Remix Metaphor

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

We kicked off this semester’s new CCT course in Remix Culture being tasked to select a piece of cultural production which metaphorically encapsulates the concept of the remix. I struggled to designate a single text, but instead offered two that speaks to a particular definitional tension that I am working with right now in trying to move towards a thesis proposal. I think it also serves as a good bit of thinking for my offering to Gnovis because it may serve as some good groundwork for my work here throughout the year.

This remix comes to us from the subcultural tradition of fanvidding. It has two clear pieces of source material – the audio source, “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor”by Flight of the Conchords and produced as part of their eponymous television show and J. J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film. Consistent with vidding convention, the song is overlaid on intentionally selected scenes from the film in order to stage a reading of the film, specifically here to highlight the lack of female representation in the Star Trek reboot. Sloane has referenced elsewhere her critical framing for the piece being particular drawn from The Bechdel Test.

To take it one level further, the audio source is also being critiqued. By deploying it in the novel context of Star Trek, the character of Uhura, and feminism, the sexism and homophobia of the original comes into marked relief. Sloane is thus playing on the word, “dick,” and rewriting the connotation intended by Flight of the Conchords – a synecdoche for men by way of the penis – and makes instead invokes the slang term for an irritating male.

To me this piece is representative of the phenomenon of remix because it makes legible the critical work of this variety of cultural production. This occurs so clearly in this vid (and, indeed, in vidding in general as Francesca Coppa has pointed out) because feminist reading practices are so familiar where aesthetic critique as is launched in the majority of music remixes seems more nebulous. The argument mounted in something like Ratatat’s remix of The Knife’s “We Share Our Mother’s Health” (video of original;remix) operates on the level of affect, which Charles Sanders Peirce called firstness in his tripartite taxonomy of signification.

Professor Osborne has started to push back to me on this last point and I do hope to further explore the concepts as received from Peirce, but that is a forthcoming piece of this project. What is relevant here though is the gap between the critical tools we have to work with visual culture versus the purely sonic, a gap that I’m increasingly looking towards as we approach thesis time.

Finally, I have chosen sloanesomething’s “…on the dance floor” because it is humorous, which I think is particularly important to account for in academic discussions of remix culture. So many remixes move through the world as funny memes, which has biased some academics against taking them seriously, but I have tried to draw upon scholars of serious play such as Johan Huizinga to argue that the playful quality of things like LOLCats, AMVs, erotic audio remixes, and humor!vids is not in conflict with the important cultural work being done by their creation and circulation.