Re: Mash-ups (and ready-mades)

From: Brett Kashmere (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jan 05 2010 - 09:28:04 PST

Hi Fred,

To me, a "mash-up" is a uniquely digital creation, and derives from the layering of (typically) two distinctive, unrelated elements, which in turn, if done well, reveals surprising or subtextual relationships between the two sources.  DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album is one of the best and most famous instances of this practice, coupling a version of Jay-Z's Black Album with instrumentals from the Beatles "White Album."  The mash-up does, seemingly, have it's origins in popular music, particularly hip hop, but there are also similar principles at work in the "cut-ups" of Burroughs and Gysin and many other forms of collage/appropriation.

I was using the term "mash-up" deliberately, to delineate a particular thread of artistic practice, and one that is distinct from found footage filmmaking.  I would never use the term "mash-up" to describe Lipsett's films, which build their meaning through intricate sound-image montage that develops and changes from moment-to-moment in a vertical manner.  The mash-up is more about the aesthetics of simultaneity, montage in space.

The course that I'm currently preparing, titled "Remixing the Archive: Techniques of Appropriation," will investigate the history and technique of recycling, sampling, manipulating, and transforming found images and sounds (including detournement, found footage/collage films, mash-ups, remakes, readymades, etc), and will reflect upon how shifts in technology and privatization have effected contemporary media production and access.

Yesterday, someone pointed me to Scott MacKenzie's essay "The Horror, Piglet, The Horror: Found Footage, Mash-Ups, AMVs, the Avant-Garde, and the Strange Case of Apocalypse Pooh" (Cineaction 72 2007), which, coincidentally, begins with a reference to your "End of the Avant-Garde" piece.  It examines the pre-Internet mash-up "Apocalypse Pooh," perhaps the first of its kind, and grounds the mash-up genre in a historical trajectory of found footage practice.  It's an interesting and useful text, especially in light of this conversation. It's online at

Brett Kashmere
Oberlin College

> ------------------------------
> Date:    Tue, 5 Jan 2010 01:32:34 -0600
> From:    Fred Camper <email suppressed>
> Subject: Re: Mash-ups (and ready-mades)
> I'd like to question the use of the term "mash-up."
> I remember being startled a few years back by an article in
> "Wired" 
> magazine that referred to Arthur Lipsett's films as
> "mash-ups."
> The term itself suggests its origin in pop music, and an
> informality, 
> a rapidity of construction perhaps, that feels, to me,
> thoroughly 
> wrong for Lipsett's films, or, say, Brakhage's "Murder
> Psalm." "Found 
> footage films" or "collage films" are already-existing
> terms that seem 
> better.
> Of course there may also be more recent videos for which
> the term 
> "mash-up" is appropriate, and of course I understand that
> some may 
> disagree with me and go on using the term for all such
> films.
> Fred Camper
> Chicago
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

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For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.