Photography

Some observers and theorists of photography and film are talking about our current era being "post-photographic": we live in a culture trained to read photo-produced images (and images as judged or assumed to live up to photographic expectations), yet many of the images we experience every day imitate photographic features without being produced by (or solely by) a device with a lens and recording medium. What are the implications of living "post-photographic"? Is this an extension of the notion of the hyper-real? With photographic "realism" still providing the codes for "the real"?

Background and Sources

Introductory Readings, Theory, and Statements on Photography

  • André Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image," Film Quarterly, 1960. (Focus on pp. 6-9.)
  • Roland Barthes, "The Rhetoric of the Image," from Image, Music, Text, 1964.
  • Rosalind Krauss, "A Note on Photography and the Simulacral," October 31 (1984), especially pp. 55-62.
  • Christian Metz, "Photography and Fetish," October 34, 1985.
  • Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-Brow Art.
    • Extracts from Bourdieu, Photography. See especially Part 1, sec. 2. pp. 73-75 on "The Social Definition of Photography.
    • Main points: with the commercial success of small portable cameras in the 1950s-60s, following the adoption of photography in middle class families, photo taking became a form of socialization in middle class domestic life with many kinds of ritualized events and genres (portraits, snap shots, private events, travel, etc.). (This social foundation of ritualized uses precedes the more recent ubiquitous use of photos made with portable, inexpensive digital cameras and smart phones.)
  • Douglas Crimp, "The Photographic Activity of Post-Modernism," October 15, 1980.

Supplementary Background

On Questions of simulation and representation (post-Baudrillard, post-Matrix):

In-class discussion: leading photographers and hybrid genres

  • Artworld and Fashionworld: image making, branding, hierarchy management, cross-over image-making
    The Cross-Over Hybrid Network of High-Fashion, Fine Art Photography, and Advertising
  • In class screening of documentaries:
    Video documentaries of prominent photographers and their processes and medium:
    Sally Mann, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Jeff Wall, Nan Goldin, Chuck Close

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • Using the concepts and background in the readings, discuss 2-3 photographs by photographers from two different historical contexts (choose from the photographers cited or listed in the readings and backgrounds above). Think about the role of the medium and the genre(s) that the photographer was working with. Questions to consider: What are some of the main genres we experience everyday (ritualized snapshots, advertising, magazines, Websites, TV, in galleries/museums, etc.); how does the publication and material context of the photograph frame its meaning; thinking with Bourdieu and other theorists above, what do you make of the quantity of ritualized, personal snapshots and portraits done everyday with smart phones and posted to Facebook and Twitter?
11   Music Hybridity: Generative Remix Before and After the Digital Transition []

Learning Objectives:
What is the "Sound" of a Musical Form and How do We Recognize its Meaning?
Learning how to describe and interpret complex sound combinations in music and musical genres, and developing methods to describe the kinds of meaning elements that we commonly use to establish and create meaning in popular music.

Most popular music is experienced from recordings (vinyl to mobile devices). Popular music (as social artefacts circulating within communities) is inseparable from audio recording technologies and distribution of musical forms in market-driven genres. Knowing the history of music recording and studio practices is as important as the social and cultural history popular music genres (blues, jazz, folk, rock, hip hop, electronic, many contemporary hybrids). All popular music begins and continues in hybridization--blending and mixing cultural forms in their technical-mediated implementations.

This week we thus merge our reading and thinking about combinatorial systems (combinatoriality and generative meaning), dialogism, and the making new forms of meaning by hybridization with the technical media of creation, production, recording, modification, and distribution in a transmittable cultural artefact (the creative principles of a musical form + technical means of production and playback).

Remix and hybridity in music involves many aspects at multiple levels simultaneously:

1. At the macro-cultural level: "remix culture" and hybridity as the normal, living context of cultural production, which is now rendered more visibly as such through the digital media platform. We are now more aware that "new" stages in music are always hybrid, and that "traditional" or received music genres, though seeming to be a unified whole, were mixed to begin with.

2. At the level of music technology: recording and performance equipment, consumer playback equipment, technologies and instruments, software & hardware, networks of distribution (human-social and computer networks). The implications of the digital media platform for music, and the ongoing hybridization of forms, genres, sounds. Sampling, remix of sources in both studio recordings and live performance. If it exists, it will be combined and hybridized.

3. At the level of the cultures and sub-cultures of music production, styles, and genres: the remix and collage aesthetics of blues and jazz, electronic and digital music composition from the classical and "high" music culture traditions, hip-hop and the global hip-hop diaspora, reggae and dub music, disco and club music, global hybrid forms--all have their generative rules or shared logic of creation, collaboration, remaking, production and performance.

4. At the level of globalization, information flows, and the DNA of a networked world: Multi-sourcing of music post-globalization, hybrids of sources and digital sounds, horizontal recombinant DNA of contemporary music, real-time awareness of musical forms from cultures and sources all over the world. A networked urban phenomenon: music produced in global information cities, dense nodes of cultural information and remixing, distributed via the Web and Internet file sharing.

5. At the level of political economy, cultural goods, intellectual property, and the economic models for the production, ownership, distribution, and use of digital music: the ongoing debate about copyright, consolidation of "copyright portfolio" media corporations, Creative Commons and alternative legal and rights models, alternative distribution and licensing models. Music now considered a "service" on demand or token of social relations and exchange, rather than simply a product with discrete objects to be bought, sold, or licensed.

We can only hope to introduce some of the interesting topics in points 2, 3 and 4 in this unit. Perhaps you may be able to investigate other issues later.

Integrating concepts and approaches in the seminar:

Using examples from popular music genres, 1960s-present, we will apply our methods and concepts for interpreting and describing combinatoriality and hybridity in music meaning systems (the genres and styles and associated subcultures of music communities), especially in those cases where concurrent developments in musical forms and music technologies enabled new kinds of expression and genres. We will want to investigate the underlying logic or "deep structure" of generative and dialogic remix, how the rules or codes of a form (e.g., blues, rock, jazz, R&B genres, reggae, hip hop, electronic) enable combinations with new sounds, instruments, and technologies (from electronics to software and digital formats).

The readings below are important for providing some useful terms for description and ways of marking differences among forms and genres in the history of developments in music technologies for performance, recording, and playback. For example, in music genres understood today as being part of "remix culture," what are the symbolic, musical, and technical differences among recording styles and techniques (using studio techniques and equipment for duplication, repetition and variation), hybridization of genres in general, and explicit sampling (quotation) and/or recontextualizing prior recorded music and sound in new compositions? How do we decode and recognize the deeper "remix" from a cultural encyclopedia -- assuming as active in the background -- a community's collective knowledge of genres and specific compositions when the features of what is assumed is not an audible property of the music?

Background Readings

  • Martin Irvine, "Popular Music as a Meaning System" (a synthesis of music theory and methods with DIY music interpretation techniques) [we will begin with these methods and concepts this week, and continue next week]
  • Readings on music, recording, and technologies:
  • Alex Ross, “The Record Effect,” The New Yorker, June 6, 2005. [Short, accessible introduction to recording technologies.]
  • Mark Katz, Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). Excerpts from Chap. 1 and 7. [Excellent background on the social contexts of music recording history (Chap. 1), and digital music and sampling (Chap. 7).]
  • Paul Théberge, “ 'Plugged in': Technology and Popular Music.” In The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, edited by Simon Frith, Will Straw, and John Street, 3-25. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), Rhythm Science (finish book, listen to CD). (DJ Spooky's [Paul Miller] website)

Film and Video Documentaries [will screen sections and discuss in class]

Playlists (Required Listening)
[Please use good earphones. Control volume by mousing over the bars in the top right of the widget.]







Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • This week we will work out applications of the concepts of generative remix and combinatoriality in cultural forms in popular music genres. To apply our concepts on actual famous music examples, you will describe a representative set of songs or album-length collection from playlist A-D above, and think through the genre ideas that enable new combinations in the time and place of the album's production. (Alas, some important music prototypes like The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band --often argued as the most important rock-pop "concept album" and considered as a prototype to work with or against by hundreds of other musicians--is not available through the online streaming services. But see the Rolling Stone description in the 500 Greatest Albums, which places the album as no. 1.)
  • After listening to the selected iconic "prototype" songs in playlists 1-3, choose one of the concept albums (main selections) in playlists A-D for your descriptive essay. Of course, the playlists 1-3 aren't meant to be encyclopedic or provide models for everything in the albums selected in A-C, but you can probably make some conceptual connections and easily find hybrid remixes of ideas and styles. Do some background research on your album for the context of the recording and technologies used, and the creative combinations employed by the musicians.
  • Hints: Daft Punk, for example, wanted to make an encyclopedic album that "sampled" styles and genres that they see as part of their musical identity as "electronic" musicians, but using state-of-the-art technology to record live musicians mixed with digital sound sources and processes to make the music sound more "analog," more humanly preformed. (They cite the Beatles' and Pink Floyd's concept albums as models even though these are very different kinds of music.) The songs on Miles Davis's Kind of Blue were recorded in one take as a live performance (a high concept for capturing improvisation within a within a musical form in a recording studio), and the music channels the deep roots of African American blues into a hybrid modern jazz form (note the "shuffle blues" patterns in Playlist 1 which Davis re-harmonizes in different rhythms). Pink Floyd's famous album is a state-of-the-art encyclopedia of studio composition, recording, and mixing for rock at the height of the pre-digital analog studio of 1973. Janelle Monae's album is a tour-de-force of equally encyclopedic ambitions using the traditions of hip hop, soul, and dance music with all the resources of the digital studio. Do your best on discovering the networks of musical relations, and we'll discuss further methods of analysis and description in class.
12   Music and Video: Genre Hybridization and the Dialogic, Generative Grammar of Music []

De-Blackboxing the "Remix":
Using Recent Electronic Music and the Digital Music Software Platform to Understand Hybrid Music Combinations

Or, How to Understand Music as "Remix" With or Without "Cut 'n' Paste", Samples, or Covers

This week we continue from our investigations from last week to work out fuller descriptions of contemporary music forms with the main concepts we have developed in the seminar.

Review the concepts in weeks 3-4 and my introductory material below for ways to understand and describe the intertextual/intermedial and dialogic foundations for making new music.

Contemporary music as produced with software and digital sound--in the explicit software representation of layers and tracks that can be mixed and synced up in a recording or performance--opens up ways to understand how meaningful hybrid combinations can be created in music composition. As listeners in a cultural community (and communities), we live in an ever-accruing cultural encyclopedia of genres, styles, and prototype songs and sounds that we use to recognize and understand musical forms. We draw from many possible "layers" of music sources and sound features, from blues, jazz, rock, electronic, hip hop, and contemporary mixed-genres in a continuum of ongoing hybridization. What makes all the meaningful combinations possible is a generative grammar of musical forms and elements of meaning, all of which are difficult to describe. This week we'll develop some working vocabulary and techniques for describing the meanings of music that are all around us every day.

Background and Theory:

On the Music Studio as an Instrument and Integrative Creative Platform

Playlist Reference Index (Grooveshark)

  • Recognizing "Sound Stacks": What's in a Signature Sound and What Does it Mean in Our Culture?
  • Play the first 2-5 seconds of these tracks first to see if you could recognize the sound anywhere, then longer sequences to see how the sounds fit in our larger network of sound-meanings in the "cultural encyclopedia."
  • Interpretive "Remix"
    (1) Charlie Parker, "April in Paris" sampled / homage in (2) Amon Tobin, "Stoney Street" (electronic/hybrid)
    (3) Billie Holiday, "Summertime" (original big band recording), remixed in (4) in "remix" series for Verve.
    (5) Billie Holiday, "Speak Low" remixed and rearranged by Bent.
    (6) Dinah Washington, "Is You Is or Is You Ain't," Verve remix.
    (7) Natalie Cole and Nat Cole, "Unforgettable." Studio over-dub mix with Natalie singing duet with (deceased) father's famous recording.
    (8) Bob Marley & Lee Scratch Perry, "Sun is Shining" (dub version). Perry is a main pioneer in dub recording and the "versioning" process in Jamaican reggae studios before sampling in hip hop and rap.
    (9) and (10) Patti Page, "Old Cape Code" (in over dub harmonies from 1950s recording) remixed/rearranged by Groove Armada as their track "At the River."
    (11)-(14) First four tracks from Thievery Corporation's Mirror Conspiracy album (discussed in detail in the essay above), exemplifying hybrid remixes of styles and genres without quotation or reuse of recordings.
    (15-17) Three songs representing interpretive remix of styles and genres produced by Thievery Corporation.

Film Documentary

  • Press/Pause/Play (website). On Vimeo (HD). [We will devote a major portion of class time to screen sections of the film and discuss ideas in class.]

Background and Reference Sources for Electronic and Digital Music

Background on the History of Popular Music Genres and Prototype Songs & Musicians

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • Use this worksheet and guide for the assignment, and print out the second page: Music Analysis Worksheet.
    This week will allow you to work through a synthesis of theories and methods in the seminar. Thinking through the music meaning models and main concepts outlined in my intro essay, "Popular Music as a Meaning System", expand on your approaches from last week for a more detailed description of 1-2 songs in their dialogic contexts. Using the Music Analysis Worksheet, describe the combinatorial vocabularies and encyclopedic dialogic meanings of your example(s) as instances of a genre or combined, hybrid genres. You can provide links or embedded video/audio in your written essay. We will also work through examples in class together using the Music Analysis Worksheet for group DIY decoding.
13   Hybrid Bodies, Genders & Cyborgology: A "Posthuman" Future? []

The Human Body as Hybrid Symbolic Medium:
Body-Machine and Sexual Hybridities

"Sex times technology equals the future - that's one of the most powerful equations there is going. You can't shut it off, you can't smother it with brackets and parentheses, hide it away in a footnote. It's there."
--J.G. Ballard (Interview, Spin Magazine, 1989)

This week is a kind of coda for the semester, shifting from cultural hybridity to the issues being studied in organic-technology combinations that are now both realities and projections of myths, fantasies, fears, and desires. This context has been termed the posthuman, transhuman, or variations on cybernetic machine-brain-body fusions.

The ultimate combinatorial hybrid is the fusion of human and machine, especially the fusion of human bodies with cybernetic machines--computers and networks--in the idea of the cyborg (cybernetic organism).

Hybrid, mixed identities for our bodily and social selves creates ambiguity and uncertainty--conditions that produce anxieties, fears, repressions, denials, and misrecognitions. In many ways, the mixing, crossings, and hybrid states of the human body (the sexed body), the human brain, and sexual identity have become the ultimate frontier of anxieties, repressions, and transgressions. The human body (real, imagined, and fantasized) remains the ultimate "platform" for mixing meanings, messages, desires, and fears.

In cultural representations, we have a long history of machine-body fantasies, spanning from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Fritz Lang's Metropolis to the most recent cyborg and android movies and imagery. Recent fantasies of cyborgs, androids, futuristic bodies, and "super heroes" (e.g., Xmen, Avengers) combine these forms in a variety of bodily fetishes and fantasies.

In recent intersections of postmodern and feminist/gender theory, questions about the complexity of sexuality, gender, desire, and the human body are combined with questions about the ideology of "Man" or "human" and technology in the long tradition of humanist thought. The recent debates on the "posthuman" intersect with the long-term problematizing of sexuality in gender studies and feminist thought.

Although we can only touch on the larger issues here, let's consider the question of ultimate taboo hybridities in the body, sex, gender, and the multiple technologies that are now embedded in our experience of the body and what it symbolizes in culture.

Why are human-machine and human-computer hybrids imagined and represented the way they are in popular culture? What fears and anxieties are usually project onto hybrids (cyborgs, androids, mutants) represented in repressed forms? Why are cyber-selves, like those in The Matrix and Avatar, always imaged as sexier, stronger, and freer than "real (organic-bodily) selves"? What are our fantasies of androids, mutants, and cyborgs telling us? How are they used to trouble sex and gender identities and categories?

Many writers have commented on machines and technologies as "prostheses" (extensions, externalizations of functions) of the body and human organs. Are all of our "smart devices" prostheses that alter our body/machine relationships? Are we all "cyborgs" in the sense of using computation and machine extensions of our minds and bodies?

Fashion and fetish are now symbolic technologies for the body, and many kinds of body modification are mainstream "consumer" items in Western societies. What happens when the sexed human body--and the body fused with machine and computer intelligence--is the symbolic medium?

Orientations to the Question of Humanity, Technology, Hybrid Bodies

  • Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (Das Unbehagen in der Kultur; literally "The Uneasiness in Culture") (1930) (Wikipedia overview) (etext excerpts).

    Freud's famous essay looks at the effects of modern industrial society on the human psyche. Major arguments: individual and collective/social repression of libido and aggression is the price we pay for "civilization" (Kultur). We need to recognize the effects of civilization's alibis and repressions for not dealing with libido, resulting in the return (and revenge) of the repressed in other forms. Machines and technologies are seen as prostheses of human mental and bodily functions that we have not adapted to.

    This view is closely parallel to Freud's study of "The Uncanny" (Unheimlich), the sense of strangeness, uncertainty, fear, and anxiety felt when encountering objects or beings (fictional or real) not clearly animate or inanimate, human or nonhuman (like robots, cyborgs, and monsters) (etext excerpts).
  • Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: Summary of main arguments.
    Foucault's reinterpretation of formerly accepted views of Victorian and modern repression: sex is always "put into discourse." By extrapolation, the sexualized fantasies as represented in imagined cyborgs and androids enable expression of forbidden or taboo desires by transferring them to "machines" (which we "know" are not "real").
  • Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999).
    Excerpts from Prologue and Chapter 1.
    How has our technological culture, with many kinds of human-machine inter-dependencies, exposed problems and contradictions in the earlier humanist idea of a pure "human" nature as a universal value? Does technological inter-dependence create new conditions for "being human" which requires a new concept of the human?
  • Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto" (excerpt from Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181: pdf.
    An influential view of postmodern sexuality and gender that uses the idea of the cyborg as a symbol for re-imagining hybrid sexual and gender identity. How can we use the idea and imagined representations of cyborgs and androids as ways of thinking more deeply about what is repressed and misrecognized about the body, sex identity, and hybrid or mixed states of identity?

Popular Culture Imaginary from Frankenstein to Cyborg/Android Movies and Television
(We will screen some of these in class.)

  • Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982) (from the novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick)
    Replicants (androids): dystopian future and film noir femme fatale meets sexual fetishization of the cyborg/android.
    Screening in class: bio-tech birth of the Replicants; Dekard's visit to the uncanny "friends" of Sebastian and fight scene with Pris. Frankenstein moments in Roy's coming to self-consciousness and wants to meet his maker.
  • James Cameron, dir. The Terminator I (1984) and II (1992). Wikipedia background on series. Machines and advanced intelligent computer networks create hypermasculine time-traveling cyborg soldiers. Arnold Schwarzenegger's character of the cyborg "Terminators" became a reference point for imagining the mythology. Classic dystopian scenario with a touch of the leather kink.
  • Robocop (1987), Dir. Paul Verhoeven (remake scheduled for 2014). A cop in the dystopian future of Detroit is brutally murdered by a police-protected drug gang and then revived--modern Frankenstein style--as a programmed cyborg cop with his human identity memory erased (almost). The police dept. has been outsourced to a private corporation, which is building robotic and automated "policing" weapons and developing programmable cyborgs as "super police". What could possibly go wrong?
  • Cyborg, Dir. Albert Pyun (1989). B-movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a martial-arts-skilled cyborg in a dystopian plague-ridden future. A sequel, Cyborg 2, with Angelina Jolie, was released in 1993. These "bad" movies are good for revealing what is "derivative" from earlier movie concepts and formation of the common, stock mythology canonized in Hollywood movie plots.
  • The Borg in the Star Trek series (Next Generation TV series and movies) (1989-90s): one imaginary for the borg-sexed hive-mind body: 7 of 9 and the Borg Queen. Popular and successful representations of cyborg bodies and sexualities, and the "dehumanizing" threats perceived in human/cyborg/machine fusions.
  • Eve of Destruction (1991): the value of B-movies for revealing the popular psyche: gender on the rampage.
    Eve 8 is a weaponized cyborg, and becomes the sexualized and aggressive version of her designer. A female cyborg designed to pass as human for military intelligence with a fully armable nuclear bomb in her torso. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Robert Longo, dir. Johnny Mnemonic (1995). Based on a 1981 short story by William Gibson, an early conception of the wetware data world in Neuromancer ("jacking in" to cyberspace with brain interface connections). Production not approved by Gibson. Wikipedia background.
  • Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell (1995) (Anime: 1995; based on the manga begun by Masamune Shirow in 1989; English version, 1995).
    A very influential anime (major inspiration for The Matrix) that imagines sentient androids (organic and machine/computational intelligence) as workers and data carriers, who also achieve self-consciousness to question the nature of their existence and their "soul" (the "ghost in the machine"), a Frankenstein theme. Wikipedia background. Clip: birth of The Major (cyborg) scene.
  • Andy and Larry Wachowski, The Matrix (1999), The Matrix: Reloaded (2003), Matrix Revolutions (2003); Warner Bros. Matrix site.
    The "Matrix self" is sexier, aestheticized, stronger, idealized, fire-arms and martial arts proficient, preferably dressed in black vinyl and leather from a high-end designer fetish boutique.
  • Appleseed Ex Machina (2007) CG anime film and is the sequel to the 2004 Appleseed film, similarly directed by Shinji Aramaki, and was produced by Hong Kong director and producer John Woo.
    This movie takes the anime cyborg to new levels of detail with 3D animation and CGI effects for rendering a cinematic experience.
  • I, Robot; Avatar; Minority Report; A.I.; etc.: ongoing aestheticization of body-machine, utopian projections thwarted by machine catastrophes, and repressed sexualities. Movies from around 2003-present mainly implement an established Hollywood formula, which often recycles the earlier ideas in action/adventure and monster-movie genre frameworks.

Weekly Student Discussion (Wordpress Site)

  • Using concepts from the seminar and the readings above, discuss hybridity in the body with technical/scientific interventions or hybrid configurations of sex and gender. Interpret one or two examples in popular culture of hybridity or mixed identities in the body, and/or questions of the technological condition of being human, and the anxieties and questions that these ideas provoke. Beyond the obvious medical interventions with prostheses and implants, what do you find in the ways that "body-machine" and "computer-human" combinations are represented and imagined?
14   Final Projects: Presentations and Discussion []

Discussion of final projects

Final Project Essay Instructions and Resources (read instructions first)

In class: round table discussion of research projects in progress.

Due date: final project essays are due one week after the last day of class.

Archive of earlier student essays: scroll down to heading for final projects by semester.