RE/Mix in Literature: A Panel Discussion

  • Panel Discussion with Jonathan Ames, Eduardo Navas, Ed Champion, and McKenzie Wark
    Moderated by: Miriam Aziz 

    A remix in literature can be as simple as an alternative version of a text or as complex as cut-ups, literary collages, or multimedia retellings of literary works. No matter what you call it, remix in literature has a history as long as that of literature itself. Nearly all of Shakespeare’s plots were “borrowed” (i.e. repurposed, retold, remixed) from other sources. In the 1920s, Tristan Tzara advocated a Dadaist poetry-writing technique of cutting up newspapers and rearranging the pieces. In the 1950s, the Situationist International (SI) developed the technique of détournement in which entire novels were cut up and recontextualized in order to turn media and capitalist culture against itself.  William Burroughs used Bryon Gysin’s cut-up technique to remix language in the 60s.

    The tools of today’s digital culture makes it easy for artists to sample and manipulate selected source material through their own theoretical and artistic filters, with the resulting explosion of creativity engendering accusations of piracy and plagiarism.  Where do we draw the line between remix and plagiarism? Can an arrangement of letters and words be “owned” or is the concept of authorship “dead” as Barthes proclaimed in 1967? When does an expression become “original” and is the current method of protecting authorship valid in the 21st century? These are just some of the questions that may arise as our panel of experts engages in a discussion of remix and writing in the 21st century.

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