A Brief History of Subversive Remix Video Before YouTube

Click to view my full article via TWC

An article and video collection I put together was recently published in the Open Access journal Transformative Works and Cultures. The full piece entitled “A history of subversive remix video before YouTube: 30 political video mashups made between World War II and 2005″ is licensed under creative commons and can be viewed for free online via the TWC website.

I first began recording and remixing TV commercials back in 2003 as a response to the US lead invasion of Iraq. At the time I’d only seen a small handful of what are now commonly referred to as video mashups. I certainly had no idea that what I was doing on my computer was part of a long underground remix video tradition which can be traced back to almost  the very beginning of moving picture technology.

Over the past few years I’ve seen a number of great remix video collections but none that really focus on the dynamic pre-youtube history of the genre and none that include the obvious intersections with fannish vidding traditions (which date back to at least the mid 1970s). While my collection is not meant to be a complete genealogy, I do believe the works I chose are representative of the subversive remix video genre over the past 60 plus years.

For the purposes of creating this history I used five essential criteria to decide if a transformative video work fit into the political remix genre.

  1. Works appropriate mass media audiovisual source material without permission from copyright holders, and rely on the fair use doctrine (or fair dealing in the UK).
  2. Works comment on, deconstruct, or challenge media narratives, dominant myths, social norms, and traditional power structures—they can be either sympathetic to or antagonistic to their pop culture sources, sometimes both at the same time.
  3. Works transform the original messages embedded in the source material, as well as the source material itself.
  4. Works are intended for general audiences or do-it-yourself (DIY) communities rather than academic or high-art audiences, and thus tend to use familiar mass media formats such as trailers, television ads, music videos, and news segments as vehicles for the transformed messages.
  5. Works are DIY productions and rely on grassroots distribution methods such as VHS tape duplicating circles, underground screenings, and, eventually, self-hosted Web sites. Since its launch in November 2005 many subversive video makers now put their works on YouTube.

Below I’ve embedded the YouTube playlist I put together including all 30 remixes from my article. I’ll do my best to keep them all online and fight the inevitable tide of bogus content ID matching takedowns. Please make sure to check out the full TWC journal article for an overview of the subgenre and descriptions of each video in the collection.

EXTRA: Martin Leduc of Carleton University in Ottawa Canada also wrote an interesting article inTransformative Works and Cultures about how my own remix video work has changed over the last decade or so. Make sure you check out his article which is titled The two-source illusion: How vidding practices changed Jonathan McIntosh’s political remix videos

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