imomus (imomus) wrote,

Delaware remix everything

The bastardisation and hybridisation central to the remixer's art has always been a pretty obvious metaphor for social mixing: under the remixer's eclectic, kleptomaniac hand all music becomes world music, anything can go with anything else, and the ghetto walls of genre get broken down. A music remix which samples and plunders far and wide is a plea for a property-less world, a world of migrant encounters in which exogamy and miscegenation must happen. A world of casual sex and beautiful coffee-coloured babies. A world in which "original character" is blurred and weird new shapes and forms emerge. A world, it's safe to say, Morrissey would hate.

Delaware are a group of Japanese information designers best-known for their collision, in the late 90s, of trad Japanese patterns with the digital jaggies of reduced computer displays, like the kind used on keitai phones. They also do music shows accompanied by these keitai-trad patterns. This info-folk hybridisation alone would have been enough to interest me considerably in Delaware, but they also recorded one of my favourite-ever songs, Graphic Designin' in the Rain. And now they've done something else brilliant. They've become YouTube remixers.

They aren't the first. This year I've been overlapping videos here on Click Opera, turning them into installations featuring Leo Ferre, or Bryan Ferry, or making a two-channel video for my cover of Sakamoto's Thatness and Thereness. And recently I told you about Anne Laplantine's new videos, which cannibalise shooter videos and turn them into a dark sort of poetry.

Delaware's take on YouTube -- YouTube Harmony, they call it -- is as light and positive as Anne's is (beautifully) negative. With the optimistic slogan "YouTube is full of fascinating sounds & visions waiting to be discovered -- let's mix YouTube!", they've come up with a very satisfying video remixing style: a simple quadrant featuring four videos, one usually showing their own jaggy patterns or ringtones, the others pulled up and picked out from the endless "homebaked digital folk" of YouTube's bubbling now-archive, its global cauldron of lo-res video soup. They've done it beautifully -- their take on "Space Oddity", for instance, gives me the tinglies.

One of the most fascinating things about this exercise is how auteurism is never cancelled out by the flavours of the source material. If you know Delaware's work, you see their guiding hand, their concerns, their style and their sensibility the whole time, even though they're using found footage. And that has interesting implications for our miscegenation metaphor -- that personality doesn't have to be lost just because new material is used.

What's more, although a lot of the source material is American, the end result is, for me, very Japanese. Delaware have reverse-engineered a final result that has a very similar information density to Japanese television. The screen crowds with details, insets, graphics, and yet somehow a spirit of bland positivity prevents all this clutter being overwhelming or oppressive. As in a Japanese city, a certain good-natured and civic-minded mood prevails, offsetting densities of information and event which could otherwise be murderously high. There's also, here, a sort of wide-eyed romanticism about world culture which is very Japanese, a transformation of everyday activities into something graceful and beautiful, and of course robot voices and an obsession with cooking.

I find that piece, in particular, very soothing. Somehow the granny-bakes-a-pie theme is very Alejandra and Aeron. And doesn't the banjo plucking make you think of those other masters of remix, The Books? At the end of the 90s the remix idea seemed to be a bit exhausted, part of a DJ culture we'd all got a bit sick of ("Too many DJs"!). But new approaches to remixing -- this Delaware project, Anne Laplantine's new work, or things like the Africa Remix show held last year at the Mori Museum in Tokyo -- suggest that an expanded idea of remixing can still be a very vital one.

Remixing has gone beyond music, and beyond even the digital soup we all cook up on our computers. Even events can be remixed. When I gave my Down With Fun lecture in Malmo last week, for instance, the two coolest kids in the audience came up to me afterwards and told me they were going to remix the lecture. Not on a record, but into a club event called Down With Fun presided over by DJ Kidult and Homo Ludens, characters taken from my talk-cum-dance. Their slogan, they told me, was "remix everything".

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