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The Concept of Remix Culture - Interaction Between the Old and the New

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Remix culture has long been assimilated into contemporary art and design to enhance growth and create new aesthetics using existing materials. Remix artists often explore unlimited possibilities to give critiques and turn the existing piece into a parody of itself.

“Arne Cubista”, made on 9 September 2007 by Italian designer Martino Gamper, is a part of his project 100 Chairs in 100 Days which challenges traditional clichés and formalist values of Modernism. Old pieces of Arne Jacobsen’s Mid-century chair were cobbled together to form a new harmonious yet irregular structure. Gamper splits one chair vertically in half and lies both parts down on the ground, with the two curvy parts placing opposite to each other to create a negative space in the middle. The two chrome steel legs were combined with the curvy shells on the ground to form four “feet”. Another chair, without the steel legs, was also split into half and molded together to be used as the back. A sense of movement is created through the sinuous lines of the shells, contrasting with the linear steel legs. The chair was named after Jacobsen, which gives a hint of irony.

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By deconstructing Jacobsen’s elegant Butterfly chairs, Gamper has created a new humorous structure that looks like a sculpture rather than a usable seat. The negative space created in the middle of the chair makes it difficult to rest upon and evokes ambiguous interpretations. This idea of remixing has successfully transcended the basic function of the chair as being something to sit on and disregarded the “Form follows function” principle of twentieth century design. Gamper has offered new ways to view familiar styles and space, which in turns provoke the formalized shapes and spaces of Modernist design.

Gamper has succeeded in transforming clean lines, gentle organic curves and easy-to-use Mid-century Modern design into such playful and unconventional form. However, while Jacobsen’s chair was elegant-looking and stylish; Arne Cubista was somewhat rough despite having the same sinuous lines. Apparently, this may be because of the black-box shape Gamper was trying to create by splitting the chair in half.

“Interloop” by Sydney artist Chris Fox illustrates how remix culture can create an interaction between the old and the new. The ceiling sculpture, installed in December 2017, was made from a historical wooden escalator built in 1931. Hanging above people’s heads, the warm wooden color of the treads remind passengers of the 80-year-old timber escalators in the past; while the twisting shape of the stairways creates a whole new space that seems out of this world.

In 2009, American artist Brian Dettmer created “New Books of Knowledge” by using an encyclopedia and a X-Acto knife to form landscapes and geographic images. Having carved through the entire pages, the encyclopedia appears like a mountain. Not only the images and vibrant colors suggest the landscape but the rough surface also represents the land itself. Each chapter in the encyclopedia sits closely to one another, creating a smooth and steady flow of nature. Dettmer deconstructed the original linear format and brought life to the dull encyclopedia.

Remix culture works with existing materials and their past creators in a way that expose new relationships between form and function. Arne Cubista successfully tears apart pre-conceived notions, while New Books of Knowledge and Interloop pushed the format of existing objects to reconstruct lively sculptures.

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