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ArtsHub (Australia) interview with Mark Amerika

By Fiona Mackrell
ArtsHub

Amerika_remixthebook1. As posed on your website markamerika.com, I feel compelled to ask ‘Who is Mark Amerika?’ Even reading the lengthy description there I still feel a need to get at a clearer, more human answer. So perhaps I might ask a series of questions? Where were you born and where did you grow up? What did you like to do as a child? What was your favourite childhood book?
Yes, really - who is this guy anyway? I was born in Miami Beach, Florida, in what is now considered one of the hottest, sexiest spots in the US, South Beach. Eventually we moved more into the city but I kept going back to Miami Beach where I mostly hung out with retirees playing shuffleboard (yes, at one point I was a wicked shuffleboard player, but some of those old guys put me in my place - I learned from the best).

As a teenager, I worked full-time i.e. 45+ hours a week, at the greyhound racetracks. A novel I am writing details some of these experiences in fictional form, but let's just say that immersing myself in the racetrack culture in Miami in the mid-late 70s exposed me to this weird mix of gambling, loansharking, and the real fringe culture. Meanwhile, I was still not old enough to vote and found myself a voracious reader who was compelled to write and make art. As a teenager, I remember the first two books that blew my mind were The French Connection and Catch-22.

2. You are giving a public lecture at LaTrobe University on 15 November in Melbourne and then speaking at Ctrl-Z Writing in the Age of New Media in Fremantle on 19 November. What makes the ‘concept of’ writing in the age of ‘new media’ different to writing at any other time?

Is it because everyone is collectively suffering from this digital disease this networked addiction? I have two writing periods in my life: the first is pre-Internet where I am heavily influenced by the forms of avant-garde literature and the writers who were part of the "rival tradition" that produced these incredibly important works of art (many of the American "postmodernists" were my friends and accomplices in alternative modes of cultural production).

During this pre-Internet phase, my other media art experiments were informed by my writing but still felt separated from that core practice. With the coming of the Internet, and I first came online in 1992, my writing changed. Now it was still influenced by and part of this avant-garde tradition but had also expanded into multimedia and networked forms of expression.

It became clear to me that the writer of the future would now work with images, sounds, code, text, live online performance, and the actual field of digital distribution. Once I got online, writing became more like publishing, performing, and exhibiting all at the same time and the more I did it the less I could do anything else. In fact, here is an open secret: nowadays, I cannot write on my laptop unless I have a working net connection. No net connection, no writing. It's an ongoing remix jam session between the hypermediated artist-writer and the source material everywhere. Of course, this is what I write about in my new book, remixthebook (remixthebook.com), and that I'll be addressing in my La Trobe lecture in Melbourne at the State Library.

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