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The post stands on the shoulders of the two that came before it....
June 23, 2011 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Part 3 of the Everything is a Remix video series has been released, by New York filmmaker Kirby Ferguson. Previously on MeFi. See the entire series on Vimeo: Parts One, Two and Three. (YouTube versions and transcripts inside.) Official Site.

There will be a Part 4 released in the Fall, accompanied by a Kickstarter campaign.

Episode 1: YouTube Version / Transcript / Blog Entry

Episode 2: YouTube Version / Transcript / Blog Entry

Episode 3: YouTube Version / Transcript / Blog Entry
posted by zarq (31 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, these are wonderful. Thanks for the update!
posted by schmod at 1:31 PM on June 23, 2011


You're welcome!
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on June 23, 2011


These films are such great case studies for Quality vs. Quantity.

They're 10 minutes a piece (6 if you exclude the epilogue), and are composed entirely of very simple still frames or short videos. However, each frame and clip is meticulously prepared, introduced, and presented, and closely relates to the script.

There's no filler.

If Edward Tufte doesn't already use these clips as examples of presentations gone horribly, horribly right, he really should....
posted by schmod at 1:39 PM on June 23, 2011


Except for Jay Meisel photos. Don't even think of remixing that shit.
posted by PenDevil at 2:12 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really don't mean to thread-shit, but here's my feeling on these things: Everything is not a remix. Remixes are a subset of everything, they just happen to carry a lot of cultural capital right now. There's a lot to say about the various ways in which art borrows from other sources, and just saying 'This thing is sort of like or derivative of that thing, so it's a remix' seems... under researched? By the logic in these videos, the first remixes ever were when early man 'remixed' some ash into cave paintings. Later in 2011 Herzog 'remixed' these paintings into a film, and that's the history of the remix.

The motion graphics are really sharp, though!
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 2:14 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Remixes are a subset of everything

This sentence (amongst others in your post) made absolutely no sense to me. In fact, it seems you are being deliberately contrarian to provoke a response.
posted by smithsmith at 2:26 PM on June 23, 2011


There's also this KILL BILL special which is a supplement to the series.
posted by smithsmith at 2:29 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Horizontally a Champion: Everything is not a remix. Remixes are a subset of everything, they just happen to carry a lot of cultural capital right now.

Check out Part 1, in which the History of the Remix is addressed, back to the 1960s. It's not quite ashes to cave paintings, but it's a start.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:38 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its not clear whether or not you actually watched this video, Horizontally a Champion, but either way I don't think you're giving it enough credit. There is a pretty clear theory proposed here, namely that creativity (or innovation) is the process of taking what is already there, transforming those things, and/or combining those things in new ways or using them in new contexts, so it is not as vacuous a concept as you suggest.

I do agree with you that this general idea carries a lot cultural capital right now, but I think its because there is actually something to it. If you look at the references section his website, he lists some decent popular works dealing with the topic. Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From is particularly good. He connects biological evolution with art with scientific innovation with innovation in technology and business and he also proposes a pretty well defined theory about what kinds of environments and processes lead to good ideas, namely that ideas start out as hunches that percolate over long periods of time and then often only becoming breakthrough ideas when they collide with other hunches or smaller ideas.

In the Remix video, an example of this second part is the Macintosh which combined or remixed two ideas: the professional computer with the household appliance. Many people have made the point that breakthrough consumer products are often just excellent executions of older ideas, launched at the right time. Think of really any of Apple's products.

The general idea has also been popular recently in the context of art, specifically literature. See David Shields' Reality Hunger and Jonathan Lethem's "The ecstasy of influence", which is clearly a remix even in the narrow sense of the word.

If you think about it, it applies in a lot of contexts, and its actually a useful way to think about things. Think about Stephen Jay Gould's exaptions or spandrels, or think about hip-hop and electronic music. Or think about metafilter, which is a weblog mixed with a discussion forum.
posted by AceRock at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just to expand a little on my last point. The remix concept is useful because it is instructive. If you want to come up with good ideas, as an individual or as a group, it is useful to think about creativity and innovation in terms of remixes, in terms of ideas colliding, or old ideas used in new contexts. Johnson points to the coffeehouses of the Enlightenment and to the easy serendipity that is unique to the Internet.

I recently read an article about Pixar that talks about how Steve Jobs arranged the different departments of the studio so that they had cross paths on the way to the bathrooms or break rooms, increasing the chances that disparate ideas would collide and produce new ideas that were more than the sum of their parts. So it is not just useful as a mental exercise, to try to see how many things you can reframe as a remix. Rather, it can be a useful heuristic if coming up with good ideas is something you might be interested in doing.
posted by AceRock at 3:37 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Douglas R. Hofstadter: "Making variations on a theme is really the crux of creativity." (pdf)
posted by Knappster at 3:51 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


By the logic in these videos, the first remixes ever were when early man 'remixed' some ash into cave paintings. Later in 2011 Herzog 'remixed' these paintings into a film, and that's the history of the remix.

Is that really so preposterous? I have no problem with this logic, and I don't understand why anyone else would.

The remix concept is useful because it is instructive.

Or to put it another way, the remix concept isn't really a concept at all, but rather a nice buzzword that we can use to help us parse a very old (maybe even timeless) principle of artistic expression.

On preview, what Hofstadter/Knappster said.
posted by jnrussell at 3:53 PM on June 23, 2011


They're 10 minutes a piece (6 if you exclude the epilogue),

It's so odd how they put so much content after the credits. Wonder why.
posted by smackfu at 3:57 PM on June 23, 2011


I've been enjoying Everything is a Remix. I'm glad to see it on MeFi. I patiently await the fourth part.


AceRock: I couldn't agree more with the points you've made. David Shields's Reality Hunger was definitely a good read. As many reviewers have said, it takes a lot of ideas which are already out there and synthesizes them in an interesting way — the form, technique and content of his "manifesto" work hand-in-hand. Pretty neat.

And the article, was this one (PDF), from the Harvard Business Review, right? Pixar is such a rad company. Too bad Cars 2 is a dud, I hear. I didn't see the first one, so I have no bet on that race, I guess. I'm just kind of bummed that the "streak" is over.
posted by defenestration at 4:02 PM on June 23, 2011


smackfu: Maybe it's an experiment of some sort.

Classic film had the credits before the picture; contemporary ones have it at the end. Perhaps Kirby Ferguson is dropping the credits right in the middle to see how it effects the flow of his videos? To see if it gets people to actually read them?
posted by defenestration at 4:06 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's also this KILL BILL special which is a supplement to the series.

I swear someday I'm going to do my own video of this because that one is... not great. There is a crapload of fine detail that was passed over in that video, like the specfic differences between gung-fu and samurai flicks and how the interplay in the fight scenes workout. Not to mention some major stuff
posted by P.o.B. at 4:16 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Every time I watch one of these I want to go home and make something. He really de-mystifies the creative process in a way that I think I've always understood but had a hard time articulating, even while witnessing within myself.

For example, when I started teaching myself how to write music, I began with a Jewel song (Foolish Games), learning the notes to the piano part, and then asking myself "what if I played this note here instead of the note I'm supposed to play" and then continuing down that path of what-ifs until I'd created something new. Creativity works when we embrace our inspirations and forge ahead, confident in our ability to add fresh dimension to an ongoing conversation.
posted by jnrussell at 4:16 PM on June 23, 2011


There is a crapload of fine detail that was passed over in that video

In his defence, I think the video is looking at Tarantino's aesthetic, rather than conceptual, influences. That said, I would definitely watch your video.
posted by smithsmith at 4:50 PM on June 23, 2011


Classic film had the credits before the picture; contemporary ones have it at the end. Perhaps Kirby Ferguson is dropping the credits right in the middle to see how it effects the flow of his videos? To see if it gets people to actually read them?

To illustrate the synthesis of the classic and the modern?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:55 PM on June 23, 2011


"To illustrate the synthesis of the classic and the modern?"

Yes, that's what I thought too. Very effective.

posted by stagewhisper at 10:44 AM on June 24, 2011


So the other day I was reming Horizontally a Champion remix his house into a truck because he is remixing his life in a new state and at one point we remixed a break and he remixed his web browser to this thread so he could show me these videos and after that we remixed all his trash over to the dump where we remixed it into the trash piles there and later that evening we remixed over to a bar where a DJ was remixing disco music by playing one record after another and the only tables available were only big enough for two people so we remixed two tables into one that was big enough for our whole party and the bartender there remixed these excellent seasonal infused drinks but I didn't have any myself because I have been trying to remix my health.

Yes, the history of art is mostly the rehashing of previous art. Yes, the history of invention is a series of combinations of previous discoveries. If he really thought this was a controversial opinion that needed defending, it would have helped if he presented an example of someone claiming the contrary. But the examples picked here are kind of bizarre, to the point of seeming to be random nonsequitors. You would think that he would have actually described even one thing that is actually a remix. Like maybe some dub or dance music. That had a mix. And then that mix was remixed.

I could easily imagine that this was almost called "everything is a mashup", but they decided that name was too faddish.
posted by idiopath at 12:40 PM on June 28, 2011


So right after I initially posted on this, I was sucked into an inter-dimensional vortex and deposited in the near future. I felt compelled to follow up my initial post though, because it looks like I'm not coming across quite right. I'm aware the thread is well past it's shelf date, and that no one will ever read this, but I have a lot of time on my hands all of a sudden, and I am a crazy person.

First, I agree with all of you, as well as the creator of these videos on several points.

1. Some things are like other things.
2. Some things are made using parts of other things.
3. Creativity and culture are about the exchange and synthesis of ideas.

What gets me is this: Say I made a video called "Everything is the color blue". In this video, I talk about all the things that are blue and the way that they're related. The color red is a good example of 'long blue'. Radio waves are 'extremely long blue'. Purple is short blue. Sound is acoustic blue. Also, some joke about metafilter.

The point is, this would be a poor way to have a discussion, because there are specific words and contexts for all these things, and it's much more instructive to use these specific words and contexts, instead of talking about everything with regards to it's tenuous relation to the color blue. It's also not very helpful to conclude that since blue is a wave based phenomena, all other waves are more or less the same as the color blue.

The same holds for remixing. It I had to pick a place to start talking about remixing, it'd be dub music. Dub artists would take a prerecorded piece of music or instrumentation, and mix it again (or 'remix' it) usually by adding a ton of reverb and delay. Discussions about sampling are also relevant, because it's a pretty similar idea, so maybe we could start with music concrete, or something.

So, when I take your song, EQ and speed it up, then put a fat donk on it, that is definitively a remix. That's what the word means. When Apple combines two ideas into a new product? That's called engineering. When I cook a meal, I'm not remixing ingredients into something new. I'm cooking. A literary allusion isn't a remix either. The traditions of folk music and the blues are not based on remixing. When I wear a stripped shirt and spotted pants, it's not a remix, nor is it a mashup. Like remixes, these things all have rich histories, and specific words that are used to talk about them. To just say "This things is a combination of other things, so it's a remix." is extremely reductionist, especially in the context of a piece of educational media which purports to be lending some clarity to the issue.

So there you go. I'm all for taking the best parts of everything and combining them. I'm just against calling those things remixes unless that's what they actually are. I hope I'm judged fairly by our internet spider robot overlords, who are reading this now and forever.
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 12:51 PM on June 29, 2011


I'm all for taking the best parts of everything and combining them. I'm just against calling those things remixes unless that's what they actually are.

The point is that is exactly what they really are. Language can over-specialize as well as over-generalize.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2011


Feel free to look the word 'remix' up in any dictionary. Usually you'll find that it's either the act of mixing something again (mix, let set for 5 minutes, then remix), or a modified musical recording.
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 1:02 PM on June 29, 2011


CHT: Language can over-specialize as well as over-generalize.

HaC: Feel free to look the word 'remix' up in any dictionary

*facehoof*
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:06 PM on June 29, 2011


Oh come on. When I say "Hey, you know that new (artist 1) remix of that (artist 2) song" Do you get confused and think that maybe artist 1 made a debut feature length film based upon the work of artist 2, or do you perhaps know exactly what I'm talking about?
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 1:14 PM on June 29, 2011


Do you get confused and think that maybe artist 1 made a debut feature length film based upon the work of artist 2, or do you perhaps know exactly what I'm talking about?

What part of "Language can over-specialize" do you think that refutes?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:17 PM on June 29, 2011


Given the current level of specialization, our communication was effective and efficient. With a more abstract level of specialization, some confusion would have resulted. I therefor judge this language to be "specialized to the correct degree"!
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 1:26 PM on June 29, 2011


Given the current level of specialization, our communication was effective and efficient.

The point of the vid is that it wasn't. It was drawing an artificial distinction that should be ignored.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:30 PM on June 29, 2011


If we use the word remix to refer specifically to a reworked audio recording, we gain a certain clarity in language which helps us classify and differentiate like things from one another. What about this do you think is detrimental, or what do you think we gain if we broaden the term to include 'all things that are made from other things'?

Also, thanks for the discussion! I came back to this after a week because I find this stuff really interesting and worth talking about, and I appreciate the perspective.
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 1:42 PM on June 29, 2011


If we use the word remix to refer specifically to a reworked audio recording, we gain a certain clarity in language which helps us classify and differentiate like things from one another.

Yes, and there's a reason for using language like that. One of my friends does visual effects for movies and HATES it when I talk about 'special effects,' even though just about everyone who's not in his, or a related, profession does that. You, me, directors, producers, etc. It's a useful distinction for him and his kind, but nobody else cares.

This is sort of similar, but in reverse. We have made a term very specific when there's no reason for it to be. We say 'remix' or 'mashup' or 'original creation that sprang from my forehead like Athena' when they're the same thing.

Also, thanks for the discussion!

No, thank you. It's great to be able to sound off. Hopefully I'll be able to recognize when I'm just spewing hot air.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:28 PM on June 29, 2011


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