In our contemporary cultural mixonosphere we're confronted by everything from labradoodles to mashups to hybrids all seeking validation with our pleasure receptors be it music, or literature, or fine arts, and media arts. While each new mix, blend, amalgam, and alloy all have their own unique set of genres and discrete areas of miximal innovation, above it all, there is a larger meta principle at work.

Conceptual art is more concerned with ideas or concepts than any specific materials or techniques of execution and is best described by Sol Lewitt, one of the pioneers of conceptual art in his essay Paragraphs on Conceptual art “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.  When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair.”

It is this conceptional shared thought, ethos and purpose that defined the first millennial zeitgeist and all the richness of fruits that it bore.  

Expanding the notion of appropriation into more conceptual approaches were collectives such as Ant Farm, a San Francisco avant-garde arts, installation, and performance collective famous for its demonstrative critique of the intersection of media and technology. Founded by Chip Lord and Doug Michels, the Ant Farm 1975 Media Burn project is perhaps the group’s most remembered work. Dressed as astronauts, the pair drove an embellished, space-age Cadillac at full throttle, crashing through a wall of flaming TV sets in the parking lot of San Francisco’s Cow Palace.

In 2009, they recreated their original Media Van for the San Francisco Museum of Art. The Media Van had various plugs and connectors that allowed the museum-goers to upload images, videos, and songs onto the van’s internal hard drive.

The van was then preserved as a time capsule, with a planned reopening in 2030. Experiments such as these opened the floodgates to media, technology, and conceptual digital works all mashed together into cross-genre categories—effectively modernizing the principles or philosophy of the 1960s Fluxus art movement to produce new specialized millennial forms of art (more on Fluxus later).

More and more, creative and information narratives rely on multimedia techniques that are the combination of more than one media type experienced simultaneously. The marriage of pure music forms into visualized performance, such as the fourteenth-century Noh or Nogaku form of classical Japanese musical drama or the sixteenth-century invention of opera, combined performance, visual arts, and music to deliver a transformational experience not found in any single discrete channel contained within the overall experience.

Another obvious example is the marriage of text and pictures, such as found in magazine formats, in which each discrete channel (text or pictures) combines together with the other to provide a synergy that supports both. Amplify this simple principle into the technology explosion of today, and you’ll find new experiences that are transformational and immersive, combining radically different sources and channels of information into wonderful new blended experiences or sometimes just random chaotic torture.

too much drama, not enough Rama
— Tab

The Zen simplicity of passive exposure to singular linear media (such as listening to a song) will always be a part of the human cultural experience. More is not always more. I like to describe this as “too much drama, not enough Rama” (Rama, a colloquial contraction of Ramayana, the story of the Hindu preserver-god Vishnu and, more specifically, to the concept of inner peace and happiness).

When this new multimedia mashup approach works, it is the promise of all our senses and brain and soul tied together in magnificent new ways we never dreamed a generation ago. You’ll notice the addition of a text crawl to read while watching your TV news, the inclusion of video inside of written stories found in online newspaper websites, or smart Blu-ray DVD players connected to the Internet that deliver “extras,” such as audio and text overlays and interactive elements superimposed on your favorite rerelease of Casablanca.

The term fluxus or intermedia denotes the indefinable and perplexing interdisciplinary mashup that occurs between genres—areas such as those found somewhere between painting and poetry, or between sculpture and theater. Combining techniques, materials, and modalities in new and interesting ways has a rich evolutionary history in the world of art, performance, writing and other forms of creative expression. 

The 1940s creation of avant-garde composer John Cage known as the prepared piano (the term for placing various physical objects inside the piano or attaching various processes that interfere with the piano’s sound in unusual ways) was a basis from which he wrote frequent dance-related works and a small assortment of concert works, the best known being Sonatas and Interludes (1946–1948). This invention quickly made Cage one of the most controversial composers of his or any time.

The 1963 Exposition of Music—Electronic Television by artist Nam June Paik, embodied the neo-Dada art movement known as Fluxus, originally founded by George Maciunas. Fluxus is also described as intermedia, a term coined by Fluxus artist Dick Higgins in a famous 1966 essay  "Could it be that the central problem of the next ten years or so, for all artists in all possible forms, is going to be less the still further discovery of new media and intermedia, but of the new discovery of ways to use what we care about both appropriately and explicitly?"

The Exposition of Music—Electronic Television showcased Paik’s transition from music to the electronic image. The presentation included four prepared pianos along with various mechanical sound-generating objects and recording-tape playback installations along with twelve modified TV sets and—if that was not enough—the head of a freshly slaughtered ox above the entrance. This was a definitive intermedia (or, as we’d call it today, multimedia) experience that was, at the time, both new and shocking but in the words of Dick Higgins, was it presented both appropriately and explicitly? Explicitly for sure.

ElectronicRevolution.jpg

The aforementioned writings found in Burroughs’ (1971) Electronic Revolution essay collection influenced various musicians in the 1970s, such as the industrial music movement’s Cabaret Voltaire, a band named after the original and infamous Cabaret Voltaire, a bohemian nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland, that was a center for the early Dada school.

Richard H. Kirk, a member of the Cabaret Voltaire band, borrowed many ideas and processes from Burroughs’ writings in the formation of his music. In an essay titled The Lost Tapes of Carl Weissner, Claude Pélieu and Mary Beach, 1967-1969 by Edward S. Robinson Kirk describes Burroughs’ revolution as “a handbook of how to use tape recorders in a crowd . . . to promote a sense of unease or unrest by playback of riot noises cut in with random recordings of the crowd itself.” Cabaret Voltaire later became one of the most influential industrial music groups through its early experimental techniques of mixing pop with techno, dub house, and nontraditional electronic sounds.

In the millennial decade, traditional monolinear notions, such as music genres and their root categories, routinely incorporate multiple, cultural mashing principles—such as found with Dread Zeppelin, a band that plays reggae versions of Led Zeppelin hits with Elvis-flavored vocals. Tortelvis, Butt-Boy, Ziggy Knarley, Bob Knarley, Spice, and Charlie Haj created the miximal group, which reportedly moved Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant to call it his “favorite Led Zeppelin cover band ever!”

Repurposed technology also has a special place in miximal multimedia experiences. The presentation software from Microsoft called PowerPoint® is hated by both authors and audiences alike. As a communication tool for presenting narrative information, PowerPoint has spawned its very own category of business specialists I like to call CPOs, or chief PowerPoint officers. No amount of donuts or secret Blackberry® texting can help one endure hours of bar charts and bulleted text slides that will eventually break even the most avid CPO.

The former Talking Heads member David Byrne’s 2001 Indices was an exploration of PowerPoint-as-art, about which he states, “It started off as a joke . . . but then the work took on a life of its own.” Truly a daring and dangerous example of drama vs. Rama, and, interesting as it was, the pain of so many presentations in conference rooms is just too fresh in my mind for me to appreciate it.

Early experiments in technology as music led to various artifacts, such as the theremin, an early electronic musical instrument that senses the position of the player’s hands. It is named after the Russian inventor Professor Leon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928. It produced an eerie sound that was featured in such movie soundtracks as The Day the Earth Stood Still and led to a school of audio experimentation known as circuit bending, pioneered by Reed Ghazala in the 1960s.

Circuit Bending a Furby -- Nikki Pugh

Circuit Bending a Furby

-- Nikki Pugh

Circuit bending is the imaginative practice of short-circuiting electronic devices, such as low-voltage devices and children’s toys, to create repurposed sound generators that ultimately gave way to synthesizers, samplers, and other mainstream embodiments. Electronic musical instruments married perfectly with the parallel development of video production tools, and the mixing of audio, video, and interactive gear quickly grew. Check out tabTV's Circuit Bending playlist.

Machinima (a portmanteau word combining machine and cinema) is a spectacular and extremely popular example of current technology bending for art. Machinima is the repurposing of game machines, such as Xbox, into film-creation tools (but more on that later). Be sure to also check out tabTV's Machinima playlist.

With much historical precedent, it is specifically the current acceleration of the cross-pollination of miximal principles and influences between the various spheres of creation and invention that defines miximalism as a broad and pervasive millennial phenomenon.

As we see art, technology, music, and media combining and recombining in so many new forms, I hope that you’ll enjoy discovering the influences and archetypes that we’ll cover in this blog and be able to distinguish nebulas from pulsars as you gaze into the sea of stars—or YouTube stars—now appearing on your TiVo, your cell phone, and, yes, even your TV.

 I downloaded a photo of every cat toy for sale on amazon, and made an interactive catalog out of it. --Jim Bumgardner

 I downloaded a photo of every cat toy for sale on amazon, and made an interactive catalog out of it.

--Jim Bumgardner

As we journey together through this exploration, we will come to understand the provenance of miximal forms, the many examples of miximal efforts—both tragic and triumphant—and gain a working understanding of the inherent challenges and opportunities of this pervasive cultural phenomenon that delivers on the realization that miximalism is more than a trend and perhaps more than a movement—it might possibly become known as the period of art we are all collectively experiencing in our lifetimes.

Whether you’re an artist, a fan, or just an interested layperson, a working understanding of miximalism and its rich and diverse embodiments will change your notion of “500 channels and nothing to watch” into an all-you-can-eat buffet of mouthwatering deliciousness. Be sure to check out my meMEguide and learn more about all the various forms.


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AuthorRichard Cardran

Each and every form of miximal expression can trace its roots to historical schools of theory and practice, and so does visual media. Admittedly, the majority of this blog relies heavily on examples of visual media (what are quaintly known as film and television) to illustrate the most-popular forms of the miximal genre. While I’ve covered a few examples of music genres so far, such as mashups and remixes, and artistic techniques, such as collage, the wealth of implementations in the visual arts is vast and diverse and frequently eludes the casual observer.

Addled ad men and a marketing guru appear in "Aluminum or Glass," a video by Tim Maloney and Negativland onOur Favorite Things. Image: Courtesy of Negativland

Addled ad men and a marketing guru appear in "Aluminum or Glass," a video by Tim Maloney and Negativland onOur Favorite Things. 

Image: Courtesy of Negativland

Not unlike staring at the stars in the sky, it’s hard to tell a nebula from a galaxy—or, in this case, a cutup from a mashup—without the proper tools and background. Since this section of the blog is simply a quick overview, I’ll limit this to just a few examples for now.

Probing deep into the time tunnel well beyond the Dramatic Chipmunk remixes, we find a well-documented 1920s movement within Soviet film culture known as Soviet montage theory that attempts to officially define the various techniques of the cinematic montage.  This school was arguably led by Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein, noted theorist and film director of such epics as Battleship Potemkin and Oktyabur (known in English as Ten Days That Shook the World). In Eisenstein’s writing A Dialectic Approach to Film Form, he explained that “montage is an idea that arises from the collision of independent shots,” whereas, in the actual audience perception “each sequential element is perceived not next to the other, but on top of the other.” He promotes the idea that the meta creative meaning is not present in any of the individual clips or elemental artifacts but rather is born as a completely new idea altogether—meaning that it is transformational rather than purely a derivative work.

The film montage technique has been explored in so many wonderful and tragic ways, from the likes of the first Rocky film in 1976 that featured a “training” montage that falls far short of a definition of transformational, to the compelling car-accident attraction of director Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space that relies heavily on dreamlike (or nightmarish) acid-trip imagery to somehow create a narrative (of sorts).

The montage, like other creative techniques, has evolved to include new forms of technology and creative narrative. Compositing (placing a foreground image over a completely different background image source) and computer-enhanced alterations to images, such as morphing (for example, creating a series of computer images to create a smooth visual transition from one thing—such as a person’s face—into another thing—such as a werewolf’s face), have expanded the capabilities of filmmakers and visual artists alike.

Eisenstein’s theories are further refined by Michel Chion whose book Audio-Vision, Sound on Screen explores and ultimately defines the connection between audio and visual media. Canadian film theorist William C. Wees, emeritus professor of English at McGill University and the editor of the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, explored the visual machinery of perception in his book Light Moving in Time: Studies in the Visual Aesthetics of Avant-Garde Film,  in which he states, “there is the avant-garde’s traditional emphasis on vision, on film as ‘an art of the eye.’ On the other hand, there is the study of visual perception, the science of the eye. My goal is to bring both approaches to seeing—the cinematic and the perceptual—into a single discourse on vision and the visual art of avant-garde film.

The Eisenstein theory of montage, the Chion deconstruction of the relationship between visual and audio media, and Wees’ cognition arguments on the “Gestaltists’ theoretical premise of an isomorphic relationship between perceived forms and specific electrical fields in the brain” are all important factors as he suggests these baseline understandings "...may tell us a great deal about the formal structures of visual art" so armed we endeavor toward the understanding of one early and pioneering superstar of miximal visual media: Negativland.

The group, whose work is described as both experimental music and sound collage, originated in Concord, California, in 1979 and later became the main subject of Craig Baldwin’s documentary Sonic Outlaws about the practice of “Culture Jamming or subverting the purity of traditional media.” Be sure to check out tabTV's essay on Culture Jamming as well as the video playlist.

Negativland

Negativland

Negativland’s visual works are typified by the combination of multiple layered and composited visuals, many from popular film and television programming, as well as still images, to create a multimedia visual canvas set to an equally mashed-up audio track.

Its video work titled Gimme the Mermaid features an angry-faced Ariel (the little mermaid) providing the visual face to a recorded phone tantrum of a very angry (reportedly) Disney lawyer yelling and threatening horrific consequences to the copyright violator portrayed in the video as Shiva. (Full disclosure: Disney brand violation is a particularly favorite genre of mine.)

In 1991, Negativland became the infamous test case for miximal corporate copyright infringement when it was sued by Island Records over the sampling of the original U2 song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” In today’s terms, it is almost impossible to believe that Campbell Soup never sued Andy Warhol—if he were alive today, he’d surely be in hot water. Stay tuned: There is much, much more on Negativland found in my meMEguide under detournement.


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AuthorRichard Cardran

Collage and montage are long-accepted principles of the fine arts, specifically in the visual arts. In the 1920s, cubist painters Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso were among the earliest pioneers of cubism’s attempt at synthesizing multiple perspectives into one single painting. Picasso and artist Marcel Duchamp also employed collage (from the French coller, meaning “to glue”). Both collage and cubism are defined as an assemblage of independent elements, once combined, that creates a new whole. What might Picasso have accomplished with Adobe Photoshop? Would his electronic source file (.PSD) be as important today as his artifacts of paint and paper?

Richard Hamilton’s 1956 collage titled Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Richard Hamilton’s 1956 collage titled Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?

English painter and collage artist Richard Hamilton’s 1956 collage titled Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? was created for the exhibition This Is Tomorrow and is widely cited by historians as one of the earliest works of the pop-art movement. Indeed, today’s contemporary fine artists are evolving these same techniques but with new and innovative tools. The collage works of John Baldessari, Hans Haacke, David Salle, and Barbara Kruger and the rephotography of Sherrie Levine define the genre and bring established and sanctioned credentials to the practice.

Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu is a prolific miximal artist who possesses skills as both a sculptor and an anthropologist. Her work is primarily based in the millennial decade and explores the various incongruities of the female role and the corresponding relationships to its traditional cultural identity. Her work infuses woman-centric issues with references to contemporary African politics against the background of colonial history, as well as commentary on the worldwide high fashion industry. Her 2005 work titled Erasing Infestation: An Exercise in Historical Futility, comprising ink, packing tape, fur, and contact paper on a wall, illustrates a command of drawing and painterly techniques, as well as a healthy dose of both collage and montage using found and created objects that transcend the material components and create a transformational view of cultural commentary.

Irish artist Seán Hillen (born 1961) is a photomontage artist whose work typifies a modern interpretation of what originally started in the Dada movement with artist/photographers John Heartfield and Johannes Baader, along with Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann, and George Grosz. Photomontage is a widely established form of fine art expression recognized by many contemporary masters, such as Julia Fullerton-Batten, born in 1970 in Bremen, whose work comments on and is firmly rooted in the millennial decade.

Masami Teraoka: AIDS Series/Geisha in Bath, 2008, edition of 200. 18 3/8 x 12 ¼ inch image, 20-3/8 x 13-13/16 inch paper is one of his four pieces in Rubbers: The Life, History & Struggle of Condom exhibition.

Masami Teraoka: AIDS Series/Geisha in Bath, 2008, edition of 200. 18 3/8 x 12 ¼ inch image, 20-3/8 x 13-13/16 inch paper is one of his four pieces in Rubbers: The Life, History & Struggle of Condom exhibition.

Examples in the graphic fine arts are also easy to find. The culture jamming brilliance of Masami Teraoka is a contemporary artist born in 1936 in Onomichi, a township near Hiroshima, Japan, has mastered the fine art of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints but with a decidedly miximal slant. While his work can be associated with other conventional labels of fine art genre, the paintings completed after his arrival in the United States often celebrate the collision (mashup) of Japanese and Western cultures. His series McDonald’s Hamburgers Invading Japan and print 31 Flavors Invading Japan utilize time-honored colors, orthodox illustration techniques, and traditional Japanese imagery, but he unexpectedly introduces a contrasting subject matter. By featuring his geisha-esque subjects eating a McDonald’s hamburger or licking a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone with their traditional crossed eyes and extended tongues, he successfully mixes Eastern and Western cultures to produce works of art that are neither.

I have been conducting many interviews with some of the celebrated masters of miximal fine arts and will be publishing excerpts and analysis of their experiences and works in future posts. Stay tuned!


Posted
AuthorRichard Cardran

All language is mixed to one degree or another. Words are commonly borrowed and integrated from one language origin and find a home in another. This is referred to as lexical borrowing, and it works in a number of ways. Positive transfer is the introduction of terms, word usage, or patterns introduced into a language in a “correct” manner, such as technical terms—for example the english word, digital introduced into Japanese. Negative transfer is the sort of substitution in which a term (say, “dude”) is used to replace a natively correct word or terminology preexisting in the substratum, or native language. These are considered language pollution.

Smell? Smile? or a mashup of both? --Jimmie

Smell? Smile? or a mashup of both?

--Jimmie

With the advent of globally connected technology, media, and social engineering, mutual lexical borrowing has reached a critical point at which language is being mashed up by the ever-increasing global society that transverses multiple cultures and environments. Code-switching is a linguistics term denoting the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety in a conversation, such as in Spanglish, Chinglish, or Engrish (Japlish).

www.engrish.com

www.engrish.com

When the balance of influence between two or more languages becomes pervasive, the structure, grammar, and vocabulary become fused and change the form or structure from simple code-switching into what is known as linguistic interference. The explosion of bilingualism and linguistic interference increasingly makes language classification difficult or impossible, since the resulting mixed-language construct can be impossible to classify into one specific language or the other.

We are also running out of words. The English language is grasping for descriptive terminology to embrace our rapidly changing culture. Neologisms (newly coined words) abound and proliferate; verbs, such as “twitter” are transformed into nouns and protologisms (neologisms that have not yet caught on), such as gleemail (the never-ending bombardment of inspiring emails forwarded by those “special” people in your life) or aaaaabuse (the act of unusual naming to get your entry placed at the beginning of a list) are seen everywhere you turn.

Cory Doctorow - A Delicious Portmanteau

Cory Doctorow - A Delicious Portmanteau

"Lee Harvey and the Oswalds" Fauxtography that brings a musical theme to the famous news still.

"Lee Harvey and the Oswalds" Fauxtography that brings a musical theme to the famous news still.

One of the fastest-growing sources of neologisms is born from a miximal ethos found in our shared notion of colloquial inventiveness or perhaps our overly permissive sense of personal entitlement: the portmanteau word. Portmanteaus are spawn from the practice of wordsmithery intended to combine (or mashup) two existing words into a new word that retains the descriptive essence of both sources—while blending them together into a transformational meaning. Brunch, spork, Spanglish, and fauxtography (the practice of creating counterfeit images intended to pose as reality) are all great examples of the miximal linguistic principles at work.

William S. Burroughs

--thierry ehrmann

While neologistic practices have been well established in the historical evolution of language, the proliferation of portmanteaus during the millennial decade is linguistic evidence of a shared cultural movement.

The Electronic Revolution, an essay by William S. Burroughs is where he originally expressed his theory of the unrecognized virus: “the word has not been recognized as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host.”

Interactive poetry at the William S. Burroughs exhibition --mihi_tr

Interactive poetry at the William S. Burroughs exhibition

--mihi_tr

He also examined the “cutup technique” (sometimes called fish-bowling), a haphazard literary technique in which a text is cut up at random and rearranged to create a new text born of a mix as much of chaos and fate as is curation and intent. Miximal linguistics? You bet!

The macro view of language—and literary works in general—is best summarized by the work of French philosopher Jacques Derrida and his deconstructionism of text and its meaning. Derrida’s early forensic analysis ties together with the post-structuralism influence of French literary theorist Roland Barthes, who states, in his 1971 essay From Work to Text, that “text is a tissue [or fabric] of quotations,” drawn from “innumerable centers of culture, rather than a sterilized, uninfluenced expression from a single individual’s experience.” The process for creative inventiveness is far more complicated than any single isolated thought, being more a distillation or interpretation born of mashing up the larger fabric of cultural consciousness. Nowhere is this more obvious than the evolution of trends, styles, schools, and movements that build on the conceptual and visual influences within miximal art.


Posted
AuthorRichard Cardran

The most accessible and common pop-culture miximal forms you’ll likely recognize are remixes, mashups, and tributes, but what are they exactly, and where did they come from?

Lets illustrate the audio definitions to begin, but for the record, pure visual art analogs exist. Some of these visual art forms are explained under the species-level definitions of the miximal taxonomy with identifications such as supercuts, or visual remixes such as cutdowns.  But for simplicity, let's start with the audio definitions of these forms and work our way into the other complexities.

dj lobsterdust -- raindog808

dj lobsterdust

-- raindog808

An audio sample is small unit or fragment of a song, such as a few notes, removed and used outside of the original work. Early audio-sampling techniques produced a new form of musical expression first appearing in the 1960s and used by the Beatles in such songs as Yellow Submarine and I Am the Walrus. In 1979, the first popular rap song to fully exploit sampling was Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang, which led to a revolutionary new school of expression. Today, sampling has morphed from tiny morsels of flavoring into complex blends of ingredients that produce new miximal recipes in every type of offering.

While contemporary innovators might want to lay claim to these sorts of inventions, music has a long and rich history of miximal experimentation.

DJ Zebra @ Terres Blanches -- Mégane Helders

DJ Zebra @ Terres Blanches

-- Mégane Helders

Remixes.

The thirteenth century produced the notion of rounds (or rondels) that later evolved into the form known as a canon. In general terms, the canon can be roughly thought of as a prehistoric remix. A canon is like a remix? Well, basically, yes, in principle. You can be sure that Johann Pachelbel, the baroque composer best known for his Canon in D Major, would have flipped his wig if he’d seen the technology tools available today.

Row, row, row your boat is a type of canon in which a melody is woven with one or more imitations of the same melody that are played after a given duration. Canons, like remixes, are self-referential and rely on what we’d now call a multitrack approach to creating a layered experience. But an important distinction shared by remixes and canons is their focus or reliance on internal inspiration rather than external elements.

That said, new tracks or sounds such as base beats can be introduced, but the introduction of sounds are just that—sounds rather than songs—the introduction of another song would be considered a mashup, not a remix. Its important to state right about now, for illustrative purposes I'm limiting these explanations to a purest definition of the forms but in reality art is frequently broad or nuanced in ways that make purest definitions to simplistic, but for our purposes here, lets keep it simple.

A remix is typically audio or video (but can also be applied to the visual arts or literature) that, like a canon, uses a singular source of inspiration (such as a song). But, unlike a canon, remixes employ various complex layering techniques (such as sampling and multitrack overlays) or supporting generic elements (such as a rhythm track) along with heavy use of editing and effects to transform a specific known or familiar work into an incremental, new experience.

When creating audio remixes, it’s important to acquire the raw elements of a song—i.e., the isolated a cappella track of the vocals, for example. Finding a popular song’s instrumental tracks can be easier, especially if the song is available as a karaoke single. Another popular technique is to use a hack of Guitar Hero®, the popular air-guitar computer game, to isolate and remove tracks.

But, more and more, artists themselves are releasing isolated tracks to encourage remixers to publicly contribute remixed versions of their songs. The companion remixes are sometimes referred to as crossovers, or cross-genre mixes since they frequently change the target audience—for example, making a dance remix of a previously undanceable song. Many popular remix producers have been hired by artists to officially remix songs and have even been paid directly or given royalties for their work. The hit Bad Romance by Lady Gaga was remixed by DJ Chew Fu, who describes himself as a “serial fixer.” The H1N1 remixed single is available for sale on Amazon and iTunes alongside the original song.

There are many examples of (legal) financial opportunities for remixers, including DJ Earworm, (one of my personal favorites) a San Francisco–based mashup artist who has been creating year-end mixes titled United State of Pop, using the Billboard magazine top 25 hit songs from the prior year. His mashup supermixes caught the attention of singer Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics, who hired him to create Backwards/Forwards, an official mashup of nine of her much-loved songs—which leads us to the topic of mashups versus remixes.

--Emily

Mashups.

The late sixteenth century transformed the multitrack notion of a canon into the more complex notion of a fugue. The fugue is known for having multiple voices, or melodies—either playful or dueling in nature—that ultimately “sound together” simultaneously at the end. A fugue can be loosely described as a prehistoric mashup in which competing melodies create a transformational work (as opposed to an incremental work) that is based on the combination or mashing of more than one melody. The experiential nature of multiple simultaneous audio channels—be it canons, remixes, fugues or mashups—has been repeatedly reinvented by available technology and, most importantly, the collective creative genius that continues to reveal our modern world in ways we can’t always anticipate.

A mashup shares similar editorial and creative processes with a remix but—not unlike the fugue—typically uses two or more competing elements. However, mashups differ greatly from the classical notion of a fugue, since mashups don’t rely specifically on the artists’ intensional and specific original elements but rather incorporate found external identifiable source materials with the goal of creating synergy among the found artifacts. If successful, mashups produce an entirely new and transformative work (while keeping key identifiable elements of the independent sources intact). Why listen to one song when you can enjoy two or more at the same time?

Frequently, you can identify a mashup by its title, which usually includes a “versus” reference, such as with performers “Madonna Vs. Deep Purple” or “The Beatles Vs. Nine-Inch Nails” or, sometimes by song titles “Thriller Vs. Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Baby Got Back Vs. Turn the Beat Around” and even esoteric combinations of circuit bending “Speak-n-Spell Vs. Elmo Vs. Casio.”

YouTube is a great resource that contains tens of hundreds of thousands of pure musical mashups, musical mashups with accompanying video mashups as well as pure video mashups and even brand mashing (typically forms of brand violation or Culture Jamming) with such unlikely combinations as the mashup from TV’s Family Guy, Kramer Versus Predator, perhaps inspired by the original and infamous Marv Newland cartoon Bambi Meets Godzilla.

DJ Y Alias JY's Vimeo Channel

DJ Y Alias JY's Vimeo Channel

Contribution vs. Curation.

Middleman roles have always existed in art. In a museum, we call this person a curator; in publishing, we refer to the role as the editor; in television, we experience a prime-time lineup of shows thanks to the programming executives. In radio, the term DJ (disc jockey) represents a traditional role of programming a lineup of music; however, in miximal culture, the DJ (audio) or VJ (including video) role has been reinvented into an active, participant capable and even expected to make creative content contributions, as opposed to only selections.

Weaving multiple songs together through cuts and overlays produces a transformational work that creates a new (yet familiar) tune that can be oddly compelling or a complete disaster. This trend has given rise to the miximal DJ culture whereby the musical mixologist brings not just a curatorial perspective but also an editorial and execution style that often overshadows the source elements and delivers an experience that is truly greater than the parts.

Danger Mouse -- Michael Van Vleet

Danger Mouse -- Michael Van Vleet

Remixes and mashups can exist as static or canned works but are also found in real-time live performances thanks to the talents of club DJs, such as Francis Grasso, an American disc jockey from New York City. Grasso is credited for inventing a technique called slip-cueing—which was later referred to as beat-matching, mixing, or blending—that has become the basis of the most-successful club DJs’ performances. Dave Clarke (not the Dave Clark of the Dave Clark Five) is a techno DJ and producer who is famous for fusing hip-hop beats and techno in his sets. No short list of music mixologists would be complete without a mention of Danger Mouse and the amazing megamix talents of Gregg Michael Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk), be sure to check out my blog Miximalism for more on the greats including Girl Talk.

DJ Paul V, originally from Boston, is one of the central mashup DJs in the Los Angeles scene. From 2007 to 2009, Paul hosted a pivotal radio show in Los Angeles on Indie 103.1 FM radio called Neon Noise. I talked with Paul about when he first encountered mashups.

The first mashup he ever heard—and the one widely cited as the song that started it all—first emerged in 2001. Referred to as “the song that defines the decade” in a UK Guardian newspaper article was Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle mixed over a song from the garage-rock revival band the Strokes’ first album, Hard to Explain. The song was titled A Stroke of Genius (also frequently cited as “A Stroke of Genie-us”) and was created by a British producer named Roy Kerr (a.k.a. the Freelance Hellraiser).

Freelance Hellraiser

Freelance Hellraiser

UK Guardian's Lynskey describes the song as “pop brilliance” and writes, "In the 1980s and 90s, art-minded mashups by the likes of John Oswald and the Evolution Control Committee tended to highlight the smash-and-grab nature of combining well-known songs, producing satire and subversion from the mismatch. . . . Kerr . . . was more of a benign matchmaker, showing two disparate artists how much they really had in common."

Arguably, the earlier 1980–1990 influences and experimental sounds coming from Plunderphonic and the Tape-beatles form the basis of the current debate over the official beginnings of mashups or bastard pop—as it was known at the time—however, the British bootleg scene and bastard pop took a huge evolutionary leap with Mark Gunderson’s Evolution Control Committee, which, in 1993, produced a recording of Public Enemy’s “The Rhythm, the Rebel” mixed with “Bittersweet Samba” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass—clearly laying the foundation for Kerr and others to refine and take the genre mainstream. For you geeks archivists, the internets time tunnel will happily transport you to gunderphonic for some additional detail. 

Mark Gunderson’s Evolution Control Committee,

Mark Gunderson’s Evolution Control Committee,

Several hundred seven-inch vinyl singles of A Stroke of Genius were released on an independent label, which quickly generated a cease-and-desist order from RCA, the label of both Aguilera and the Strokes. Kerr later became Paul McCartney’s official tour DJ and additionally worked directly as a paid remixer for Aguilera.

DJ Paul V found Stroke of Genius on a promotional compilation CD The Cornerstone Player, a subscription-based three-CD promo package to which alternative radio stations frequently subscribed. Billboard magazine described Cornerstone Promotions, publisher of the package, as combining “the functions of a record label with the business model of an ad agency.” Founded in 1996 by Rob Stone and Jon Cohen, Cornerstone also has an in-house record label, Fader.

DJ Paul V recognized the appeal of mixing what he called “obnoxious pop along with trendy alt-rock and indie” sounds, and he soon found a wealth of emerging mashups on peer-to-peer file sharing sites, such as Soulseek.

Successful mashups use an A vs. B formula that necessitates that the listener be familiar with at least one of the tracks, so, as DJ Paul V explains, “the whole point is that your ear thinks it’s getting one thing, but suddenly it’s not . . . you don’t have to know both [tracks] but you have to know one really well.” The techniques of fussy beat-matching and key correction (a key is commonly described as music’s harmonic center—for example, the key of C minor) are employed to steer clear of what mashup artists call key clash. The craftsmanship of beat-matching and key correction are important aspects to successful mashups.

In 2003, Paul V started the first mashup club night in Los Angeles and soon began a “mashup of the day” feature for Indie 103.1 FM, which later became a Friday night hit show, The Smash Mix, combining mashups and indie hits and which ultimately moved to the coveted Saturday night midnight-to-3:00 a.m. slot with his hit show Neon Noise. With a well-established radio audience, Paul started a club night of the same name and transformed the radio show into a hit club experience.

Bootie Mashup Party

Bootie Mashup Party

Concurrently with Neon Noise, Paul became the founding DJ for the monthly Los Angeles mashup club night called Bootie LA, a franchise of the original San Francisco critical hit Bootie SF. The Bootie club’s tongue-in-cheek tag line is “ruining your favorite songs since 2003.” The official Bootie website describes it as “Launched in 2003 in San Francisco by A Plus D, aka DJs Adrian & Mysterious D, Bootie was the first club night in the U.S. dedicated solely to the burgeoning artform of the bootleg mashup—and is now the biggest mashup event in the world, with regular parties in several cities on four continents, and various one-offs around the globe.”

Examples of a typical Bootie musical lineup have included such songs as these: 

A Plus D (San Francisco, Calif.): “Don’t You Want My Bad Romance” (The Human League vs. Lady Gaga)

DJ Schmolli (Vienna, Austria) “Bulletproof Radar” (La Roux vs. Britney Spears)

Dan Mei (Denmark) and Marc Johnce (Nuremberg, Germany): “My Life on the Crazy Train Sucks (So What?)” (Kelly Clarkson vs. Ozzy Osbourne vs. Pink vs. Daft Punk)

DJ Lobsterdust (New York City): “NirGaga” (Nirvana vs. Lady Gaga)

Party Ben (San Francisco): “Single Ladies (in Mayberry)” (Beyoncé vs. “The Andy Griffith Show” theme)

MadMix Mustang (Schijndel, Netherlands): “I Got More Than a Feeling” (Boston vs. Black Eyed Peas)

The Illuminoids (Los Angeles, Calif.): “I’m a Girl U Want” (The Monkees vs. Devo), 

The Kleptones (UK): “Voodoo Sabotage” (Beastie Boys vs. The Prodigy vs. Pendulum)

DJ Paul V (Los Angeles): “Might Like Ghosts Better” (Amanda Blank vs. Bad Cabbage vs. Deadmau5)

For these and many more, visit tabTV's video playlists collection MashMIX.

The other cousin to remixes and mashups is the alpha trend known as a tribute, which can share elements of both a remix and mashup but is specifically designed to pay homage to (or negatively comment on) a specific person or work rather than as commentary, satire, or a parody of the source.

While terminology like remix and mashup is associated with pop-culture media, the underlying and guiding principles behind it are evident across a broad range of media. Miximal principles transcend physicality and material processes to encompass conceptual thought as well. In staking out the scope of artistic miximal influence, it is important to illustrate other manifestations aside from music and consider influences in writing, fine art, and the visual arts. There is mounting evidence of the miximal influence to be found in our language and literature. Check out the other posts for more.

Ok since you've been so kind as to read all the way down to the bottom, here's a gift!  One of the best collections of mashups from 2005 - 2011, all well documented and attributed and for the most part downloadable unless they've been destroyed by the &^$#! lawyers.  Do yourself a favor and visit:

Top Mashup Lists from Culture Bully: 2011 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005


Posted
AuthorRichard Cardran

If we now have a label for this new-millennial culture movement, Miximalism, what exactly does it represent? There are innumerable archetypes to be found in science and technology, fine art, and human behavior—and we’ll explore all of them together.

Karen Eliot BAMCorp

Karen Eliot BAMCorp

To begin, let’s talk about art.

Let’s take the example of the blender in your kitchen. The lowest setting of “chop” allows cooks to mix various ingredients and produce a confetti-like product with identifiable evidence of the original elements, while the highest “blend” setting produces a mashed-up puree with a unique texture and color that bears little resemblance to the original ingredients—yet produces a flavor all its own. In the painterly world of art, the process of mixing together equal portions of primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) produces a muddy brown color that bears little resemblance to any of the original colors.

The question becomes, is this muddy brown puree a unique color that is only possible by creating such a blend? And does it have a desirable quality and charm that is all its own? Montage, mashups, multitasking, transmedia, omnimedia, mixed media, mixed mode, mix-downs, remixes, or indeed any of the forms of miximal expression range in color and texture from chopped to blended and produce a range of outcomes that yield jumbled concoctions or transformational blendings with unique qualities found nowhere else.

The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been truer. Miximal art must be not only passively experienced but actively experienced as well. This is probably a great time to suggest that you visit the tabTV video playlists and see examples for yourself.

 
The evolutionary or historical development of techniques into styles, styles into schools, schools into trends, and so on is important to understand as we deconstruct and define our contemporary genres. It is what provides us the long-view perspective while we are standing so close.
— Tab
 

Various posts in this blog will dive more deeply into the history, technology, legality, and, ultimately, the future of miximal expression, but, for now, the high-level concept is best illustrated by briefly touching on some important examples and definitions so we can connect the pixels, so to speak, before we go too far down any one particular linear path. Be sure to look at the tabTV meMEguide which is a fun and easy guide to the miximal forms.



Posted
AuthorRichard Cardran

Is miximalism a trend? A movement? Let’s examine the labels and their meanings. Era, age, period, movement, and trend all basically refer to overlapping paths on the road of historical classification. Miximalism can perhaps be explained as the “spork” in the road of popular culture, where multiple paths intersect to inform and transform themselves with a shared ethos evident in their diverse purposes. For all you crossword or Scrabble superstars, you’ll know that the proper name for historical classification is periodization. For the rest of us, it’s probably just fun trivia.

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The actual definitions of the units of periodization are universally contentious and sloppy, but one thing is perfectly clear: The various labels applied are certainly the third rail of historical debate. Every stakeholder in academia dreams of becoming the referential source of historical thought. Indeed, source status is not without its rules; like the notion of “first contact” in Star Trek, protocols and credentials for “tag rights” are highly codified and frequently the basis for academic hair-on-fire–style fatwas.

About the only way to ensure a collective agreement on terminology (especially introducing a term like miximalism into the collective consciousness) is to have the first few generations of label makers die off and leave the surviving generations to accept the winning vernacular through the process of evolutionary socialization. Future generations will ultimately refer to the art and pop culture of the millennial decade as something; it might as well be miximalism.

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The human brain has an overwhelming need to classify everything around us in an effort to define and organize our reality. The introduction of the Dymo embossing label gun in the early 1960s had us tagging everything in sight like domestic zoologists on a classification crusade. We now have a decadal perspective of millennial culture but no descriptive labels that adequately classify our contemporary mass culture. H-E-L-L-O!

Without hundreds of years of historical perspective and debate, labels defining eras and ages are the most imprecise and messy of all. The terms era and age can be interchangeable depending on the context in which they are used—such as referring to historical, political, scientific, or cultural measurements. They can represent a fixed point on the shared world timeline that include all human cultures, such as the ice age, or represent culture-specific measurements, such as the label space age, used exclusively to describe Western culture in the 1960s.

In any case, both era and age represent a system of chronological notation that—by their very definition of being a system of classification—should be precise but, in practice and usage, are incredibly random.

Notations for periods and movements are equally random, but typically represent a more focused notion of their origin (historical, scientific, or cultural) and therefore can be more easily defined. A rule of thumb is that movements can be found in periods but periods are not found in movements. In art, movements are born when groups of artists somehow join together and cross-pollinate a common creative perspective. It is the artist’s nature to seek out inspiration, but it is also the artist’s nature to be independent and paradoxical—which is why movements tend to be short-lived.

Impressionism was a movement from the 1870s through the 1890s in which visual artists wanted to explore new ways of interpreting light and color using a similar technique in brushwork. However, Impressionism was so pivotal in inspiring and informing basic creative practices and fashions of change that it led to a series of spin-off movements (postimpressionism, expressionism, fauvism, cubism, Dada, Bauhaus, surrealism, and others) that collectively and ultimately defined a new period of art called modernism.

As with the definition of period and movement, the notion of a trend can be described as a subset of practices or memes found within movements, although movements are not typically found within trends.

So focusing for a moment on the cultural and artistic perspective of chronological labeling, where in the food-chain of eras, ages, periods, movements, and trends does miximal expression exist?

A nonconfrontational definition of miximalism would be to describe it as a trend. But that is simply not broad enough. Miximalism has become incredibly pervasive and integral to every form of modern creative expression. I use the term creative expression to include invention, application, and all forms of creative thinking—not just artistic thought in the classic sense. However, artistic miximal principles do span the continuum from naive art to pop culture to mass media, and, yes, fine art as well.

Miximal principles are found in all media, from music to writing to film and, especially, new uncategorized forms of interactive art. We simply have to recognize and measure miximalism at the very least as a movement—a mass movement that transcends the visual arts, the media arts, and the art of writing and storytelling. But more importantly, it crosses the divide of art, culture, and science. Miximal forms introduce new paradigms, invention, interactivity, and multichannel modalities of consumption that are changing the very expectations and behaviors we share as consumers.

Labels aside, will miximalism (the concept) ultimately be classified as the defining convention that transforms itself from a movement into a period? Only time will tell. We will leave that to the credentialed collective hive mind of the culture Borg. Or should we? Since miximal principles cross so many broad categories beyond just the fine arts, it might indeed be the guiding cultural phenomenon that informs technology and social period definitions as well. From gene splicing to hybrid cars, the first millennial decade was filled with miximal invention.

The art periods known as pop art (1960s), conceptual art (1970s), neoexpressionism (1980s), remodernism, and postmodernism (1990s) abruptly end in a chaos of competing terminologies all groping to define the current period of art. Nature abhors a vacuum, and, apparently, so do art historians, so the more conservative “artorati” have simply extended the 1990s postmodernism label into the ambiguous post-post-post-postmodernism explanation as a generational definition of the new-millennial decade.

While academic art geeks will indeed debate the official period label of the first millennial decade for generations to come, I will—at the risk of the art police breaking down my door and wiping my hard drive clean—offer up miximalism as the identified term of art for the first millennial decade's über-cultural period. I suspect that, given the test of time, miximalism—if not in name, at least in concept—will indeed be recognized as the predominant defining cultural period of the new-millennial decade.


Posted
AuthorRichard Cardran

Each decade holds an iconic record of shared experience that illuminates and defines its ambient Zeitgeist—the evolutionary art, trends, morals, and human expression that ultimately give definition to movements, periods, and generational labels. In 2010, we crossed a milestone in history that reveals a decadal record of new-millennium culture. What trends in art, technology, and human behavior have ultimately defined the past decade of shared experience? Is there a natural process or synergy that has connected contemporary art, technology, and human behavior in new and profound ways?

Karen Eliot, BAMCorp

Karen Eliot, BAMCorp

Miximalism is a popular-culture exploration of the emergent patterns that gave rise to the pervasive change found in every mean and mode of our daily lives. Television news has evolved from simple talking heads into multichannel layers of data and animation that appear more like a video game than a newscast. Music has changed from single melodies into layered sampling, mashups, and remixes that sharpen the thirteenth-century notions of canons and fugues.

We are experiencing an exciting time of profound cultural change and dramatic realignment of core business models, technology, and fashions of artistic expression that have influenced and defined our world culture—and, more specifically, have transformed print, music, media arts, film, and television in ways we couldn’t imagine only a decade ago.

The world of publishing has changed more profoundly in the past ten years than in the previous 500 plus years since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Broadcast television reached its apogee and is hurtling downward at increasing speed and the music business is almost unrecognizable.

As chaotic as the change has been for companies, technologists, and artists, we the audience are also faced with profound change. The past ten years known as the new-millennial decade has spawned an explosion of new devices, digital venues, and art forms that frequently overwhelm our ability to consume them in any reasonable fashion. The disruptive technologies, new art forms, and new forms of consumption that empower artists and consumers have also created new challenges and questions ranging from copyright to preservation to behavioral health.

The Assyrians believed that the mythological phoenix arose anew from its own ashes as one entity is reborn into another. As one culture is destroyed, so the new culture is born of the ashes of the old. As challenging as the first millennial decade has been for established cultural art forms, new exciting ideas have emerged and sliced the cultural pie into smaller and smaller pieces. Television didn’t kill radio, and computer games are not going to kill the movies (but piracy may if big media doesn't embrace flattened release windows and ubiquitous distribution). For creators and consumers alike, a whole new world of expectation and engagement has taken hold and firmly established itself as the preeminent form of the new-millennial cultural experience.

There is a symbiotic, virtuous cycle that has emerged. Technology is driving significant behavioral changes in human multitasking and media engagement, as well as providing profound new tools and distribution methods for digital artists. The digital arts have driven profound developments in technology and yielded new forms of artistic expression that are bending the curve of popular culture. Audiences have new expectations for content engagement and have devoured new, innovative forms of technology and the practical application of scientific research.

Never before in the history of the world has the synergy of science, art, and behavioral change yielded such profound shifts to business, culture, and the lives and practices of the common person. What begin in earnest in the 1990s ultimately realized its disruptive and inspired potential in the 2000s.

Karen Eliot BAMCorp

Karen Eliot BAMCorp

Cell phones, the Internet, computer games, and multitasking behaviors began long before the year 2000. Multichannel art forms, such as collage or montage or the multitrack notion of a musical canon, date back generations. None of these things in and of itself defines the new-millennial identity. It is the profound amalgamation of devices, services, and content folded and baked into itself that gives us a hint at the underlying ethos present.

Your cell phone is now the digital equivalent of a Swiss army knife: It’s a music device, a camera, a GPS navigation device, a book, and an email and Internet application, as well as a phone. Your computer game system is now a movie player, Internet device, telepresence communication device, exercise equipment, and shopping application. The game content itself is no longer just a game—it’s now a movie, a theme song, a web portal, a social network, and any number of aftermarket branded items. Your car might well be hybrid; your PC is now a TV; your TV is now a web browser; your honey-crunch yogurt is probiotic; and, by the way, what happened to the newspaper?

As you bask on your microfiber-blend, hide-a-bed sofa beside the soft jellyfish glow of your transgenic Labradoodle it might occur to you that our couch-potato culture has been replaced by “couch-commander culture,” whose Pavlovian conditioning demands an ever-increasing, multichannel, ADHD lifestyle.

A quiet evening at home reveals your subconscious ability to parse the chirps and burps of your smart phone—unconsciously prioritizing the mobile-centric, text-message “bleeps” from the email-notification “dings.” “Ding!” directs our attention away from surfing the web, past the chat window, and into the email inbox. The laptop volume is muted, so the television fills the background ambience, and, out of the corner of our eye, the CNN text crawler “teaser” makes us grab for the DVR remote—hopefully without dropping our spork or spilling our Japanese-fusion Thai salad.

You know who you are.

Like the proverbial frog in a slowly heated pot of water, we’ve been cooked without a clue—welcome to our contemporary eclectic mashed and remixed culture delivered in a multichannel casserole of deliciousness. Pick up your spork and dig in!

As enjoyable as it is to poke fun at how the world has changed, it indeed has changed. We have changed; art has changed; business has changed; and the inimitable artistic change found in the new-millennial decade exists, as yet, without classification.

The purpose of this blog is to identify what specifically happened in the first millennial decade that gives it a unique characterization and identity and then to classify it as a defined cultural period that I call miximalism.


Posted
AuthorRichard Cardran
Miximalism, like modernism and minimalism, is a term of art seeking to be transparent in its meaning. So why am I writing this, and who the fuck am I?
Miximalism - art of the first millennial decade.

Miximalism - art of the first millennial decade.

My first computer was a 1981 Radio Shack TRS-80, commonly known as a Trash-80, with a whopping 5-megabyte hard drive. Thirty years later, my cell phone has 32 gigabytes of flash memory, and it’s practically full.

I have always had the geek gene and the creative gene working in perfect harmony. My superpower is having my right and left brains equally engaged, with the ability to fluidly transverse the worlds of art and science.

As a child, I was drawn to toys like Slime® or the Mattel Vac-u-form® machine, which could never be sold today thanks to the exposed burning-hot metal plates and a liability risk that would cause any corporate attorney’s hair to explode.

Art history has always intrigued me; early in my teens, I became fascinated with the Zürich (1916–1922) art movement known as Dada. Samy Rosenstock apparently wanted a more “avant-garde” sounding name, so he adopted the stage name of Tristan Tzara and went on to become one of the founders and central figures of the antiestablishment Dada movement. Poet, performance artist, journalist, playwright, composer, and film director, he fashioned a relationship between cubism and futurism and successfully tied them to the Beat Generation, situationism, and various influences found today in contemporary rock music.

In the primitive days of money orders and snail mail, I would order various gadgets and potions from the Edmund Scientific catalog and ultimately use the magic of mail-order science to create my supposed works of art—conceived in the spirit of the Dada invention of “assemblage,” which employed a three-dimensional interpretation of what is commonly known as “collage.”

In the 1970s, I followed a fine-arts major and physics minor in college. I had the good fortune of catching the trickle-down academic acceptance of what was known at the time as the Intermedia or Fluxus movement. Popularized in the 1960s by the artist Dick Higgins, the term denotes the indefinable and perplexing interdisciplinary mashups that exist between genres—areas like those found somewhere between painting and poetry or between sculpture and theater. For me, it was physics and art.

However established the genre was, my art teachers and my science teachers stood little hope of understanding my intense passion, each missing key information about the others passions.

My crowning achievement was the 1978 interactive work I presented as both my art-class finals project and a physics project. Titled Eggstatic (ecstatic), it consisted of a 7-11 egg-salad sandwich poking out from its triangular plastic container while lounging amid a generous dusting of yellow toilet paper that had been pulverized in a blender to the point of becoming yellow fuzz.

Eggstatic was exhibited on a four-foot-high kiosk inside a 20x20x10-inch Plexiglas case with four small woolen cloths, one hanging on each side. I had wandered through every plastic supply store in Los Angeles with a wool cloth and a pocket of fuzz, trying to find the perfect material that was most susceptible to the buildup of static electric surface charge. I built the display case using a sheet of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and assembled the items inside.

Participants of my interactive assemblage would rub the case with the woolen cloth—easily creating enough static charge to draw the toilet-paper fuzz to the inside wall of the case and move the fuzz in magnetic attraction to the motion of the cloth. The moist egg-salad sandwich acted as a “ground” and created a “fuzz bridge” from the sandwich to the location and motion of the cloth.

Although I dutifully arrived at the gallery every morning to swap the sandwich with a fresh and juicy replacement, people soon complained of the smell, and I was asked to remove my art from the show, thus ending my career as a world-famous artist.

But let’s fast-forward past my various life experiences as an advertising art director, producer, director, editor, and designer to the 1990s and the commercial birth of the Internet.

I caught the wave early. The web was the perfect connection between the many isolated studies in my life—art, technology, and media—all fused together, working in harmony and rolled into one.

With the help of my brilliant and wonderful business partner Mike, I started a web development company and enjoyed many early successes. For as much as I love technology, I am not an engineer; fortunately for me, Mike was—and to this day is—one of the best engineers I’ve ever met. Formerly a rocket scientist at McDonnell Douglas, he proved to be the yin to my yang, and, together, we made magic happen. Any company is only as strong as the people inside, and I must say that our team, our employees, and our culture were smart, talented, vibrant, and dedicated. We all liked and respected each other, and there was abundant joy permeating our little family. We shared our passion, our excitement, and our ingenuity and, together as a team, created amazing and wonderful things that were far bigger than we could or should have accomplished. I hold everyone dearly in my heart who made our dream come true; to this day, it was one of the best times of my life, despite the utter pain and torture of birthing a small start-up company with no discernable funding.

I’ve signed far too many nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to ever write a tell-all book about my dot-com years, but suffice it to say that it was a rollercoaster ride including all the thrills to spills of a start-up, while hanging onto the bleeding edge with every ounce of strength I had.

We worked in the early days of streaming media, before broadband, when 128 kbps was considered a fast Internet connection. We focused on big media companies and designed and built websites, applications and media players for the likes of AOL/Time Warner, Viacom, Microsoft, Intel, and Disney, to name but a few.

When the dot-bomb crash happened, we refocused our energies on software development to enable authoring, management, publishing, and syndication of media content, as well as moving to (TV) set-top box implementations and, ultimately, mobile devices.

Many of our media customers were grappling with what this new multiplatform, broadband promise really held. So, in addition to our software business, we provided a digital services practice, including creative, brand strategy, business strategy, and technology strategy.

We became the only company to be an eight-time finalist and go on to win two Emmy® Awards for interactive television. With the help of our CEO, Robert—our grown-up, as we called him—we sold the company to a large multinational technology company in 2006, just before the economic meltdown, and consequently realized the proverbial American Dream.

I remember the moment I got the call that the deal had closed. I was sitting on a porch swing on a tiny island in Lake Geneva (Wisconsin, not Switzerland) next to Henry, my friend Sunny’s dad. Henry was getting older and had been retired for quite some time, but, in his day, he was a power broker in Chicago and a very successful business tycoon in his own right. I turned to Henry and said, “It’s done. We closed the deal.” He looked at me, and his face was alive and full of emotion. I could tell he was remembering the many times he’d experienced the same adrenaline rush back in his day. We ran into the house and I announced "you're heard of the term 'nouveau riche,' well, I'm about as nouveau as you can get." It was a great moment I’ll always remember.

Having run a successful digital-media company and worked on so many incredible and varied projects for technology companies and media companies alike, I now find myself rewarded with a business brain to wedge between the geek and art lobes that have served me so well.

So what, you might ask, does one do with a three-sided brain? Good question—it took me a bit to connect it all up and apply my experience and my gifts as a digital strategist.

A good digital strategist must take into account many facets of business rules, marketing research, competitive analysis, distribution, design, interface and user experience, technology, application, available equity and assets, team composition, and budget and increasingly consider physical assets, such as any real-world synergy with physical spaces or offline capabilities. As my friend Tim likes to say, “It’s an Easter egg hunt.”

Understanding so many diverse angles allows the strategist to see connections, opportunities, and exploits in the ‘tween areas—things that fall between the technology and application, design and brand, or marketing and content. I’ve come full circle to my roots of Intermedia, and, somehow, my life has realized itself in a way I’d never planned when I had apparently brought my own rotten eggs to my big launch as an artist.

Maintaining a solid 360-degree view of the digital world is no easy feat. It requires constant engagement with periodicals, mentors, conferences, and, most importantly, a robust network of peers who share intelligence and research with each other. My peer network rocks! I’m so lucky to have such amazing people in my circle; in so many ways, I truly stand on their shoulders. To all of you, thank you!

Since the sale of my company, I’ve done many keynotes, attended several innovation labs, and sat on various advisory boards and industry committees, and experienced a nearly two year engagement with Disney Movie Studio, which by the way, was not the happiest place on earth. As my friend Marjory says “Disney doesn’t have a stick up their ass, they have an entire enchanted forest.” Indeed this is where I learned to become not just a consultant, but an insultant in an effort to deliver on the stated goals. All kidding aside, I cherished my time there, and our team did some ground-breaking work which I’d tell you about, but the Disney lawyers would kill us both. One experience I cherish above all others was my decade of involvement with the American Film Institute’s (AFI’s) Digital Content Lab (DCL).

AFI DCL was one of the most exciting think tanks in the digital world. It was an innovation lab, a mentoring program, and a project incubator, and the substance and quality of the people, the projects, and the policy that emerged were second to none. I was an AFI mentor for more than nine consecutive years and hope someday to find other opportunities to rub shoulders with the kinds of great thinkers, artists, and technologists that were part of AFI DCL. Much of the inspiration for this blog comes from my involvement in so many of the great projects that have emerged from the lab. Sadly, in March 2010, AFI DCL was terminated due to funding issues, a truly great loss for both AFI and the interactive media community it inspired.

I continue to work in various strategy, advisory, or consulting roles for media and technology companies—and even a bit in politics—but, having the freedom I now have in my life, I can afford to be picky, so I’ve focused a large amount of my contributions on the arts.

Artists are the content makers, and content is the key to audience engagement. Audience engagement is the key to artistic success. In a world of millions of channels of media, it’s all about the content, the creativity, and the vision that artists bring to the world around us.

To this end, I began a five year accounting of YouTube. YouTube is a convenient repository for cultural research because it contains film, television, music, art, and mashups of all those media types and more.

I started to notice some defined trends and new, well-defined genres spawned from the Intermedia mix of so many creative efforts.

I began to collect and classify works that took the form of a document that tracked and categorized the various schools—culture jamming, subvertising, detournement, dubtitling, mashups, scratch video, and mode shifting, to name but a few. Additionally, I followed the patterns of influence of certain trends, such as Rick Rolling (a bait-and-switch trick using a Rick Astley video), or the practice of mashing a remix song with a cutup vocal track extracted from an iconic YouTube rant video. These and other practices grew and flourished to become major branches in the living tree of YouTubian content.

As the project deepened, I realized that no one had ever placed this incredible microcosm of crowd-sourced culture against the larger backdrop of historical art classification or the even larger backdrop of the overriding über mindset that exists within the first millennial decade of popular culture.

In fact, there was a distinct lack of definition as to what happened, or what is—or now, what was—the overriding ethos that represented a decade of our contemporary culture.

I asked several people who should or would know, “What is the name of the contemporary period of art?” With surprising frequency, the answer I got was “post–post-modernism.” Post-post? It sounded more like a placeholder than a period. Did that mean we are entering the post-post-post decade to something that happened 30 years ago? Now here is a challenge, my friends.

My strategist brain began seeking the hidden Easter eggs that contained the valuable clues. Cultural forensics, while not my field, proved to be gripping. The undefined “it” had something to do with the enormity of referential art forms— mashups, remixes, collage and assemblage, multiplatform, multichannel, and . . . multigrain? Bacon and cheese flavor? Hybrids? Gene splicing? Nintendo Wii® posing as exercise equipment? A floor wax and dessert topping?

What similar evidence is found across so many diverse areas of our contemporary culture and yet is utterly unique to the first millennial decade?

This blog is the result.

Miximalism, like modernism and minimalism, is a term seeking to be transparent in its meaning—and, hey, the dot-com was available. Go figure.

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AuthorRichard Cardran