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wuming schrieb am 18.3. 2003 um 02:05:24 Uhr über


May 1999

The experimental-music and art collective
known as Negativland has been recording
music/audio/collage works since 1979,
producing a weekly 3 hour radio show ("Over
The Edge") since 1981, hosting a World
Wide Web site since 1995, and performing
live on occasional tours throughout America
and Europe. They have released 17 CDs,
one video and one book ("Fair Use: The
Story Of The Letter U And The Numeral 2")
since 1980. They were the subject of the
1995 feature film »Sonic Outlaws« by Craig
Baldwin, and composed the
soundtrack/sound design for a critical 1997
documentary on advertising, "The Ad and the
Ego». Negativland coined the term «culture
jamming" in 1984, and this phrase is now
often used to describe the work of many
different media artists and activists. Their
most recent project is a collaborative CD
made with British anarchist pop stars
CHUMBAWAMBA entitled "The ABCs of

Negativland might be called a »noise« band
because they like interesting noises in their
music, or an »idea« band because they often
rearrange found sound content in order to
make some new and previously unintended
point with it. Negativland is interested in
unusual noises (especially ones that are
close at hand), unusual ways to restructure
such noises and combine them with their own
music, and mass media transmissions which
have become sources, and subjects, of much
of their work. Negativland covets insightful
wackiness from anywhere, low-tech
approaches whenever possible, telling
humor, and vital social targets of any kind.
Without ideological preaching, Negativland
often becomes a subliminal culture sampling
service concerned with making art about
everything we aren't supposed to notice.

Negativland's particular musical practice
incorporates found sounds and musical
samples into their collage compositions. Our
contemporary interest in collage (a hallmark
of 20th Century art of all kinds) is prompted
by the fact that art and commerce have now
merged to a degree where corporate
commerce now finances, grooms, directs,
filters, manufactures and distributes almost
everything we know of as »culture.« This
inevitably uncomfortable partnership of art
and commerce to produce »mass culture«
means that art is no longer any kind of
independent creation at all. It is now
instigated, owned, operated and promoted
by administrators, subsumed by
demographic targeting and subjected to
economically inspired »guidelines

In doing this kind of collage music,
Negativland has become, by necessity,
interested in copyright law and the »fair use«
statute within it. What began as their natural
attraction to found sound in a society
overflowing with disposable media has now
become a conscious desire to show, by
example, the crucial difference between
piracy (counterfeiting another's work
straight-across in order to profit from the
marketability of the subject used), and the
transformative re-use of material from
multiple sources to create new, »original«
works; it's called COLLAGE and it has had
indisputable legitimacy in virtually all art
forms throughout this century. However, the
owners and operators of mass-marketed
music (being only the latest medium in which
collage is being practiced) are now naively
attempting to criminalize the technique of
audio collage, as if it was an illegitimate
intruder on originality and nothing more than
a form of theft. History knows better. Collage
is NOT theft, but considering it so will kill it
off entirely or (as has turned out to be the
case) turn all direct reference artists into
»criminals.« Copyright laws originally
designed to prohibit the pirating and
counterfeiting of complete works (laws which
Negativland agrees with) are now also being
used to prevent collage art from being
published as if there is no difference between
the two.

All art is based on creative theft, always has
been, and any reasonable person
appreciates this as crucial to the practice.
Collage is appreciated PRECISELY because
it takes this fact to the limit, yet remains
»originalNegativland believes that collage
has a well-established artistic license to
appear in mass media, or anywhere else,
free of charge and free of charges. Because
ART IS NOT A BUSINESS, no matter how
many art-dumb corporate lawyers try to
argue that it is.

Negativland's view of corporate culture from
outside its fringes, and their first
confrontation with what they consider to be
the ill-advised aspects of our nation's
copyright laws, produced the 1995 book
"Fair Use: The Story Of The Letter U And
The Numeral 2." This book details the
purposeless folly that often results when art
and law collide. "Fair Use: The Story Of The
Letter U And The Numeral 2" has now
become a primary reference book for those
who research music and intellectual property
law, and is presently on the reading list of
many law schools and university classes on
media law and the arts.

One example that illustrates the need for Fair
Use in collage is advertising, especially the
high-tech seduction and emotional
button-pushing going on in national brand
advertising. It is this which has become a
special subject of interest for Negativland
because of its telling view into the successful
manipulation of the mass psyche, and the
degree to which it exploits our common
mental environment with the promotion of
personal dissatisfaction and constant
desire-mongering on a universal scale. It is
simply inconceivable that this daily,
never-ending stream of public suggestion and
desire creation has no effect or influence on
our spirits, our health, our jobs, our laws, our
environment, our culture, our political
process, or our national and international
policy. This is the water we fish swim in.

Negativland's continuing interest in
advertising as a socializing phenomenon
designed to create unconscious consumers
has led to their 1997 conceptual cola-opus,
DISPEPSI, and has recently extended into
found-sound audio design work for Harold
Boihem's critically acclaimed independent
film, »The Ad And The Ego.« This one-hour
documentary is a biting and insightful
analysis, by example, of television
commercials and their impact on our modern
way of life and thinking. It has played
throughout the U.S. and won first place for
Best Documentary in the San Francisco
International Film Festival's Golden Gate
Awards in 1996.

On their last full-length studio CD release,
DISPEPSI, Negativland left the multi-leveled
cultural import of Pepsi advertising for the
listener to decide, all through the mockery of
a single example of corporate brand
advertising: one which spends multi-millions
of dollars bombarding and assaulting all of us
with a never-ending, un-asked for, and
unavoidable barrage of billboards, print ads,
TV and radio commercials, promotional
attachments, product placements in films,
public school programs, vending machines,
sports sponsorships, logo licensing, etc.,
making it virtually impossible to go anywhere
in the civilized world without encountering
their »message«: to consume as much of their
nutritionless beverage as often as you
possibly can.

The conceptual content of the DISPEPSI CD
focused primarily on a single multi-national
corporation's advertising, not because it was
any more offensive than that of any other
multi-national (although the particularly
meaningless nature of their product certainly
adds the kind of pathos we like), but
because it allowed a much more in-depth
focus on a typical corporation's commercial
output. It created a single, coherent »subject«
for this obviously conceptual work of art, and
allowed a whole variety of cut-up and musical
techniques to hang together within a single,
recognizable »context.« Negativland's
concerns with mass advertising in general
ultimately rise to consciousness more
effectively in the midst of the concentrated
flood of one company's diverse commercial
campaigns, which intend to redundantly drill
one brand into mass unconscious via
saturation. All other ads do the same thing,
but we focused on this ultra-familiar brand
name in order to actually simulate this
particular (and particularly effective) aspect
of all advertising.

Finally, Negativland strives to keep socially
aware perceptions alert in art, and culturally
aware criticism alive in a society choked and
intimidated as it is by all-encompassing, self
serving laws of »protection«, lobbied into
existence by the politically powerful
commerce establishment, with their
never-ending desire to become immune from
any inference that the world they make for us
might not be the best of all possible worlds.

Negativland distributes their recordings on
their own independent label and through their
own mail order service,

1920 Monument Blvd. MF-1,
Concord CA 94520 USA
fax 510 420-0469

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