Brett Gaylor’s “RiP: A Remix Manifesto” studies the paradoxes of copyright law and its discontents, but mainly it’s a celebration of remix culture in the twenty-first century. Using music sampling artist Girl Talk as his primary case study, Gaylor explores the ways a new generation of artists have uncovered original methods for creating something new from the fabric of something old — and he slyly ties the trend to a consistent aspect of art history. Touching on infamous situations such as the recording industry’s sloppy lawsuits against music downloaders, he surveys a wide variety of discussions taking place in both legal and aesthetic circles. As far as educational documenatries go, Gaylor’s work makes for a fun ride, filled with snazzy animations, enthusiastic talking heads and one helluva Girl Talk show.
Ultimately, Gaylor’s movie feels slightly incomplete. You don’t hear much from the people opposed to the notion of remix art, those tied to an old world logic of ownership rendered moot by internet-based expression. But “RiP” is a conversation starter with a coherent outlook on an issue that regularly gets short shifted by the media. For that alone it deserves attention. However, it’s also a slickly produced movie, a true work of art that relies on the remix technique at the center of its discussion. The fluidity of Gaylor’s argument emerges from the competence of the movie’s design.