In my final project, I plan on exploring 3D and text-based remixes by remixing an old wedding portrait to illustrate how love degrades in a modern age. I’ll be using a 3-foot tall wedding portrait that I retrieved from the trash that already has both faces scratched out. I plan on painting the background around the couple in various colors that fade from bright at the top to somber and dark colors at the bottom of the portrait. Then, using Chinese and English magazines, I’m going to collect article titles that illustrate love and flirtation as well as the downgrade of a relationship, and arrange the words so that they fall around the couple and pile at their feet. Using the source material of an actual wedding portrait as well as various magazines, I hope to create a work that illustrates the potential downfalls in a couple’s relationship.
For the visual remix artist I chose the artist Mr. Brainwash, an artist discovered though a film made by Banksy (The famous, anonymous street artist we learned of last class), the title of the film was Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Mr. Brainwash uses a lot visual remix in that he takes established pieces or parts of pieces and recreates the in a street art/spray paint art style. For instance, in his piece, My Heart is Yours, he takes a portrait of Marilyn Monroe and decorates the area around her visage with a blue and green Captain America and several splatters, drips, and dollops of vibrantly colored paint. The final piece evokes the sense that like how street art represents the people so to did Marilyn Monroe, she was a cultural icon and the art I think, pays homage to that.
Similarly, there is his piece Al Pacino that does a similar thing, it takes one still image of what I presume to be from that legendary scene, and adds flair, a flash and a splash of color beyond the red of spilled blood, but instead splats of yellow, pink, a blue, in the same area a mismatch of seemingly faded paint, Captain America, and the Campbells soup cans that seem to dot various spaces around his work.
Remix is integral to MBW’s pieces because he takes these cultural icons and seemingly seamlessly blends them together with the vibrant, pop, and life of street art. The stills he uses are almost always black and white, but then they are once again brought back to life with these random, yet beautiful splashes of life, color, and chaos. Though their time has long come and gone, the subjects he portrays remain cultural icons to this day and I believe that remix, through his work, embodies the life, color, and vibrancy that they once brought to the world.
I chose to analyze Jenny Holzer’s installation “Projections,” inspired by the War on Terror, which shows her use of remixing text to present it in an original and moving way. Holzer combined poetry by Wislawa Szymborska with declassified government documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with personal letters from soldiers, hostages, torture victims and Iraqi and Afghan locals, creating a stunning and surprisingly holistic perspective. Her source materials may seem a bit obvious at first for her theme, but the specific words she chooses to present (or not present) show the thought and time that went into selecting the works to remix.
Pieces of poems are projected across the walls in giant, newspaper-ish lettering, projecting not blunt headlines but the emotion and hurt laden in the perspective of the poetry from someone who witnessed the violence. On the walls in the other part of the exhibit, her “Redaction” paintings cut stark images, each painting containing parts of declassified documents with some words that are visible and others that are blacked out with paint. The process of redaction and painted details highlight the most shocking and gruesome aspects of the war. From lists of torture methods the US army used on prisoners, to autopsy reports to descriptions of violence, Holzer blacks out her own words and redacts them to show the shocking truth hidden under official language. For autopsy reports, Holzer has pressed the outlines of various body parts to the declassified documents, such as hands and limbs, to bring the wording into reality.
Remix is an integral part of Holzer’s work because she seeks to show the facts and accounts that we have access to but often choose to ignore. All her source material is related in theme but shows different perspectives on a gruesome war Americans know well. The injustices become obvious when stated in the very words of the documents, letters and poems, and the missing words, blacked out sections and projected pieces make it only more striking by leaving some of it untold. Users are encouraged to actively imagine the rest of the documents and stories, where only the rawest and most brutal details are preserved.
Overall, I think Holzer’s installation is very effective. It challenges attendees to think deeper about the details we may ignore or “redact” ourselves because of the painfulness of the truth. Also, her painting, curation and projections artfully display these remixed texts in a way that encourages people to interact with official documents in a way they probably never would. Holzer’s work shows originality in the most dense official documents and vastly different personal accounts.
A unique remix artist that I recently discovered is Doug Aitken. His work has focused on visual remixes. In his remix he puts together different clips and displays them in his cinematic films. After every clip of his work he shows us familiar landscapes in a sequence that does not stop for a second.
One of the popular pieces Aitken created was hysteria. It focuses on clips of different rock concerts filmed throughout the 90s. These clips do not focus on the performance of rock concerts themselves, but instead they focus on the crowd and what is going on during the main performance. The crowd is an element that is often overlooked in a concert. Aitken turns them into a remix themselves. Aitken focuses on the crowd at these concerts and gets rid of the actual performance in its entirety. It features these fans in non stop motion enjoying themselves amongst each other.
Black mirror is another piece that is created by Doug Aitken. This piece primarily focuses on non stop motion. It involves remixes of artist singing, planes flying, boats moving. This is to represent the constant motion that occurs everyday around the world. There is a motion that is always present around us that we do not notice. His black mirror piece is similar to his hysteria piece that features this crowd of people rejoicing and constantly moving as they enjoy their concert. He utilizes all of these materials that can be found in clips that are easily accessible from online. He uses these clips of concerts, clips of artist singing, and puts them back to back in order to show us that movement is everywhere in our daily lives. Remix is an important part of his work as all of the different clips show the constant movement that occurs in the world. In order to deliver his message he needed to use familiar content that we as the audience are familiar with and can relate to.
I came across Penelope Umbrico’s work as I was reading a New York Times article on the idea of the visual remix. I viewed the works of all mentioned by NYT artists, but I found her work to be the most appealing.
The first of Umbrico’s pieces I have seen was 541,795 Suns from Sunsets from Flickr, which was also made the cover image for the NYT article, and I believe it was made the cover image not without the reason. It is a collage of sunsets which I found to be impressive, especially after seeing a photograph of the piece exhibited in a gallery. The artist looked for the most frequently photographed subjects online and found them to be the sun. That drove her towards creating the collage. I believe that an extremely effective technique that Umbrico used is how she chose the images. Every image has a high contrast, saturation, and very defined sun. She also cropped the pictures in a way that eliminates all other elements from the photographs and makes the sun(s) the sole focus of the images.
The second piece I studied is, in fact, the artist’s response to the first one. Penelope Umbrico created Copyrighted Suns/ Screengrabs in order to “question the claim of ownership of an image of something that is essentially un-possess-able”, as she describes it on her website. As a statement, she removed all actual suns from images and replaced them with watermarks that symbolize copyrights.
What both of the pieces have in common is that they are fully obtained from an outside source (Flickr), and combined together to create this beautiful outcome. They are created using very similar techniques – for instance, the ‘sun’ subject in the center, high saturation. The technique is, in fact, so similar that looking from afar, one could not distinguish between which piece features sun, and which one features watermarks.
While I find the first piece to be extremely appealing, probably one of my favorite pieces of visual remix art so far, I do not find the second piece not any less engaging. Even though visually, I favor 541,795 Suns from Sunsets from Flickr, I am impressed by the idea behind Copyrighted Suns/ Screengrabs. I find it to be an extremely smart and ingenious way of addressing the case of ‘owning’ images, which the artist admits she does not agree with. Moreover, through this work, Umbrico also connects to her first piece and makes a statement about the source images she used to create it.
Hannah Höch was a German artist who created collages from photographs in order to comment on politics and gender roles (ArtStack). Her works often included cut-outs of human facial and body parts altered to fit a Dadaist style. The photographs she used for her photomontages were largely from mass media and popular culture (Hermann).
Her series From an Ethnographic Museum is particularly interesting because the pieces also incorporate photographs of indigenous African artifacts (Cumming). One example of a piece from this collection is Indian Dancer:
A European woman’s face was collaged together with the African artifacts, creating a subject that represents a blend of different cultures. The blue shape in the background gives a pop of color to the otherwise neutral tones.
Untitled is another piece in this collection:
The bottom half of the figure appears as if it is part of an artifact, whereas the arms, face, and eyes appear to be taken from Höch’s usual sampling of European pop culture sources. The pop of color against otherwise neutral tones appears again, and seems to be a common stylistic choice across Höch’s works.
These works have been thought to serve as Höch’s criticism of Nazi Germany and Western beauty standards (AnOther). The remix is central to this particular series, because it makes the message evident. Höch essentially mixed a variety of source material in order to criticize what one particular source material was insinuating.
However, Höch’s choice of source material to show this criticism proves to be problematic. I do find her choice of cutouts to represent Western beauty standards successful in that they were taken from mass media such as magazines, undeniable sources of beauty standard influences. However, her choice to use African artifact photographs cutouts from museum catalogues is problematic in that Höch appropriates cultural artifacts to support a Western beauty criticism. What could have been more successful would be to use cutouts of human models from international pop culture magazines rather than cultural artifacts.
Remix is an integral part to Höch’s works largely due to the source material she drew upon. Her photomontages revolved around politics, androgyny, and gender roles – topics that are relevant and require “current” knowledge. Thus, her source material was largely taken from mass media and popular culture, material that focuses on the “current.” The source material an artist uses, therefore, can directly correlate to the message they wish to convey.
Tom Phillips is a British visual artist most famously known for his work, The Humument. Phillips’ idea for the piece was to find a second-hand book for three pence and then alter every page to create an entirely new version. The book Phillips’ found was an 1892 copy of A Human Document by W.H. Mallock. Phillips then proceeded to paint and collage every one of the 367 pages to create his final piece, which he published in 1973. From then on, Phillips has purchased every copy of A Human Document he has found and has continued to rework every page in the subsequent copies. He has released three additional remixed works. This project spanned 50 years and has evolved into an ebook version as well as a mobile app.
The Humument is a visual work of remix because it alters an existing work into a completely new piece of work. Phillips only uses the pages in A Human Document as his source material. To create the new work, he utilizes original illustrations and paintings as well as other found materials such as photographs.
Phillips uses the cut-up technique in an inventive way in his work. He highlights certain words already written on the book’s page by leaving them clear and unaltered. The rest of the page is drawn over or painted on so that the remaining text is covered up. The result looks quite similar to blackout poetry or found poetry where the selected words convey a different message. The piece below is an example of the text remixed to reveal a new meaning in a preexisting context. This technique is interesting because we are completely unaware of the original source content. We cannot read the full sentence from which the selected words come from. As a result, the meaning created by the poem can stand-alone and be divorced from the original meaning. Phillips uses the source content to create a completely new piece. In fact, I found myself trying to infer the context of the original work with the few selected words shown in the piece.
Phillips also uses this technique to add narration to the images created on the page. He allows for the words to influence and render an image. Again, the source content is used to create a completely new piece. In the piece below, the selected words create story about a “purple pilgrimage” in “Italy.” Other words such as “cathedral” and “Renaissance” also appear and clearly influenced the image Phillips created on the page.
In another example, Phillips creates a scene depicted by the text. The “opera in the garden” is illustrated by the created image.
I can imagine in both of these cases, the story present within the original source content did not follow or involve a “purple pilgrimage” or am “opera in the garden” but Phillips’ remix of the content creates a new story within the existing work.
Phillips’ work stands as an example of the diverse ways remix can be used in visual art. Phillips has created hundreds of new poems and art pieces using the pages in found novels. Drawing inspiration from the original, he was reinvented the pages into his own work.
The three twitter accounts that I found that utilize text-based remix are @CensusAmerical, @Twoheadlines, and @Nice tips bot. These accounts all draw information from different sources in order to create pretty interesting text based remix.
@Censusamerica is a particularly interesting twitter account. It utilizes information from the United States Census in order to create a story from the data that has been collected from the United States Census Bureau from 2009-2013. The United States census is a compilation of countless statistics and data. It is easy to view the information on the census and forget that there are actual people behind these numbers. The creator of this twitter account generated this twitter bot in order to remind people of the actual people behind these numbers. This twitter account constantly updates itself and produces statements as if the people who are a part of these statistics are actually writing them. This account gives these numbers a voice to remind us that these numbers represent real human lives and experiences.
@Twoheadlines is a twitter bot that uses different headlines from Google News and puts two of them together. The purpose of this seems to be in order to show how things can be put together and mixed to seem like something else. @Nice tips bots is a bot that gives people life advice in order to make their day better. It draws its source content from WIkihow. It gives user advice in order to try to make them feel more positive. It ranges from tweets recommending the proper exercise routine to tweets telling users not to go to sleep no matter what so they don’t miss any commitments. This twitter account seems like it was made by its creator in order to give people the push they need occasionally. All of these twitter bots utilize content that is already out there. These bots manipulate everyday text in order to give it a new purpose and new meaning. Tweeter is an effective platform because of its ability to reach a wide audience and because it is used by everyday people who can be reached by these messages.
The first account I analyzed was @nice_tips_bot, named “hi i have advice” on Twitter. The account appears to tweet random, highly specific advice, such as “a cool tip is it is good to dry glasses with microfiber cloth” and “important: practice this every day for a while, then go on and try to learn the actual signs to words.” Each tweet is completely taken out of context, yet it’s easy to see that it made sense somehow in its original context. The bot works by randomly selecting “tips” from the end of WikiHow articles on random and disjointed topics and tweeting them slightly reframed as advice that sounds like it’s from “a well-intentioned friend who just wants to help folks with the occasional out-of-context reminder” says @thricedotted, the creator of the bot. @thricedotted said in an interview that the bot is very simple, it simply pulls a tip and then the code adds words like “hey don’t forget,” “remember” and “a cool tip is.” These structures are varied slightly so that each tip has a fresh rephrasing. I think @thricedotted chose to use WikiHow because of how diverse the source material is as well as the structure, as WikiHow already has the “tips” at the end of many of its articles. I think Twitter is a very effective medium for this bot because it allows short, separate snippets that aren’t necessarily connected, just like the random tips @nice_tips_bot tweets.
The next account I looked at was @TwoHeadlines. Two Headlines, as the name suggests, combines two different headlines pulled from the Google News of that day and combines them randomly to produce a new, slightly absurd headline. The results are usually pretty funny and very unexpected, which was the goal of the creator @tinysubversions, aka Darius Kazemi. Darius explains that “it’s funny [because] it’s timely – it’s always talking about what’s in the news right now.” Some of Two Headline’s tweets from today include “Stormy Daniels kept dress from Beyonce date, friend says” and “Facebook: Bills make strange, but solid picks in latest 7-round mock.” The twitter is clearly a bot though, because maybe half of the tweets are almost too nonsense to be funny, while the other half appear to meet Darius’ goal of being humorous because of the unexpected yet relevant quality. Overall, I feel like Twitter is an effective medium, but the bot could be more effective itself by being programmed to match grammatically correct headlines together and create more readable and funny results than just random ones.
Finally, I looked at an account called Olivia Taters (@oliviataters) with the caption “ugh dad.” The Twitter is created to mimic a teenage girl and the way girls tweet, and uses an algorithm that searches Twitter for tweets containing the same adverb (such as “absolutely” or “literally”) and combines a few or two tweets into one with that adverb. The results sound very teenager-y and are often humorous. Some of the tweets include:
“I rarely remember my dreams once I wake up, but when I do, they are literally at themselves”
“man, making games is remotely very gay”
“we are inevitably idiots. #fakenews”
I’m surprised at how consistent the tone is throughout the tweets, and I’m curious as to how the bot (or human behind it) curate and filter the tweets to maintain the teenage girl vibe. I thought this account did a great job of creating the allusion of a real person with the same style of tweeting while maintaining just enough absurdity to clearly be a bot. I think Twitter is actually the only medium that would work with this project as it is clearly built to mimic a real Twitter account. Overall, I found Oliver Taters to be a great example of a bot with a complicated but effective algorithm.
In my Twitter research, I found three text-based Twitter bots: ‘@TwoHeadlines’, ‘@DeepDrumpf’, and ‘@kookyscrit’. The mentioned bots work in very different ways and obtain their original; text from various sources.
TwoHeadlines is a truly amusing (and funny) bot that bases off of Google News, from which it takes popular headlines and remixes them creating text mashups of a kind. The outcome of the process is yet another headline. As the bot does not necessarily choose headlines that are relevant to each other in any way, the outcomes are often very humorous.
Another bot that I found to be very interesting is DeepDrumpf. After doing some research, it turned out that the idea of DeepDrumpf actually originated from John Oliver’s show ‘Last Week Tonight’. The bot obtains its source material from Trump’s speech transcripts, his own tweets What I find to be a wonderful aspect of this twitter bot is that it serves to fundraise for girls in the STEM field. Bradley Hayes, the creator of DeepDrumpf, in a press release, admitted that Donald Trump was a great speaker to base the bot on, considering his speech patterns, which I completely agree with. The bot-created tweets resemble those of Donald Trump himself in a number of ways – in terms of his use of language, grammar, and combining a number or unrelated to each other sentences. I believe that a large portion of the population, if told that DeepDrumpf tweets are actually Donald Trump’s tweets, would be likely to believe it.
And for reference:
The last Twitter bot I researched was one similar to ‘GrammarPolice’ – @kookyscrit. It focuses on the use of 2 words: ‘weird’ and ‘definitely’. From what I have seen, the bot posts approximately every 10 minutes, targeting other Twitter users who made a mistake in one of those two words. What I find amusing is that the bot has actually more than one way, pattern of responding to misspelling Twitter users. For instance:
- “It’s an ‘i’, not an ‘a’: definitely”
- I before E except after C: weird
- Did you mean to say “Weird”?
- That’s a kooky spelling! I think you mean “Weird”
I think the reason Twitter is an extremely effective platform, especially for text-based bots, is that it’s very accessible and open. Bots have access to people’s tweets while, in the case of Facebook, most users’ privacy settings would hinder the process of obtaining data (posts). Moreover, Twitter is very text-based. In the case of Facebook, I barely ever see posts that contain text only. Having done research on video and images attached to posts on social media, I know that the audience of text-only content is nowhere near that of posts featuring some kind of visuals. That is the case especially present on Facebook. Twitter is perceived slightly differently and Tweets are in general shorter as well, which I believe makes it a platform where text-only content is much more successful. Hence, I think it makes a great environment for text-based bots.