Remix has often been called the first modern art form. Enabled by modern copy-paste technologies, by the wealth of material opened up for recycling by the information age, and by the legal and ethical provisions of fair use, remix has been given a central place in the history of the digital revolution. It has also been hailed as an inherently egalitarian practice, open to anyone with a computer or a pair of scissors, indiscriminate in its mixing of media, its combination of high art with low art, and its appropriation of both proprietary materials and those in the public domain.
At the beginning of December, students and staff at Winchester School of Art (where I work) took part in a series of Critical Media Practice workshops, focused around the theme of ‘Gendering Technology’. The workshops developed practical skills, but also explored the gendered dimensions of technology’s access and use, and the framing of debates around gender … Read more
This article was originally published in Dutch on Hebban.nl, 16 May 2017. I have translated and reproduced it here with the kind permission of the website and the original author, Adinda Volkers. Some of the hyperlinks have also been adapted to redirect readers to equivalent English-language sources.
Warning: this is a political piece. I would not know how to write something apolitical or noncommittal about a book like Max Havelaar. If you don’t care about politics, thinking, the environment, or human rights, please feel free to read something else. But then you’ll miss the zombies!
This blog started in 2014 as a chronicle of my PhD research into Frankenfictions—books, films, television, and fine art that remix classic literature and historical documents in monstrous ways.
Now, four years on, I’m very excited to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Bloomsbury Academic for my book Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture. It should be out in hardback sometime in 2019, with a projected paperback release in 2021.
The remix, the mashup, and the reboot have come to dominate Western popular culture. These texts are the ‘monsters’ of our age—hybrid creations that lurk at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Like monsters, mashups offer audiences the thrill of transgression in a safe and familiar format. And like other popular texts before them, they are often read by critics as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture.
With this context in mind, my research explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix culture and its Others (adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, postmodernism). It often does so by examining remix culture’s most ‘monstrous’ and liminal texts: Frankenfictions, or commercial narratives that insert fantastical monsters into classic literature and popular historical contexts. In this definition, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein serves as a touchstone, offering an ideal metaphor for appropriative creativity in the twenty-first century.
Frankenfiction includes direct appropriations of classic literature, like the bestselling Quirk Classics novels, but also literary-historical dramas like the Sky/Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful (2014–2016), the depiction of monsters through an historical aesthetic in Travis Louie’s photorealistic paintings, and much, much more. It is monstrous not only because of the fantastical monsters it contains, but because of its position on the boundary between remix and more established modes of appropriation. Too engaged with tradition for some, and not traditional enough for others, Frankenfiction is a bestselling genre that nevertheless remains peripheral to critical discussions of remix.
This article by Hilda Bouma originally appeared (in Dutch) in Het Financieele Dagblad on 15 April, 2017. It has been translated and reproduced here with the kind permission of the author and the paper. The copyright for this article is reserved by Het Financieele Dagblad, and it should not be reproduced without express written permission. To read the … Read more
As a teacher, I deal with plagiarism all the time—usually in the sense of advising students how to avoid it in their academic essays. As an academic blogger, though, and a web editor before that, I’ve often had to deal with another form of plagiarism: the visual kind. Where most of us are clear on what constitutes … Read more
On this blog I’ve previously written about Travis Louie and Dan Hillier, two fine artists whose work I’ve been researching. I also wrote a post for the Victorianist on Colin Batty, who paints monsters onto old Victorian cabinet cards. A fourth artist whose work I’m writing about is Kevin J. Weir, though he wouldn’t necessarily … Read more
This post contains minor plot details from seasons 1-3 of Penny Dreadful. Read on at your own discretion. You may recall that I spent the first part of the year reviewing the last season of Penny Dreadful for the Victorianist blog. In my final post, I talked a bit about the show’s intertextual relationships with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; … Read more
In a previous blog post, I mentioned the Ellis Island immigrant portraiture of Augustus F. Sherman. I wrote: Sherman was an amateur photographer working as Chief Registry Clerk at New York’s Ellis Island station from 1892 until 1925, and he photographed some of the twelve million immigrants to pass into the USA before the station closed in 1954. … Read more