In my previous posts about remix culture, I have been exploring the implications of using already published artwork to create something new. Now, I have attempted to sample and remix images, music, sound effects and spoken voices, and YouTube videos to completely understand the process of reusing material.
The majority of the images we consume online are bitmaps, rather than vector graphics. Even a Google Images search for vector graphics will display bitmap images. A bitmap is a horizontal and vertical orientation of coloured pixels, whereas a vector graphic is a path, defined by start and end points. It is in this way that a vector graphic does not lose its image quality when it is resized – it is not made up of a specific number of dots, which when stretched become pixelated.
This exercise required us to remix bitmap and vector images that we were able to find on the internet. Once I had obtained a bitmap image (in this case the face of a celebrity), I opened it in Adobe Photoshop and selected one half of the face. After horizontally flipping the selection, the portraits were given the effect of being symmetrical. It is the belief of artist Alex John Beck in his work Both Sides Of (2013), that “a perfectly symmetrical face is the most beautiful.” Whilst Beck’s artwork has proven his theory, and further, has identified, for him, the character the face embodies, viewing an individual with a perfectly symmetrical face can be unsettling. Once I had created perfectly symmetrical faces in my celebrity portraits, I significantly increased the contrast of the images and slightly altered the brightness to give my collages the effect of being a vector image themselves. The vector graphic I opted to work with is an image of a bee. Appropriately entitled Queen Bee, I aimed to create a small series of vector styled bitmap collages which reflected the way in which the media portrays remix culture to consumers, and in turn how that depiction ultimately affects our perceptions of these individual celebrities.
My first collage piece depicts Taylor Swift with the bee graphic covering her mouth and leading the word: reformed. The acclaimed singer/songwriter has always be the subject of criticism in the media for her good girl image, paired with music that “calls out” the negative instances in her love life. The release of Swift’s latest album 1989 (which is entirely composed of pop tracks, rather than country), and more specifically the music video to Bad Blood, however, have seen the media paint the artist in a more positive light – as reformed. This media portrayal of Taylor Swift has allowed for consumers to perceived her as a positive figurehead of and advocate for the music industry, and further, has allowed for her to be viewed as a strong and successful female and not as someone with a “long list of ex-lovers”. A perception is easily changed with a music video that is a remix of common sci-fi and action film tropes itself.
I chose the portrait of Lady Gaga as my next collage, pairing it with the bee graphic on her forehead and the word: original. Lady Gaga has maintained a certain and incredibly outstanding individuality about her music and fashion statements throughout her career. Consumers, whilst undeniably aware and in awe of the artist’s persona, are frequently swayed by the media to hold the perception that she is not as original as we would like to believe. When Lady Gaga’s song Born This Way was released in 2011, after praising the inspirational qualities of the song, the media quickly encouraged consumers to become interested in the feud Madonna wanted to broadcast over the similarities it shared with her 1990’s hit Vogue. A perception is easily changed when two songs are seemingly familiar to one another.
My final collage piece depicts Nicki Minaj with the same bee graphic and the word: angry. Minaj’s track Anaconda from her album The Pink Print, heavily samples Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 song Baby Got Back and is a clear example of remix culture. In my depiction of the artist, however, I have included the word angry because the media quickly turned Nicki Minaj’s commentary as to the state of her record – and other artists falling within the similar genre as her – not being nominated for awards into a Twitter war. The celebrities involved in this wrongly conceived Twitter war did not intend for any comments to be made as they were – it was a misunderstanding but this did not stop consumers from readily defending and aggressively attacking each respective artist involved. A perception is easily changed when the media is able to manipulate the context of the artwork and comments made on the internet.
Utilising Audacity, I attempted to create a sound piece that (in the very least) was bearable to listen with each feature of the track complimenting one another. I began with downloading a synthesised drum and bass guitar loop from Looperman, and repeated it until the duration reached just over the minute mark. I then reduced its tempo by -12% and used the studio fade-out effect to end the track altogether. I then sourced an electric guitar loop that resembled a dance track, and repeated it until it also lasted in duration for just over a minute.
After sourcing a memorable film quote from Forrest Gump (1994): “My Mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get'”, I used an online converter to change the audio from the webpage into an MP3 file. I initially left the spoken audio as a whole quote early on in the track, but then layered it in sections later on. I then copied the section of: “…you never know what you’re gonna get” and deepened the reverberation of it before giving it an echo and repeating this technique at the very end of the track.
Following the theme of sourcing the spoken voice (or the lyrics) from Hollywood Blockbusters, I downloaded Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous lines of “Hasta La Vista, Baby” (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991) and “I’ll be back” (The Terminator, 1984). Using the phaser effect, I increased the stages of the first quote to 11, the dry/wet aspect to 199 and the depth to 255 to deepen the sound of it. Towards the end of the duration of the track I copied the quote and increased the reverberation of it and provided it with an echo with a delay of 1 second and a decay of 0.75. With the second quote, I again increased its reverberation, provided it with an echo and utilised the Wah Wah effect to allow for each aspect of the track to compliment one another.
I sourced Russell Crow’s line: “What we do in life, echoes in eternity” from the 2000 film Gladiator. Initially I echoed the quote and left the remainder of the track alone because I felt it fit quite nicely for a reflective piece. As I continued to listen to it, however, I cut the quote in half, and copied and quietened “What we do in life…” and placed it earlier on in the track to leave “…echoes in eternity” towards the end of the sound’s duration.
Aesthetically, whilst genuinely hoping I could create these tracks to sound bearable to the human ear, I wanted to develop a series of almost dance sounds that complimented famous Hollywood Blockbuster quotes. It is in this way that I wanted to demonstrate the key concept of remix culture: transforming the old into the new. For the last five or so years, dance tracks have been on the rise. They typically fall into the KLF’s category of “bad, pop music” that consumers want shoved down their throats because they possess a broad mainstream appeal that makes these tracks easy to listen to and familiar to us all. I wanted to exaggerate this theory and recreate this idea of music, pairing it with memorable quotes that a good majority of the population should be familiar with. I aimed to create a soundscape with these three tracks that demonstrates the positives of remix culture – the familiarity of the old, and the community-centred culture that opens up a dialogue on the new.
Taking on inspiration from Ophir Kutiel, who is better known online as the video and sound artist Kutiman, and his Thru You project (wherein he took segments from YouTube videos and pieced them together to create a comprehensive album), I aimed to recreate Wheatus’ iconic track Teenage Dirtbag (2000) by combining covers of the song and its instrumentals by a varied range of artists. In order to compile my remix video, however, I began by utilising an online converter to convert the YouTube videos into MP3 files so that I could use Audacity to arrange the tracks as I wished them to sound.
From YouTube I selected a drum, bass, and guitar cover to layer each, and deepen the quality of the track using the “wall of sound” principle: the videos featured Wheatus’ original track beneath the instruments, therefore composing layer upon layer of the music track before the lyrics were sung and compiled as further layers. Each of the owners of the videos were, what I believed to be, enthusiasts of the song, who had all uploaded their respective covers to showcase the passion they have for their instruments and music in general. I then sourced a number of lyrical covers by well known bands (those in the first few pages of the YouTube search) and recreational musicians  and layered segments of each throughout the duration of the track as I saw fitting.
Once I had recreated Teenage Dirtbag to a standard wherein an audience could understand the lyrics and instrumental progression of the sourced covers and would be able to bear to listen to it, I used another online converter to convert the YouTube videos to MP4 files.
Using Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11, I trimmed each clip and ordered them with the attempt to have the visual match the audio. As I had different covers layered upon each another that I wanted to be heard all at once, I decided to edit some of the videos and make them into split screens, or have each video layered over the other to create almost a ghosting effect.
Whilst this is in no way the most effective cover of Teenage Dirtbag, nor is it at all something most people would find themselves enjoying, I believe I have created a video that comprehensively showcases remix culture. In terms of remix culture, I wanted to highlight the community it creates. One song that is known to a significant amount of consumers around the world has been taken and covered time and time again in different ways. It is in this way that remixes create a community; those who like the song make a cover of it and upload it, to which we, as consumers, hear it and evaluate it to our standards. Our favourite artists make a cover of it and it brings together a fan base or even introduces new fans to bands, singers and songwriters that they may not have ever have heard of otherwise. Remix culture brings enthusiasts together into a widespread community and further, allows for the recreation and enjoyment of our favourite art in many different ways. I would have, however, liked to have used each of the YouTube videos I sourced more effectively and to have utilised more of the covers of the track that have been uploaded. Aesthetically, the video is chaotic and the timing of it to the audio is slightly mismatched in areas, but it is in this way that it is effective. Remix culture is chaotic as there are no rules (speaking artistically, rather than in terms of copyright legislation) as to what an amateur – or even an expert – are allowed to recreate to call their own.
For my second video, I wanted to remix a general idea or aesthetic, rather than sourced videos themselves. It is quite common for novice video artists to want to showcase locations, and the beauty that they behold. It is also a technique for travel themed videos to depict a location from the point of view of a tourist or the lens of a camera. I wanted to take both of these aesthetics and remix them into one video with my own footage taken between the Bendigo La Trobe Campus and Victoria Hill Mining Reserve as I was ‘chasing the sunset’.Using an iPhone 6 Plus and iMovie, I found it easy to split segments of the footage I had taken and join it to make a linear story that fell to the beat of Flume’s What You Need (2012). The clip of the sunset itself was a time-lapse taken over half an hour and then sped up to be four times quicker than it initially was.
I wanted to explore a different take on remix culture through this video. Remix culture is not limited to taking already published work and recreating it, or making a homage to it. In this instance, I wanted to show that remix culture can also be explored through recreating your own artwork by utilising it in different ways. Clips that I had taken to remember my weekend away were easily cut, transformed, remixed and paired with a music track to create a short video that presents a few locations within Bendigo through the viewpoint of myself and a camera lens.