[NetBehaviour] The Three Basic Forms of Remix, by Eduardo Navas

Eduardo Navas eduardo at navasse.net
Sat Apr 28 23:51:55 CEST 2007

To read this text with all the proper links, visit:

The Three Basic Forms of Remix: a Point of Entry, by Eduardo Navas

Image source: Turbulence.org
Layout by Ludmil Trenkov
Duchamp source: Art History Birmington
Levine source: Artnet

(This text has been recently added to the section titled Remix Defined to
expand my general definition of Remix.)

The following summary is a copy and paste collage (a type of literary remix)
of my lectures and preliminary writings since 2005. My definition of Remix
was first introduced in one of my most recent texts: Turbulence: Remixes +
Bonus Beats, commissioned by Turbulence.org:
http://transition.turbulence.org/texts/nmf/Navas_EN.html . Many of the ideas
I entertain in the text for Turbulence were first discussed in various
presentations during the Summer of 2006. (See the list of places here plus
an earlier version of my definition of Remix
http://navasse.net/remixCCEBA/). Below, the section titled ³remixes² takes
parts from the section by the same name in the Turbulence text, and the
section titled ³remix defined² consists of excerpts of my definitions which
have been revised for an upcoming text soon to be released in English and
Spanish by Telefonica in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The full text will be
released online once it is officially published.


To understand Remix as a cultural phenomenon, we must first define it in
music. A music remix, in general, is a reinterpretation of a pre-existing
song, meaning that the ³aura² of the original will be dominant in the
remixed version. Of course some of the most challenging remixes can question
this generalization. But based on its history, it can be stated that there
are three types of remixes. The first remix is extended, that is a longer
version of the original song containing long instrumental sections making it
more mixable for the club DJ. The first known disco song to be extended to
ten minutes is ³Ten Percent,² by Double Exposure, remixed by Walter Gibbons
in 1976.[1]

Image source: Vinyl Masterpiece

The second remix is selective; it consists of adding or subtracting material
from the original song. This is the type of remix which made DJs popular
producers in the music mainstream. One of the most successful selective
remixes is Eric B. & Rakim¹s ³Paid in Full,² remixed by Coldcut in 1987. [2]
In this case Coldcut produced two remixes, the most popular version not only
extended the original recording, following the tradition of the club mix
(like Gibbons), but it also contained new sections as well as new sounds,
while others were subtracted, always keeping the ³essence² of the song

Image source: Rate Your Music

The third remix is reflexive; it allegorizes and extends the aesthetic of
sampling, where the remixed version challenges the aura of the original and
claims autonomy even when it carries the name of the original; material is
added or deleted, but the original tracks are largely left intact to be
recognizable. An example of this is Mad Professor¹s famous dub/trip hop
album No Protection, which is a remix of Massive Attack¹s Protection. In
this case both albums, the original and the remixed versions, are considered
works on their own, yet the remixed version is completely dependent on
Massive¹s original production for validation.[3] The fact that both albums
were released at the same time in 1994 further complicates Mad Professor¹s
allegory. This complexity lies in the fact that Mad Professor¹s production
is part of the tradition of Jamaica¹s dub, where the term ³version² was
often used to refer to ³remixes² which due to their extensive manipulation
in the studio pushed for allegorical autonomy.[4]

Image source: Last FM

Allegory is often deconstructed in more advanced remixes following this
third form, and quickly moves to be a reflexive exercise that at times leads
to a ³remix² in which the only thing that is recognizable from the original
is the title. But, to be clear‹no matter what‹the remix will always rely on
the authority of the original song. When this activity is extended to
culture at large, the remix is in the end a re-mix‹that is a rearrangement
of something already recognizable; it functions at a second level: a
meta-level. This implies that the originality of the remix is non-existent,
therefore it must acknowledge its source of validation self-reflexively. In
brief, the remix when extended as a cultural practice is a second mix of
something pre-existent; the material that is mixed at least for a second
time must be recognized otherwise it could be misunderstood as something
new, and it would become plagiarism. Without a history, the remix cannot be

The extended, selective and reflexive remixes can quickly crossover and blur
their own definitions. Based on a materialist historical analysis, it can be
noted that DJs became invested in remixes which inherited a rich practice of
appropriation that had been at play in culture at large for many decades.
Below are brief definitions with visual examples.


Extended Remixes
The Extended Remix was an early form of remix in which DJs from New York
City became invested. On close examination this was a reaction against the
status quo, where everything was made as brief as possible, from radio songs
to novels. I argue that due to this, the extended remix is not found in mass
culture prior to this period.

The Disco DJs, going against the grain, actually extended music compositions
to make them more danceable. They took 3 to 4 minute compositions that would
be friendly to radio play, and extended them as long as 10 minutes.[6] In
the seventies this was quite radical because in fact, it is the summary of
long material that is constantly privileged in the mainstream‹which is true
even today. The reason behind this tendency has to do in part with the
efficiency that popular culture demands. That is, everything is optimized to
be quickly delivered and consumed by as many people as possible. An obvious
example of this tendency from history is the popularity of publications like
Reader¹s Digest, which offers condensed versions of books as well as stories
for people who want to be informed but do not have the time to read the
original material, which is often more extensive. [7]

Image source: E Bay

Another recent activity that is now emerging on the web is the two-minute
³replay² available for TV shows like ³Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.²[8] If
you missed the show when it aired, you can spend just two minutes online
catching up on the plot; in essence, this is a more efficient version of
Reader¹s Digest for TV delivered to your Internet doorstep. This two-minute
replay is also called ³video highlights.² At the same time, this
optimization of information allows entire programs to be uploaded by average
consumers in short segments to community websites like Youtube, which in the
end function as promotion for TV media.[9]

Image source: Youtube

Selective Remixes
For the Selective Remix the DJ takes and adds parts to the original
composition, while leaving its spectacular aura intact. An example from art
history in which key codes of the Selective Remix are at play is Marcel
Duchamp¹s Fountain (1917); [10] this work consists of an untouched urinal
(save for a traditional artist signature) to reinforce the question, what is
art? And codes of a second level remix on Duchamp can be found in Fountain
(after Marcel Duchamp) by Sherrie Levine who, in 1991, questioned Duchamp as
a privileged male artist and his urinal as art, leaving intact Duchamp¹s
aura as an artist but not the Urinal¹s spectacular aura as a mass produced
object. [11] In both of these cases there is subtraction and addition
(selectively­hence the term, Selective Remixes).

Image source: Turbulence.org
Layout by Ludmil Trenkov
Duchamp source: Art History Birmington
Levine source: Artnet

A second example where key codes of the Selective Remix are at play can be
found in DJ culture itself. Notice how the CD remixer gains authority by
allegorizing the turntable. In this case the Technics 1210 functions
similarly to Duchamp¹s urinal: the basic turntable designed for listening
was appropriated by the DJ to mix and scratch music live; it was used as an
actual musical instrument, and Duchamp appropriated a urinal to
recontextualize it as art. It is crucial to note that the necessity for
precision in performance by turntablists led to developing a specialized
turntable that could withstand physical abuse, while for Duchamp, it was
enough to leave the urinal intact, save for the artist¹s signature (R.
Mutt). Then the Technics SL-DZ 1200 similarly to Levine¹s urinal,
selectively allegorizes and appropriates elements from the Technics 1210
turntable; in this instance the critical elements that validate the
turntable in DJ Culture are not only left intact, but in fact celebrated.

Images source: Panasonic Europe

Reflexive Remixes
The Reflexive Remix differs in various ways from the Selective Remix; it
directly allegorizes and extends the aesthetic of sampling as practiced in
the music studio by seventies DJs, where the remixed version challenges the
aura of the original and claims autonomy even when it carries the original¹s
name. In culture at large, the Reflexive Remix takes parts from different
sources and mixes them aiming for autonomy. The spectacular aura of the
original(s), whether fully recognizable or not must remain a vital part if
the remix is to find cultural acceptance. This strategy demands that the
viewer reflect on the meaning of the work and its sources-even when knowing
the origin may not be possible.

An example from art history in which the codes of the Reflexive Remix are at
play is the work of John Heartfield, who takes material out of context to
create social commentary. His Photo-montages like Adolf the Superman:
Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk[12] and Hurrah, the Butter is All Gone,[13]
question the very subject that gives them the power to comment. In the
former, Hitler, as the title connotes, is presented swallowing gold and is
questioned as a leader of Germany; while in the latter, a German family is
having dinner, eating military weapons, thus the stability of the home is
questioned due to German politics. In his case, the spectacular aura of the
source image (like in the second remix) is left intact-but only to be
questioned along with everything else: we believe the image but question it
at the same time due to the dual transparency of a montage and the realism
expected of a photo-image; the work then gains access to social commentary
based on the combination of recognizable images.

Image source: Turbulence.org
Layout by Ludmil Trenkov
Sources: towson.edu

Another example from art history where the codes of the reflexive remix can
be found is the work of Hannah Hoch. Her collages blur the origin of the
images she appropriates; the result is open-ended propositions. Her work
often questions notions of identity and gender roles. Yet, even when it is
not clear where the material comes from, her work is still fully dependent
on an allegorical recognition of such forms in culture at large in order to
attain meaning. This is the case in pieces like Grotesque [14] and Tamar.
[15] Although they were made 30 years apart, both decontextualze the objects
they appropriate. Here we have body parts of men and women remixed to create
a collage of de-gendered figures. The authority of the image lies in the
acknowledgment of each fragment individually, and a specific social
commentary like the one found in Heartfield¹s work is no longer at play;
instead, each individual fragment in Hoch¹s work needs to hold on to its
cultural code in order to create meaning, although with a much more
open-ended position.

Image source: Turbulence.org
Layout by Ludmil Trenkov
Tamar source (left): yellowbellywebdesign
Grotesque source (right): Adam Art Gallery

For Heartfield and Hoch the subject which gives the work of art its
authority is actually questioned; the result is a friction, a tension that
demands that the viewers reconsider everything in front of them. This is
what makes their art powerful.

An example of the Reflexive Remix in culture at large is Wikipedia. The
entries to the online encyclopedia are constantly revised and updated by
different contributors; when a controversial entry is made, a discussion
ensues and a posting is placed at the top of the site explaining the current
state of debate.

Image source: Wikipedia.org

Another example is Youtube, a community site, which like Wikipedia is driven
by the community. If a video is offensive or deemed inappropriate the
community will let Youtube staff know immediately. Youtube also has a
complex tie in with the corporate media, in which copyright infringement is
always present, and it is quite common that when a corporation finds it to
their benefit, they demand their material to be removed if it was posted
without permission. This opens the door to the complexiies brought about by
the creative possibilities of ³free culture² and ³remix culture.²
For a detailed analysis of how the Selective and Extended Remixes are at
play in new media art, please read the section ³Remixes² in Turbulence:
Remixes + Bonus Beats.

There are many other examples from art history and popular culture which can
be presented. Neo-dada material by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and
their contemporaries can be connected to the reflexive remix, while work by
Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein can be related to the Selective Remix. The
Extended Remix, however remains unusual, except in the club remixes and art
projects. The reasons for this are constantly entertained in

In conclusion, what is crucial at the moment is understanding how different
acts of appropriation throughout history, such as the ones revisited above,
enable us to entertain Remix as part of the consumer/producer model
currently at play in culture.

[1] Brewster, 178-79.

[2] Paid in full was actually a B side release meant to complement ³Move the
Crowd.² Eric B. & Rakim, ³Paid in Full,² Re-mix engineer: Derek B., Produced
by Eric B. & Rakim, Island Records, 1987.

[3] Ulf Poschardt, DJ Culture (London: Quartet Books, 1995), 297.

[4] Dick Hebdige, Cut ŒN¹ Mix: Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music,
(London: Comedia, 1987), 12-16.

[5] DJ producers who sampled during the eighties found themselves having to
acknowledge History by complying with the law; see the landmark law-suit
against Biz Markie in Brewster, 246.

[6] Brewster, 178-79.

[7] Reader¹s Digest, , (October, 2006).

[8] ³Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,² nbc.com, September 2006,

[9] The 2007 Grammys can be seen in pieces almost in its entirety. See
³Grammys 2007,² Youtube.org 2007 (April 15, 2007),

[10] For an online reproduction of the famous Richard Stieglitz photograph
visit: ³Fountain²Art History
Birmington,http://arthist.binghamton.edu/duchamp/fountain.html , (November

[11] For an online reproduction of Levine¹s appropriation visit ³Sherrie
Levine,² Artnet, 
http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/cfinch/finch5-7-4.asp, (October,

[12] For an image of Heartfield¹s Superman, see: Towson.edu,
http://www.towson.edu/heartfield/images/Adolf_the_Superman.jpg, (October,

[13] For an image of Heartfield¹s Butter¹s all Gone, see
(October, 2006).

[14] For an image of Grotesque visit Adam Art Gallery
g.html, (October, 2006).

[15] For an image of Tamar ,visit ³Hannah Höch: ŒDompteuse(Tamar)¹,²
http://www.yellowbellywebdesign.com/Höch/dompu.html, (October, 2006). 

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