What is Re-Mediation?

According to Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin re-mediation is “The fashioning of one medium into another.” Bolter and Grusin identified two typical traits :-

  1. Immediacy – Culture wants to make the medium itself invisible, removing all traces of the medium itself to create an immediate experience – probably most commonly encountered in Advertising.
  2. Hypermediacy – More attention is given to the form of the medium and its resemblance to other forms.

In my work I don’t believe that I consciously utilise either form although I would have to say that I trend towards hypermediacy, seeking to utilise monochrome images in a documentary format. These images are not likely to be made immediately available for perusal as I like to dwell on / leave the images to mature in my mind and, sometimes to experiment with any processing before committing them to paper or posting them in an online environment.

For me, as a camera club member, one of the most common forms of re-mediation that I encounter is the conversion of straightforward photographic images into a more artistic impression using Photoshop. A “painterly” approach if you will. Some of these will be ‘composite’ or re-mixed images made up of sections taken from other images and used to create a new image or ‘photograph’. Such re-mixed images are often used in competitions at club or inter-club level and can usually be found amongst the top placed images. By comparison, a straight forward in-camera image with minimal post processing will fair fairly badly and, if of a “documentary” / “Street” type will usually be relegated to the lower end of any rating system.

Probably one of the best known remediated images is that of the ‘Molotov Man’ (originally made by Susan Meiselas). The original image was made in the context of  the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution. The central character was then repainted in a slightly different context, appearing in Joy Garnetts 2004 exhibition ‘Riot’. Garnet had sourced the original from a .jpeg of Meiselas image found on the internet. Garnet was subsequently issued with a ‘Cease and Desist’ notice by Meisela’s lawyer siting copyright infringement. Garnett then removed her ‘image’ from her website. However, this image had been posted on several other servers by admirers of Garners work.

There problem here, I believe, what that the original context and meaning of Meiselas work had been effectively removed in the painting giving it an entirely new context – no longer was ‘Molotov Man’ a freedom fighter but had now became a rioter and lawbreaker. This was probably the motivation behind the ‘Cease and Desist’ action.

For myself and my work the message here is very clear – be very careful how you (1) make an image of a pre-exisiting subject and (2) try to preserve as much of the original context as you can in your final product.

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