Experiments in Performance, Identity, and Digital Space

48 Mystory Remixes, Remixed

Authored by: Lyndsay Michalik Gratch

The Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities

Print publication date:  February  2021
Online publication date:  February  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367361426
eBook ISBN: 9780429355875
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780429355875-3

 

Abstract

Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action;

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Experiments in Performance, Identity, and Digital Space

Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action;

Incorporate,

Mute

And continue.

— (Brian Eno and Peter Schmid)t 1

I’m really just using the mirror to summon something I don’t even know until I see it.

— (Cindy Sherman) 2

In Autumn 2019, I designed a project for my Remix Culture course titled “Remix Yourself.” 3 The project, informed by Gregory Ulmer's mystory technique, 4 asks students to use performance and remix praxis to explore issues of digital identity. In this chapter, I discuss phenomenological, pedagogical, and reflexive aspects of “Remix Yourself,” including assignment guidelines and goals, descriptions of my experience using it, and examples from students’ projects. I also include insight into how the method might work as inspiration for academic writing, and suggest how the assignment might be adapted for expanded contexts and topics within the digital humanities. 5 In doing so, I demonstrate the creative, critical, communicative, and reflexive skills the project can activate for both students and pedagogues.

In this chapter, I use a writing style inspired by mystory and collage, performing how the project was applied and experienced in a communication and performance studies course. Multiple qualitative scholars have demonstrated mystory's usefulness and flexibility as a performative writing style. 6 Academic mystories break from the traditional essay structure, often asking readers to be active in meaning-making processes. Text-based mystories can also offer insights into an author's creative processes that a traditionally formatted essay may not. In collage writing, meanwhile, the thesis of a work is sometimes found best “in the gaps,” 7 as performance studies scholar Amy Kilgard suggests. Meaning is made through disruptive juxtapositions and strange intertextualities. I thus use this writing style to offer a meta-mystory—a mystory about mystories—that both performs and explains the possibilities of “Remix Yourself” as it might foster discovery, creative/critical thinking, and the “theoretical curiosity” that Ulmer laments is missing in academic writing. 8

In what follows, I interweave four major threads: 1) An explanation of mystory and “Remix Yourself” methods as performance and remix praxes; 2) a description of the “Remix Yourself” assignment; 3) examples from digital public projects and reflexive writings the assignment inspired; and 4) fragments from the mystory site I created to write this chapter, inspired by Cindy Sherman's public persona and photography. 9 To mirror the logic of mystory in print, I entangle these threads to resist singular or obvious interpretation and ask readers to (at times) make mental leaps between sections. While juxtapositions within this chapter may not always be straightforward, they are intentional.

Remix/Performance: Doing/Something Done

Remember:

Echo only a part, not the whole.

Emphasize the flaws.

— (Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt) 10

Performance studies scholar Diana Taylor describes performance as “a doing” and “something done,” 11 encompassing process and product. This description, for me, also resonates with remix as process and product. Remix is crucial to how I understand creation, interpretation, communication, and everyday life performances. I have taught versions of Remix Culture, a course I designed in 2014, as communication studies, rhetoric, performance studies, and cinema studies. 12 Despite discipline-specific content, students in the course always study remix history and theory (e.g. issues of digital culture, ownership, authorship, creativity, and authority), along with remix praxis. Students also use remix techniques (applying best practices for transformative and fair use of copyrighted material) 13 to address multiple purposes and audiences.

A difficult aspect of my Remix Culture course, for many students, is the focus on process. The course doesn’t include many definitive correct answers, and some students seem not to know what to do. Following Ulmer, I believe that “learning is much closer to invention than to verification.” 14 Yet many students equate learning with absolutes and correctness. Further, according to Ulmer, academic writing regularly privileges the “already known” over “theoretical curiosity,” and contemporary education often discourages “learning how to learn.” 15 Perhaps this is due to the academy's changing tides, which seem to be shifting from ideals of Learning to The Student Experience—which may or may not include coursework. Students also seem increasingly less interested in work that does not result in a passed test or “useful” product. Yet, in Remix Culture, my reminder that creativity and innovation are useful (and enjoyable, and employable) skills encourages many students to view the world through a “remix” lens, despite the lack of an immediate and tangible return on investment. Thinking about processes and products as remix, rather than ontologically about what remix is, also generatively narrows the frame for my students. Investigating how a digital artifact functions as a remix within specific sociocultural constructs, for instance, is more intriguing than determining the artifact is a remix. This frame is central in my Remix Culture course, aside explanations and applications of remix and its relevance in multiple disciplines. 16

While not an explicit critique of the entrepreneurial turn in higher education, this chapter illustrates how some university students still appreciate learning via process-based, experimental projects—like “Remix Yourself”—which require they examine their creative and interpretive processes, communicative tendencies, and sociocultural positionalities. I also show how remix praxis via digital technologies can inspire students to explore personal and critical-cultural questions relevant to the digital humanities. Students in my courses, for example, are often surprised by what they find (and what is absent) in digital archives. These absences are often due to cultural oppressions and beliefs about which histories and knowledges are worth archiving. Discovering such absences encourages students to challenge historical trends regarding memory and privilege—which they can do through digital remix. This chapter thus offers one example of how to apply remix in higher education using a project that is adaptable for multiple courses and goals in the digital humanities. 17

Mystory: Our Version

I am trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me.

— (Cindy Sherman) 18

To integrate the topic of digital identity into my Remix Culture course, in Autumn 2019 I designed “Remix Yourself,” 19 a project that applies compositional methods I know via performance studies and remix studies to issues of identity construction and discovery in digital spaces. 20 The goal of “Remix Yourself,” as I used it, was to examine how personal identity (when considered as both performance and remix) is crafted, interpreted, and explained through digital media. 21 The semester-long project remixes Ulmer's mystory method, Ruth Laurion Bowman and Michael Bowman's Handbook for Performance Composition 22 (written for live performance devising), Michael Jarrett's “Recipe for Mystory” 23 (which focuses on using mystory online), and several prompts from projects I developed for previous versions of Remix Culture.

Mystory is Gregory Ulmer's term for a digital composition genre that uses pattern formation rather than logical argument and that is unique to digital contexts. To create a mystory, one makes, gathers, and curates digital artifacts related to four discourses: the personal, popular, expert, and any fourth area of one's choice (e.g. school, religion, art, history, fun, nostalgia). Embracing relational meaning and associative thinking, mystory remixes image, text, video, memory, story, association, emotion, and artifact into a nonlinear, multimedia work. After enough material is generated or collected, Ulmer suggests mystorians will discover patterns or themes within their work. These patterns create through-lines that cross the boundaries of the mystorian's selected discourses and connect these “different dimensions of experience.” 24 Through-lines also ideally reveal something new or previously unknown about the mystorian.

Mystory thus emphasizes the politics, problems, and pleasures of intertextuality without privileging writing or literacy as the primary means of knowledge-making. Mystory uses remix to explore public memory, archiving, cultural narrative, personal narrative, and the relations between identity, popular culture, and digital media. Foregrounding process and invention over product and interpretation, mystorians find or invent stories of self which might otherwise remain buried within unexamined historical discourses. Further, according to Ulmer, mystory is “an autocommunication, addressed first to [oneself], as a self-portrait.” 25 Unlike personal narrative or portraiture (which inspire self-editing and inhibition), the mystorian looks at themselves indirectly through several cultural lenses.

In the sections that follow, I juxtapose explanations of the “Remix Yourself” assignment and several examples from student projects. Following Ulmer's claim that mystory is in part autocommunication, I also interweave self-portraiture as sections of fragmented text (my own responses to “Remix Yourself” prompts) from or inspired by the mystory website I created to write this chapter. By including this autocommunication, I hope to illustrate both the types of content and the thought processes the assignment can invoke. Additionally, I write as several versions of “me,” including first person narrative (Lyndsay, as of the date of this writing), third person narration (the historical Lyndsay[s]), academic Lyndsay, and pedagogue Lyndsay. I use this polyvocal and performative writing style in an attempt to evoke, for the reader, an affective text- and image-based experience akin to how it might feel to explore a digital mystory, where identity and voice are necessarily fragmented and filtered through multiple cultural lenses.

In terms of cultural lenses, an early “Remix Yourself” prompt asks students to choose a cultural icon to research. This is cultural lens number one. 26 For me, it's Cindy Sherman.

Iconicity: The Imitation of Life 27

I’ve looked into a thousand mirrors

Thinking I’d see you,

Or at least myself.

— (Lyndsay Michalik Gratch) 28

A “Cindy Sherman Day” was included in my first Remix Culture schedule (Autumn 2019) but did not make the final draft. Perhaps I hoped to inspire discussion about Sherman's use of remix, genre, character, and cultural commentary in photography. Maybe I intended to explain how I construct and maintain my identities online, comparing my “authentic” posturing to Sherman's generic “posing.” It is also possible I imagined a study of Sherman's Instagram stream, where her grotesque, heavily filtered/altered selfies perform her thoughts about the genre. 29 In an interview with Laura Brown, for example, Sherman states she is “physically repulsed” by “dead” and “set-up” selfies, and the self-involvement of brand culture. 30 Blake Gopnik, meanwhile, draws a lineage between selfies and Sherman's photography, noting the “deliberate shape-shifting that goes on in an Instagram selfie stream has roots in the infiltration of Shermanalia into our culture.” 31

I have forgotten exactly what I planned for that day in class. Yet Sherman's inclusion in that initial schedule, along with the many possible ways I imagine the day may have developed, speaks to the iconic nature of her work—specifically for me. It also shows that I began mystory-style research about Sherman and her work months before I completed my version of the “Remix Yourself” assignment. Thus, Cindy Sherman was the obvious, instant choice for my “Remix Yourself” icon.

Role Models: Fairy Tales and Disasters 32

I’ve always played with make-up to transform myself, but everything, including the lighting, was self-taught. I just learned things as I needed to use them. I absorbed my ideas for the women in these photos from every cultural source that I’ve ever had access to, including film, TV, advertisements, magazines, as well as any adult role models from my youth.

— (Cindy Sherman) 33

While she did not appear in my Remix Culture class, Sherman enters this chapter as the icon from my “Remix Yourself” site. What fascinates me about Sherman and her work are the—sometimes eerie or uncanny—ways our aesthetic tendencies mirror one another via performativity, excess, and masquerade. According to MoMA's biography of Sherman, “throughout her career, [she] has presented a sustained, eloquent, and provocative exploration of the construction of contemporary identity and the nature of representation, drawn from the unlimited supply of images from movies, TV, magazines, the Internet, and art history.” 34

“Contemporary identity” connected to “unlimited supply” intrigues me.

I think about the infinity mirror effect.

Sherman and I are both “self-taught.” We distrust social media images.

I reflect again upon the infinity mirror.

I continue searching online.

What I find: According to Gopnik, “In 1999, Ms. Sherman insisted that ‘I’m under so many layers of makeup that I’m trying to obliterate myself in the images. I’m not revealing anything.’ Now she admits to a more ‘personal aspect’ in her images of aging stars: ‘I, as an older woman, am struggling with the idea of being an older woman.’” 35

I mirror: In 1999, Ms. Lyndsay Michalik (later plus Gratch)—a 19-year-old club kid in phat pants and glitter—lied through possibly dilated pupils and potentially clenched jaws: “I’m under so many layers of makeup that I’m trying to obliterate myself. I’m not revealing anything.” She was clearly hiding a “Look at me!” plea in plain sight.

And I mirror again: Now, Dr. Lyndsay Michalik Gratch (i.e. academic me, December 2019) has no time for glitter and allows herself to be seen in public only when there is no other option: “As I am slowly becoming an older woman, I am struggling with the idea of this ‘becoming.’” 36 One might argue Dr. Gratch, reckoning with such becoming, designs projects—“sustained, eloquent, and provocative exploration[s],” perhaps—that allow her to examine “the construction of contemporary identity and the nature of representation” 37 in digital spaces—spaces where one might become anyone, yet many simply become who they already are. Projects involving remix and mystory, for example (Figure 3.1).

Screenshot of “Personal: images and writing” webpage from

Figure 3.1   Screenshot of “Personal: images and writing” webpage from Lyndsay/Cindy confidential by Lyndsay Michalik Gratch (2019) (Image courtesy of the author)

Trust the Process

The pupils of the eyes staring back

Are black holes;

Even those I’ve seen before. 38

I tell students they will work on a semester-long project that may not make sense until week 10. I am met with blank stares. I explain mystory and speak about the goal of “Remix Yourself,” as it relates to our course goals, including discovery of the self through digital remixing.

Crickets.

I explain they will create a website, respond to prompts, and add digital content to make a “final” remix. At semester's conclusion, they will create a multimedia performance or video to apply their knowledge of remix praxis to a final topic: personal identity.

By Prompt 3, when I ask for questions, many hands raise.

  • What about ____? Is this right? There is no wrong; Trust the process.
  • What are you looking for with ____? Follow the prompts; Trust the process.
  • Do I understand this? There are multiple interpretations. Trust the process.
  • How long should I spend _____? As long as you need. Trust the process.

After a month of “trust the process,” most students accept that I will not tell them exactly how to make their project. Weeks pass. I notice some are taking greater creative risks. Writing is stronger and more committed. A sense of earnestness emerges in their work. Their online visual aesthetics also start to take shape—an aspect of the project that worried students with creativity anxiety (e.g. “I am not a creative person”).

How to Age Successfully as a Woman and Other Anxieties: Society Photos 39

I, as an older woman, am struggling with the idea of being an older woman. 40

  • Step 1. Do not be old. Maintain a youthful appearance and vitality despite being old.
  • Step 2. See step 1.
  • Step 3. You are doing it wrong. See step 2.

Some of Sherman's recent photographs imply an anxiety about feminine aging, fashion, and performance ideals, according to Pamela Church Gibson. 41 Abigail Solomon-Godeau posits that while Sherman's earlier photographs suggest the woman in the photo was not real, her recent photos “imply that these are indeed… ‘realistic’ representations of a certain type of woman.” 42 According to Gibson, criticism of these recent photos also implies criticism of real aging women and their “efforts in self-preservation.”

Note to self: You think about the “real” in relation to the performer's body often.

Pam Cobrin and Debra Levine also use performance vocabulary to describe Sherman's attempts to approximate youth, qualifying her recent photographs as complex failures: her “mask” is obvious. The “always-visible seams” leave the performer and the performance as always already failed. 43

Note to self: Your standards are NOT realism and believability. Some people's are. Move on.

Michelle Meagher, meanwhile, concludes, “[W]hat emerges from [Sherman's recent] images, perhaps more than anything, is the futility of the struggle that these women (characters)—and so many women—face while negotiating the lived incongruities between femininity and age.”

Note to self: Women should not appear to age. Women appear to age by trying not to.

Meagher questions the possibility of a body being an unmarked canvas, bringing Sherman's “real” physical body into conversation with her photography. Meagher resists the idea that someone could put on identities through costume, make-up, and prosthetics. Instead, Meagher situates Sherman's physical body in context. Based on Sherman's “failed” performances, she—despite makeup or prosthetics—is always white, a woman, and feminine. Further, Sherman grew up in a time and place that would have exposed her to specific popular culture tropes and beauty ideals. Our bodies are “repositories of culture,” and—via habitus—we are “pre-disposed (but not bound to) behave in particular ways.” Thus, in her bodily activities, Sherman reveals implicit “cultural values, morals, and social markings.” 44

Note to self: Do I see myself? Values, morals, markings? The privileged invisibility of whiteness? Youth turned visceral backlash against feminine aging?

The unsmiling character that makes readers piece together some narrative?

Perhaps.

Infinity Mirror Effect and the Not Not Me

I like characters who are not smiling—they’re sort of blank.

It makes the viewer come up with the narrative.

— (Cindy Sherman, not not me) 45

Proprioception:

A sense we take for granted,

Or remember once

We’ve lost it.

- (Me) 46

Though Sherman has used the infinity mirror effect (to my knowledge) once, 47 mirrors are prevalent throughout her oeuvre. In collections I notice mirrors everywhere: surfaces to gaze into, props, reflective objects Sherman seems unaware of, and sometimes the only surface her physical image appears upon. I see my “not not me” in these mirrors.

The “not not me,” according to performance studies scholar Richard Schechner, is a persona who exists in various degrees in the liminal space between the performer (me) and character (not me). Performances of the self and alter-persona fall between these roles. 48 “Me” and “not me” are also performances of identity, of different sort. The “not not me” is difficult to get just right. Too little alteration from “me,” and the performance is indistinguishable from me; too much and the performance crosses into the impossible realm of becoming another person. If one gets close enough to the “not me” without achieving it, the image seems uncanny and audiences become uncomfortable. (Sherman's early photographs were often referred to as “uncanny.”)

Along these lines, Meagher concludes Sherman's photography “might be understood as something more complex and more revealing than theatrical performances that exemplify some capacity for effortless self-transformation.” 49 We cannot be embodied blank slates. Sherman's self-photography performs in the theatrical sense and also encompasses self, culture, and everyday life performance. Sherman documents photographically the liminal space between herself/selves and the cultural tropes she plays. Her performances are her “me,” “not me,” and “not not me,” all at once.

Remix Yourself: Prompts

I really don’t think that [the photos] are about me. It's maybe about me maybe not wanting to be me and wanting to be all these other characters. Or at least try them on. 50

Beyond icon selection, students follow nine other prompts to complete “Remix Yourself.” In Autumn 2019, I introduce the prompts one-by-one. I worry about losing students during this experimental, semester-long project, and want to avoid self-consciousness that can manifest when one is asked to create something about themselves. I present prompts a week or two apart:

  • Prompt 1: Choose a website builder. Create your site, including a home page, title, and five themed pages: Personal, Popular (Icon), Expert, “Your Choice,” and Works Remixed.
  • Prompt 2: Choose a popular icon (person, fictional character, etc.) that is mythical (to you) to use as an object of study. As an anecdote, write what you know about his/her/their story (Figure 3.2).
Screenshot of “Personal” webpage from

Figure 3.2   Screenshot of “Personal” webpage from Mystory by Averi Davis (2019) (Image courtesy of Averi Davis)

  • Prompt 3: Read “Borges and I.” 51 Write your own piece, adapted from his. Investigate notions of self, identity, persona, performance, and acts of “constructed presence.” 52
  • Prompt 4: Research your icon. Read, watch, look, listen, feel, remember, invent, repeat. Add as much information as you can find to your site. (Minimum eight sources. Compile your works cited as you create on your “Works Remixed” page.)
  • Prompt 5: Compose a “ground-zero” narrative (story, essay, play, poem, interview, etc.) explaining how you first learned about and became interested in your icon.
  • Prompt 6: Add six or more sources to your site. Think about your site as an archive. Look for patterns. Sift through your materials and choose one striking image. Set it aside, mentally. Let it ferment.
  • Prompt 7: Discuss your icon as a “fan” might. Include three hyperlinks: one to an image, one to a video, and one to a text. Add seven or more new sources to your site every week (Figure 3.3).
Screenshot of “Personal” webpage from

Figure 3.3   Screenshot of “Personal” webpage from Mystory Space: Where Ideas Are Made website by Jordan Rose (2019) (Image courtesy of Jordan Rose)

  • Prompt 8: Rewrite the story you composed for Prompt 2, knowing what you know now about your icon. Keep both versions visible. Allow the image you selected in Prompt 6 to ferment long enough, and it should become readable as a metaphor that can help you compose the final pieces of this project. You should also begin to see a theme or pattern emerge on your site, which may suggest a method of arrangement for your final work or help you decide what to include.

Yes, Remix Yourself

Is it finished? 53

I post Prompts 9 and 10 a month before the project is due, “revealing” that the final product is about how the student's identity has been shaped by the cultural forces they have investigated all semester. Panic ensues. Many were so focused on curating artifacts they forgot this aspect of the project. Several students complain: They would have chosen a different icon or content if they knew the final product would be about them. I explain that this is why I focus on process in early prompts. Curating content without a product in mind is a different experience than planning a story about one's identity. Many students later admit that working on a project without thinking about the end product was a unique and welcome experience. The “Remix Yourself” process was a refreshing change from their usual coursework.

Prompts 9 and 10 are explained in depth on my “Remix Yourself” website. 54 I thus offer brief versions below:

  • Prompt 9: Plan your final product understanding that what you create will be about you and not your icon. Create a “theme” page on your website. Think about what you have gathered (consciously, by making choices), your trope/metaphor and your pattern (from Prompt 8). What do these things, and your aesthetic, say about you? Read into your site's intertextuality. Post a list titled “Things about Me”: things you discover via your website content and arrangement.
  • Prompt 10: Following this list, think about how to tell your story in a video remix or multimedia performance.
  • Select sources from your site to remix. Create a script. List how these artifacts will be arranged. Confuse the verbal and the visual. Adapt. Remake. Remix. Mix again.
  • Fill in your script. Decide how to include yourself in the work:
    • Add 30 seconds of video/images of yourself.
    • Add 1 minute of your voice.
    • Cite two relevant course readings.
  • Create your remix. Note it will be more dream-like than logical. Show (don’t tell) who you are, and how you have been influenced by the artifacts and personal materials you have remixed from your website (Figure 3.4). REMIX YOURSELF!
Screenshot of

Figure 3.4   Screenshot of orders and chaos (video) by Lee Chen (2019) (Image courtesy of Lee Hsin Chen)

Prompt 9 (finding a theme) is difficult for some. I suggest they stop looking and focus on intertextual meaning-making. Eventually, an identity-based pattern or theme appears for every student. A website about Alexander Hamilton, for example, transforms into “Ambition”; a site about Arsène Lupin inspires “Orders and Chaos”; Odysseus elicits “Nostalgia” while Marilyn Monroe inspires “Façade”; Coco Chanel brings about “Legacy” and Pocahontas inspires “Survivance.” Beyoncé: “Independence”; Bob Marley: “Home-Grown”; Salvador Dalí: “Daring to Dream”; Barbie: “Positive Change.” 55 Forty-seven unique projects emerge, despite identical prompts and even overlap in icons. (Forty-eight, if you include mine.)

Who Said It? Lyndsay/Cindy

The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods

nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself. 56

In class I offer no examples of a mystory “final product” and ask students repeatedly to trust the process, as this is more important than the product they ultimately create. I answer many questions with “trust the process” through month 1. By month 2, likely tired of my answer, nearly all students attempt to trust the process. A few ask what I mean by that phrase; they seem convinced that what I am looking for must be more complicated than simple responses to creative prompts. I respond that I am not looking for anything in particular. Read the prompts, I say. Think about them, respond to them, don’t be afraid to play, and let's see what happens.

Here, I’ll offer a final example from my mystory process. This exercise in truthiness represents the type of playful self-prompting I hope for (but am not looking for) from students by the end of their “Remix Yourself” process.

Imagine I invented a game out of how I see my “not not me” in Sherman's photography while you were reading the “Remix Yourself” prompts (yes, you).

Rules: I write, you guess. (The reliable narrator Lyndsay has fact-checked the answers in the footnotes, truly.)

Let's play!!!

“The work is what it is and hopefully it's seen as feminist work.” 57

“Sometimes I just write down things I overhear. Like this week: ‘If you’re forced, you can always see a heart, anywhere.’” 58

“My fashion sense hasn’t changed much since I was four.” 59

“It seems boring to me to pursue the typical idea of beauty.” 60

“How about this face, or that character?” 61

“I packed picture frames, I packed glassware, two sweaters and a lampshade.” 62

“I’m disgusted with how people get themselves to look beautiful.” 63

“I made some poor choices when I imagined how this was going to work.” 64

“The challenge is more about trying to make what you can’t think of.” 65

Remix Yourself: Finales

The way I see it, as soon as I make a piece, I’ve lost control of it. 66

— (Cindy Sherman)

The experimental run of “Remix Yourself” was successful insofar as, through their work, most students demonstrated a mastery of multiple course goals. They remixed, adapted, recombined, and recontextualized culture(s) via digital media through their processes. They expressed how the self is influenced by social constructs in their products. They demonstrated communication skills (personal expression and community building) by sharing their products, responding to each other's work, and writing reflexively about their work.

My “Remix Yourself” project inspired parts of this chapter, along with my performative choices while writing. Creating the website offered insight into affective aspects of the project (e.g. confusion, joy, surprise, anger, amusement, shame, frustration, anxiety, pride). Site construction also gave me space (and time) to work through feelings via digital artifacts, image-based communication, design, metaphor, and bridled audacity. I learned I am fascinated by mirrors, tend toward academic irreverence, and am uncomfortable with aging (despite feminism). I remembered things: the “poor choices [I made] when I imagined how this [chapter] was going to work.” 67 I also reinforced why I created “Remix Yourself.” I am interested in digital identity, sought new ways to think about it, and wanted to revisit mystory anew, as remix.

Finally, while I designed the project for Remix Culture class, “Remix Yourself” could be useful (with adaptation) for multiple course topics in the digital humanities. Lessons/units about digital composition, visual culture, public memory, archives, identity politics, digital communication, performance, cinema studies, and digital anthropology, for example, could benefit from an adapted version of the project, based on course goals. Beyond class, meanwhile, student responses from the project's initial run indicate that many are proud of their work and found value in the process, including skills like web design, audio/video editing, and digital storytelling. Meanwhile, students who were hesitant to trust their creative and aesthetic judgments often surprised themselves by remembering or reinventing, their creativity.

Infinity Mirror: Mirror: Mirror: Mirror

I am watching the final “Remix Yourself” products in class at the end of the semester.

Stress and self-doubt and searching are a part of life. Everybody is going through something. 68

I am, at times, holding back reactions—shock, pride, empathy, happiness, tears.

I am just built out of several variations of myself… Which self is the most I? We never fully realize who our I's are, because our contexts change more times than we can count. 69

Phrases catch me off guard; Phrases I read in scripts and on websites, but when voiced resonate as palpable, human.

Maybe she is a show I present as if I were a director and she was a leading lady. But even then, how much of the actress lies in her character and how much of the character was always inherently in the actress? 70

Fresh voices emerge, hinting, “I think I’ve got this,” or “I’m still not sure,” or “I’m taking a huge risk here, but—.”

I entered the room, the reflector of me. The room is orderly and chaotic, it's warm and frosty, it's lively and lifeless. And that's me. 71

Voices every classroom should invite.

It is quite possible (after all) 72

Notes

Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, “Oblique Strategies: Text by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt.” Stoney's Zone (2018). http://stoney.sb.org/eno/oblique.html.

As qtd. in Betsy Berne, “Studio: Cindy Sherman – Interview.” Tate (June 1, 2003). https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/cindy-sherman-1938/studio-cindy-sherman.

This was in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University.

Gregory L. Ulmer, Heuretics: The Logic of Invention (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).

I completed the project, following the same guidelines as my students, as inspiration for this chapter.

Michael S. Bowman, “Killing Dillinger: A Mystory.” Text and Performance Quarterly, 20.4, 342–374. 2000; Nandita Dinesh. “In-between spaces: theatrical explorations from Rwanda to Kashmir.” South African Theatre Journal, 28.1, 43–57. 2015; Lori Howe and Dilnoza F. Khasilova. “The Bread of Two Worlds: A Duoethnography on Multilingualism.” Journal of Poetry Therapy, 31.1, 40–55. 2018; Ronald E. Shields. “Chasing Kundry's Shadow,” Text and Performance Quarterly, 26.4, 371–388. 2006; Tracy Stephenson Shaffer. “Busted Flat in Baton Rouge.” Text and Performance Quarterly, 25.1, 57–69. 2005

Amy Kilgard. “Collage: A Paradigm for Performance Studies.” Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, 5.3, 1–19. 2009.

Ulmer, Heuretics.

Cindy Sherman is known for her collections of photographic self-portraits. Her relevance to “Remix Yourself” is explained in greater detail throughout the chapter.

Eno and Schmidt, “Oblique Strategies” as qtd. in Lyndsay Michalik Gratch, “Infinity Mirror.” lyndsay/cindy confidential, 2019. https://legratch.wixsite.com/mystory.

Diana Taylor and Abigail Levine, Performance (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 7.

To date (May 2020), I have designed seven versions of this course as a major elective in Oberlin College's Department of Cinema Studies (Oberlin, OH, 2014–15) and Syracuse University's Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies (Syracuse, NY, 2018–20).

Patricia Aufderheide, “Copyright and Fair Use in Remix,” The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies, eds. Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher, xtine burrough (New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2017), pp. 270–282.

Ulmer, Heuretics.

Ibid.

For example art, composition, performance, communication, rhetoric, cultural studies, history.

Several of my course goals are included in this chapter's conclusion.

As qtd. in “Art.sy Insight: Cindy Sherman the Painter.” Artsy, December 21, 2012. https://www.artsy.net/article/editorial-art-dot-sy-insight-cindy-sherman-the-painter.

This title is similar to “Remix it Yourself,” a phrase Vito Campanelli uses to explain notions of creativity in relation to digital remix. Campanelli posits that digital remix is not driven by an “internal creative drive,” but rather by the electronic “flow of information in which [remixers] are immersed.” “Remix Yourself,” as a title, is not meant to be a reference to Campanelli; it is meant to interrogate how remix might be related to digital performances of personal identity. In my experience, numerous students believe that they have no “internal creative drive.” This assignment asks them to find it. See: Vito Campanelli, “Remix It Yourself. A Do It Yourself Ethic,” Comunicação e Sociedade, 22, 8–15, December 2012.

A step-by-step guide to project prompts is included later in the chapter.

The “Remix Yourself” prompts are, however, broad enough to be adapted for additional topics.

Ruth Laurion Bowman and Michael Bowman, Handbook for Performance Composition. 2011.

Michael Jarrett, “Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies.” Mystory | Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, July 5, 2012. https://wrd.as.uky.edu/mystory.

Gregory L. Ulmer, Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy (New York, NY: Longman, 2003).

Ibid.

I explain project prompts in detail later.

This title references Sherman's 2016–17 photography.

Lyndsay Michalik Gratch, lyndsay/cindy confidential, 2019. https://legratch.wixsite.com/mystory.

See @cindysherman on Instagram.

Laura Brown, “Cindy Sherman: Street-Style Star.” Harper's Bazaar, October 11, 2017. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a14005/cindy-sherman-0316/.

Blake Gopnik, “Cindy Sherman Takes on Aging (Her Own).” The New York Times, April 21, 2016.

This title references Sherman's 1980s photography.

As qtd. in Monique Beudert and Sean Rainbird, eds., Contemporary Art: The Janet Wolfson de Botton Gift (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1998).

Kristen Gaylord and Nancy Newhall, “Cindy Sherman | MoMA.” MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), 2016. https://www.moma.org/artists/5392.

Gopnik, “Cindy Sherman Takes on Aging (Her Own).”

Phrase is adapted from Gopnik, “Cindy Sherman Takes on Aging (Her Own).”

Ibid.

Umberto Eco and William Weaver, Foucault's Pendulum (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2007).

This title is a reference to Cindy Sherman's 2008 photography.

As qtd. in Gopnik, “Cindy Sherman Takes On Aging (Her Own).”

Gibson defines these “performances” as “using the tools of self-adornment.” See Pamela Church Gibson, “Cindy Sherman in a New Millennium: Fashion, Feminism, Art and Ageing,” Australian Feminist Studies, 33.98, 481–497. 2018.

Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Photography after Photography: Gender, Genre, History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017).

Pam Cobrin and Debra Levine. “Introduction.” Women and Performance, 22.1, 1–7. 2012.

Michelle Meagher, “Against the Invisibility of Old Age: Cindy Sherman, Suzy Lake, and Martha Wilson.” Feminist Studies, 40.1, 101–143. 2014.

As qtd. in Mark Stevens, “40th Anniversary: Q&A With Cindy Sherman on Making Her ‘Untitled Film Stills’— New York Magazine – Nymag.” New York Magazine, April 3, 2008.

Gratch, “Infinity Mirror,” lyndsay/cindy confidential.

@cindysherman. “Outside in.” Instagram, March 18, 2018. https://www.instagram.com/p/BgdoMdDArgd/.

Richard Schechner and Victor Turner, Between Theater and Anthropology (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985).

Meagher, “Against the Invisibility of Old Age.”

Gopnik, “Cindy Sherman Takes On Aging (Her Own).”

Jorge Luis Borges, 18991986. Collected Fictions (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1999).

This prompt was adapted from a blog prompt on Mark Amerika's 2017 Remix Culture Syllabus. See America, Mark. “Remix Culture.” 2017. http://www.altx.com/remix/syllabus.html.

Eno and Schmidt, “Oblique Strategies.”

Gratch, lyndsay/cindy confidential.

Described sites (and more) are linked on Gratch, lyndsay/cindy confidential, 2019. https://legratch.wixsite.com/mystory.

Stuart L. Brown, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (New York, NY: Avery, 2010), 40.

Sherman as qtd. in Berne, “Studio: Cindy Sherman – Interview.”

Lyndsay.

Ibid.

Sherman, as qtd. in Peggy Zeglin Brand, Beauty Matters (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000), 8.

Sherman, as qtd. in Parul Sehgal, “The Ugly Beauty of Cindy Sherman's Instagram Selfies.” The New York Times, October 5, 2018.

Lyndsay.

Sherman as qtd. in Gaylord and Newhall, “Cindy Sherman | MoMA.”

Lyndsay.

Sherman as qtd. in Berne, “Studio: Cindy Sherman – Interview.”

As qtd. in Diane Lindquist, “Cindy Sherman,” GURL Museum Day, February 26, 2018. http://gurlmuseumday.com/viewallmagazine/2018/2/21/uncover-cindy-sherman.

As referenced in footnote 58. Specifically: Do not write a chapter in the weeks following a new semester-long experimental assignment. Data collection was not possible during most of the “Remix Yourself” process.

Sydney Saroken, “Authenticity.” Mystory, 2019. https://sydneysarokin.wixsite.com/mystory/final-mystory-video.

Kari Karsten, “Daring to Dream.” Karis Mystory, 2019. https://kfkarste.expressions.syr.edu/.

Hannah Hamermesh, “Hannah's Mystory.” Hannah's Mystory, 2019. https://hnhamerm.expressions.syr.edu/.

Lee Hsin Chen, Orders & Chaos (film). 2019.

Eno and Schmidt, “Oblique Strategies.”

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