Che, Remixed

Thanks to the cultural entrenchment of the image on a global scale, Korda’s Che graphic has become iconic; that is to say, it carries a multiplicity of meanings and interpretations, and has come to not only represent a vague spirit of revolution but the process of globalization itself. As Casey says on p. 260, the sort of specialized co-opting of Korda’s image that occurs differently in each country is a method of “legitimizing [that country’s] place in a supposedly unbroken global narrative of revolution and rebellion.” Since the image has indeed grown to encompass more than Che’s legacy and ideals, how does one dismantle the many narratives (some of them ideologically opposite of one another) that all lead to an exaltation of Che as a representation?

Starting on page 267, Casey examines several instances of what I would call image remixing. From parodies to deliberate political subversions, the Che image has been reworked and combined with other “socially installed” images in order to capitalize on the instinctive public reaction to the image and other visual stimuli (i.e. the skull Che on 270). Artist Sergio Langer says he reinterprets the graphic and other cultural markers “without devotion or respect.” This rejection of boundaries of taste and of historically ingrained significance hearkens back to the postmodern notion of pastiche and constant deconstruction/distrust of ideology and its visual hallmarks. By pitting two cultural forces against each other within a symbol (such as “El Reagan” on p. 268) a cultural critic draws attention to the images as empty vessels waiting to be imbued with meaning – and also contributes to a global cultural which recognizes itself as a giant remix.

Author Dominick Strinati helps to elucidate this in An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture, which delves deeply into postmodern phenomena. In his discussion of the remix, he mentions  “the quoting and ‘tasting’ of distinct [elements] in order to create new sub- and pan-cultural identities.” This helped me to get more of a grip on Casey’s stance, which does not seem to be that recreating the Che image weakens it ideologically, but subsumes it into a rapidly congealing global narrative. The remixing of the image contributes to that “pan-cultural identity” in that completely disparate populations are equally capable of recognizing the significance of the image; it is available for global consumption. It has completely eclipsed its original historical context.

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