straddling the art and remix world

I saw this Candice Breitz piece last year at the Yvon Lambert Gallery and I actually feel asleep. It was a dark room and it was well heated.  But I bumped into this blaring Candice Breitz piece over the weekend while facilitating a new media training at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival….

….and it helped me rediscover what makes Him + Her interesting from a remix perspective.

Him (1968-2008) remixes a narrative between 23 Jack Nicholson films made over a period of 40 years. Her (1978 – 2008) remixes 28 Meryl Streeps movies made from 30 years’ worth of films. I find Her most appealing/appalling as the self-worth of Streep’s characters are largely dependent their relationship to the men in their lives. It lives in stark contrast to Him, where Nicholson’s male characters narcissistically struggle with issues of self-definition, sanity and sexual performance. Breitz says the focus of her work lies in the “unconscious of mainstream cinema, the values and layers of meaning that slowly start to make themselves legible when the big plots are stripped away.” Critics say that she’s reinforcing stereotypes by repeating them continuously.

Pieces like Breitz’s are created within the art world where there’s a history of practice and discourse around appropriation, but this work also clearly straddles the world of fandom and remix, a term which she uses to describe her work. She appropriates footage from particular movies for the purpose of critical commentary but the work is produced as an art installation, within 7 channels, for a gallery space. Breitz runs into copyright problems despite the work’s physical location. She apparently had to ask (and perhaps never received) permission from Yoko Ono to screen her video of fans singing a John Lennon song (Ono holds the rights to the collection). And it looks like she even speaks on the topic of fair use.