In honour of Christian Marclay’s remix masterpiece The Clock, we’re digging through a selection of mash-up works and artists to view online and in gallery.
They’re just recent examples of remix culture, an artistic tradition that encompasses everything from hip hop and installation to moving-image and memes, recontextualising and repurposing existing objects, music and art. Think how Marcel Duchamp’s readymade Fountain challenged what could be in a gallery, how DJ Kool Herc’s turntablism created fresh expression from remixed music, or how Christian Marclay questions time through film and TV in The Clock.
Though much of remix culture, like fan-made supercuts, can be interpreted firstly as entertainment, moving-image remixes have long challenged political, corporate and social power structures. In 1941, Charles A. Ridley ridiculed the proposed might of the Third Reich by remixing footage of Nazis dancing to “Lambeth Walk”, while René Viénet mocked Mao by splicing together Chinese propaganda and kung fu movies.
In the 1970s, Kandy Fong pioneered vidding by synching a Star Trek slide-show with music from a cassette player, and Dana Birnbaum’s influential Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman helped reinforce pop culture appropriation as an artistic resource and avenue for feminist critique and resistance.
When VCR technology became available a decade later, moving-image remixing was even more accessible, allowing culture jammers and Scratch Video artists like Sandra Goldbacher and Kim Flitcroft to question conservatism and mass-media by recutting TV, music videos and found footage into unstable mash-ups (a style which the advertising industry ironically recuperated).
While the Gulf War waged nightly on TVs during the 90s, collectives like EBN and Negativland cut-up evening news broadcasts and music to question how the media turned war into entertainment, continuing Ridley and Vienet’s subversive tradition and foreshadowing the rampant politicisation of appropriation, on both the left and the right, that exists online today.
Thanks to the Internet, remixes and mash-ups are everywhere, easily created and disseminated as memes, GIFs, fan edits, supercuts, machinima and countless other forms that are central to contemporary culture and now constitute an archetypal aesthetic of the internet. Kids create them, Presidents share them and museums like us present them.
So, for everyone who wants to see more mash-ups like The Clock, here are some of our favs, online and in galleries.
TERROR NULLIUS (2018)
Okay, so we’re a little biased, but Soda_Jerk’s TERROR NULLIUS recontextualises iconic Australian moments from film, TV and news broadcasts, taking aim at white Australia, our refugee policy, Indigenous genocide, misogyny and ecological ambivalence.
While you wait to see what gallery or cinema TERROR NULLIUS pops up in next, you can view more of Soda_Jerk's work online.
Emergency Broadcast Network
Though created in response to the first Gulf War in 1991, with the second Iraq War lasting eight years and the Afghanistan War still going, EBN’s Gulf War: The Air War seems as pertinent today as it did 28 years ago. Strangely, the work continues to evolve when viewed now, creating an uncanny connectivity by featuring many of the politicians instrumental in those recent conflicts like Donald Rumsfield, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, as well as demonstrating the cavalier attitude towards war held by Western officials and the public.
Hell’s Club (2015)
Out of the doom and gloom and straight into an ultra-violent fanboy fantasy that pits The Terminator against Tom cruise in Collateral, set in the love child of Mos Eisley cantina and the club from Carlito’s Way.
In Hell’s Club, creator Antonia Maria da Silva reconfigures movie narratives, tropes and machismo. Saturday Night Fever’s Tony Manero (John Travolta) gazes thirstily at Anakain Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), while Casino’s Ace Rothstein (Robert DeNiro) evil-eyes Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, highlighting the male-gaze in both films and how the real-life actress has become a simulacrum of the Sharon Stone persona. Further reading against the grain, there’s an unspoken relationship between Travolta and Pacino that makes a tragedy of the popcorn violence.
Musician and video editor Swedemason created one of the more contemporary uses of remix to critique Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg on Twitter. After 40 hours of editing news footage, Swedemason had the conservative politician singing along to Pulp hit ‘Common People’. Despite the title and original spirit of the song, this remix highlights just how far Rees-Mogg is from common people.
By creating parody lyrics from speeches to highlight the conservative politician’s privilege and mock Theresa May’s negotiation on Brexit, Swedemason has created a viral hit that acts like a protest song for the Internet generation. Though Swedemason makes pure entertainment like a dance tune from Kindergarten Cop, many of his highly-viewed works recontextualise pop culture, political speeches and internet aesthetics to challenge power in an intrinsically shareable form.
Similarly, Cassette Boy recuts political speeches to pop music soundtracks, making politicians like Trump admit and own the perspectives usually held by his critics.
The Unusual Suspect
But political polemics don’t have to ruin all the internet's fun. People are still making clever, joyous remixes that are simply to be appreciated for their ingenuity and editing prowess that’d make Christian Marclay proud. Take The Unusual Suspect, a YouTuber who cut 210 pieces of movie dialogue to remake M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’ and reimagines Home Alone’s Kevin McAlister in The Wolf of Wall Street style. Remix videos like these celebrate pop culture and cinema, demonstrating the extraordinary creativity you can find everyday on the internet when we're not just looking for divisiveness and difference.
How good would it be if there was The Clock but for videogames? That’s the question video editor, 3D animator and supercut maestro Duncan Robson asked himself, and has since launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund The First Hour.
While we wait for that work to debut, relive all those dubious moments in film and TV where grainy CCTV footage is enhanced to reveal clues, suspects and secrets.
Tales of Us (2014)
Oliver Pietsch’s Tales of Us cuts together hundreds of clips from film and TV about desire, sex and love, drawn from mainstream classics like Superbad and Risky Business to the work of auteurs like Paul Thomas Anderson. By splicing together sex scenes and snippets of on-screen relationships, Pietsch questions companionship, morality, fantasy, reality and ultimately, existence.
As Matt Hanson writes, 'Tales of Us can be interpreted as a series of motifs, opening with wonder, and then coming to passion, love, separation, aging, and finally, the great absence of death.'
Watch it here on 4:3.
We’re also not opposed to remixing home movies, government films and commercial footage. Sam Mapplebeck in our media studio team delved into the archives to make this work questioning how Australian identity and attitudes to youth have changed.
- Matt Millikan