Creating a Given From an Unknown
“The more human beings proceed by plan the more effectively they may be hit by accident.”
Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Physicists
Does a thing exist if it has no form? And, when it assumes a form, is it a true representation of itself? The Internet lends itself to this discussion. The question—Is cyberspace truly a thing?—would be a starting point. Because it has no form, how do we know it exists? Its components have form, (keyboards, routers, modems, harddrives, servers) but look for a physical entity and you’ll find none. Physicists would argue the point with me, I know that. Electricity exists, as do most gasses, in a state which cannot be viewed through concrete visual images the same as a tree or a driveway. This concept could probably be said for the Internet, but, come on, it’s not something you can hold in your hand, so nod and agree with me for the sake of discussion.
Email could be considered a representational entity, constructed from components, and that entity would be the form of the thing, Internet. Take this a step further, have illustrators, designers, artists, and animators participate in creating this entity and you have RMX Extended Play.
The object of the exercise is to re-interpret themes using contrasting graphic approaches. A remix. Simply put: it’s a game. Everyone gets the same first piece (a graphic of a bottle, a femur, a human head, whatever) and creates an illustration incorporating it.
A testament to the collaborative possibilities offered by email, RMX EXTENDED PLAY spanned the world and allowed participants who might never meet face to face the opportunity to engage in a fleeting but intimate vector relationship…
RMX traces its genealogy way back to the year 2000, when the first remixers huddled around campfires, scrawling rough ideagrams onto cave walls and clutching their makeshift weapons at each howl of the predatory clients that stalked the cold wastes. Eight of these designers decided to dull the pain of their cro-magnon style existence with a spontaneous swapping of designs - remixing - a collaboration based on surrealist game concepts.
The results of the “impromptu weekly process” were compiled and exhibited in Australia and Berlin. The RMX Extended Play movement gained momentum and evolved into an “unwieldy, many-hued graphic hydra.” Then it became a book. Complete with CD and peel and stick pre-printed criticisms to help you rate the pages, this is one hell of a book. Witty, creative, and inspired… an amazing collaboration, truly Internet art in its purest idealogical state because, the Internet gave it form.
An Interview with Rinzen [published with permission]
Please describe the idea behind RMX:
For RMX, we created a range of initial pictures, based on themes ranging from the relevant to the ridiculous. These were passed on, step by step, to each player, being ‘remixed’ (i.e. modified, added to or erased) on the way, with each participant not seeing the work before it was their turn to remix it. This allowed the stylistic and interpretive tendencies of the players to echo and clash in a series of Chinese-whispers-like translations, creating a self-perpetuating sequence full of collisions and surprises, conceits and transformations. In their game ‘Exquisite Corpse’ the surrealists used words in a similar way, inspiring a lot of musicians and artists to follow their spirit.
At the time of the first RMX project, it was simply an intriguing idea that served as a welcome creative outlet in comparison to our ‘full-time’ design jobs. The project is spontaneous, fun, and an excuse to do something without restrictions or expectations - essentially, it’s a way to collaborate without having the constraint of a predetermined outcome or esthetic goal.
Is RMX just a playful exercise?
The RMX participants get the chance to collaborate in a totally unique way and see their own work in a context they probably never would have imagined before. The collaborations and remixes invariably defy any expectations of outcome - in RMX, 1 + 1 hardly ever equal 2. It provides you with a very insightful and revealing view of your own work practices and that of your peers.
The viewer, on the other hand, gets to see what happens when the defining features (communication, creativity, individuality) of a creative medium are turned upside down to defy stale work habits and ideas.
Is there enough room for personal creativity within the fairly strict concept?
Definitely - the way that personal creativity manages to combine and clash with the other players and with the game ‘rules’ is the very thing that makes RMX a worthwhile and perpetually surprising experience.
RMX relies heavily on the global network character of the design community. How does this influence your way of working? What are the similarities and differences between the various participants?
Due to the need to pass the remixes around globally, RMX EXTENDED PLAY necessitated the use of vector-based graphics only; while this might have been expected to level the playing field somewhat, it actually evolved an altogether more subtle and insidious clash of design approaches!
The styles and characters are as varied as the styles and characters of the participating players; describing the similarities and differences is really no easier than dissecting every individual’s ideas or design temperament. There are a lot of talented people marked for future remixing - it’s just that most of them don’t know it yet! Hopefully we’ll continue to collaborate and draw the overcurious and unwary into our sticky remix web…
How does the accompanying 3-inch CD supplement the book?
In a way, the CD is a nod to the other medium most associated with remixing, but it also illustrates the point that the RMX process is an idea not tied to any one medium. The musical component was developed with its own set of restrictions and rules, so it’s of parallel interest to see how creativity can lurk and flourish in such an environment.
On another level, the way in which individual styles and motifs can carry through and/or mutate during the visual remixing is reflected in the fact that the RMX sound component was created exclusively from one of the most individual sources possible - the actual voices of the RMX players, cut-up, warped and manipulated into musical structures.
Are you happy with the results?
RMX has been an immensely fun and satisfying process and project. Some of the most exciting points are the surprises that occur with remixes involving people you either (a) thought you knew very well or (b) didn’t previously know at all.
Please give a short description of Rinzen:
Rinzen exists somewhere over the rainbow, bending reality into shapes pleasing to the eye and the ear. The blueprint was scrawled onto a wine-soaked napkin during the original RMX project meetings. The plotting continued over the following months and we finally set up shop, officially, in late 2000. Realising our dreams across a range of client and personal projects, Rinzen aligns the creative directions of its members in print and web design, illustration, fonts, characters, animation and music. To this date, we remain: Steve, Rilla, Karl, Craig, Adrian, and Katrina.
Does your heritage (Australia) have any effect on your work and attitude?
We are prepared to travel vast distances across treacherous terrain just to find something to eat. Other than that, we have found that our work and attitudes are subject to the same influences and pitfalls as those of designers the world over.
Whom or what do you admire?
Here’s a very short and totally incomplete list:
Osamu Tezuka, Dr Suess, Jim Henson, Maurice Sendak, Tim Burton, Herbert Bayer, Paul Klee, Hans Belmer, Basquiat, Dali and Picasso, Paul Pope, Maruo Suehiro, Phil Frost, Dan Clowes, Hypgnosis, Takashi Murakami, Kaws, Perks, Warhol, Chapman Bothers, Milton Glaser, Haring, Harmony Korine, Mike Mills, P.A.M., Stanley Donwood, Kool Keith.
Where would you like to go from here?
By balloon to the stars.