Positively Negativland

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters

Negativland, Our Favorite ThingsUpdate: November 27, 2007, From Craig Baldwin of Other Cinema / Digital — Negativland’s DVD/CD project, Our Favorite Things, co-produced by Other Cinema Digital and Seeland Records, launches on December 1, 2007 at 8:30 p.m. at 992 Valencia (@ 21st) in the Mission, San Francisco.

The albums were created in collaboration with 18 makers from all over the US (and one a cappella group from Detroit). Famous mixes like Gimme the Mermaid, No Business, Time Zones, Guns, Christianity Is Stupid, Drink It Up, Truth in Advertising, and U2: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For serve as audio ground for new visual collages from the likes of Tim Maloney, Harold Boihem, Mike Cousino, RRoom, and James Gladman. Some band members will be in attendance for a short LIVE performance on “boopers,” their homemade feedback oscillators. PLUS the debut of Kembrew McLeod’s Freedom of Expression, a critical doc on intellectual property issues in the contemporary corporate mediascape.*$7

Earlier post from August 9, 2007:

From Fanatic Promotion:

Legendary culture jam-band Negativland announces upcoming release of Our Favorite Things DVD.

neg200.jpg“Declared heroic by their peers for refashioning culture into what the group considers to be more honest statements, Negativland suggests that refusing to be original, in the traditional sense, is the only way to make art that has any depth within commodity capitalism…” – The New York Times

“Twisted genius…compelling…parody and satire as a grass roots weapon of consumer resistance.” – Rolling Stone

“Negativland isn’t just some group of merry pranksters; its art is about tearing apart and reassembling found images to create new ones, in an attempt to make social, political and artistic statements. Hilarious and chilling.” – The Onion

Negativland”™s greatest hits become all new moving pictures in the amazing and long awaited DVD release of Our Favorite Things, to be issued via the Other Cinema (Sonic Outlaws, So Wrong They”™re Right) imprint on October 23rd. Years in the making, this package is an epic career-capping project from Negativland. Sure to please the group”™s old fans, this very accessible DVD is also an incredible introduction to Negativland’s work for new ones.

Created with a crew of 18 other experimental filmmakers from all over the USA, Our Favorite Things is a collaborative project that takes a striking visual leap into the same legally gray area that Negativland has been exploring with sound for the last 27 years. A dark and charming film collection of unforgettable collage and classic cut-up entertainment for all ages, it also comes with over 90 minutes of bonus material, as well as a truly silly and bizarre 50-minute bonus CD of 100% acapella versions of Negativland’s work by The 180 Gs, a five-person black acapella group from Detroit, that has endeavored to “cover” Negativland”™s cut up collage work in R ‘n B, Doo-Wop, and Gospel styles. The resulting album 180 D”™Gs To The Future! is extremely fun, funny, and very weird.

Also in the works is the long awaited re-issue of Negativland’s legendary 1983 difficult listening conceptual suburban epic A Big 10-8 Place. Over three years in the making, and with ten-thousand-million-billion analog tape splices, this insanely cut-up and uniquely weird release remains the hands down favorite of many fans of Negativland’s work. This re-issue, due out on September 25th, comes with a 60-minute bonus DVD of Negativland’s No Other Possibility video, created in the mid-1980″™s.

As if all of this Negativland activity weren”™t enough to cause a government reaction, the band recently brought a new version of its weekly radio broadcast (“Over The Edge” – on the air since 1981) to the live stage, mixing music, found sounds, found dialog, scripts, personalities, and sound effects within a “radio” theater-of-the-mind.

Time Out New York featured the band in anticipation of its first New York City performance since a sold-out show at Irving Plaza in 2000 (LINK). “It’s All In Your Head FM” is a two-hour-long, action-packed look at monotheism, the supernatural God concept, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs. Dr. Oslo Norway is your “radio” host, and Christianity and Islam are the featured religions, as Negativland asks you to contemplate some complex, serious, silly, and challenging ideas about human belief in this audio cut-up mix best described as a “documentary collage”. “It’s All In Your Head FM” is a compelling and uniquely fun presentation of sticky theological concepts, which has actually been known to provoke arguments for days after the show is over.

Opening the NYC performance were two other significant contributors to the history of re-appropriation of found sounds – Steinski and Double Dee. In 1983, Tommy Boy Records held a promotional contest, in which entrants were asked to remix the single “Play That Beat, Mr. D.J.” by G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz Kid (members of Afrika Bambaataa’s Soulsonic Force). The entry submitted by Steinski and Double Dee, Lesson 1 “” The Payoff Mix was packed with sampled appropriations from other records — not only from early Hip-Hop records and from Funk and Disco records that were popular with Hip-Hop DJs, but with short snippets of older songs by Little Richard and The Supremes, along with vocal samples from sources as diverse as instructional tap-dancing records and Humphrey Bogart films.

Double Dee and Steinski followed up this success with Lesson 2 “” The James Brown Mix in 1984, which began with a sample from “The War of The Worlds” before quickly running through a montage of memorable breaks from classic James Brown records, with sampled appearances by Dirty Harry and Bugs Bunny. In 1985 came Lesson 3 “” The History of Hip-Hop Mix which attempted a survey of the great breakdancing favorites, along with snippets from Johnny Carson and Hernando’s Hideaway. The Illegal Art label, home to notorious musical collage artist Girl Talk will issue a definitive compilation of this long unavailable material in 2008.

Our Favorite Things DVD Chapter Listing:
Release Date: October 23rd, 2007
01. Learning To Communicate
02. No Business (VIDEO)
03. Gimme The Mermaid (VIDEO)
04. U2
05. Time Zones
06. Freedom”™s Waiting
07. The Bottom Line
08. Yellow, Black and Rectangular
09. Guns
10. Over The Hiccups
11. The Mashin”™ of The Christ
12. KPIX News
13. Truth In Advertising
14. One World Advertising
15. Why Is This Commercial?
16. The Greatest Taste Around
17. Taste In Mind
18. Humanitarian Effort
19. Drink It Up
20. Aluminum or Glass (VIDEO)
21. My Favorite Things (VIDEO)

180 d”™Gs To The Future! Bonus CD Track Listing:
01. Intro (Everything”™s Going Fine)
02. Christianity Is Stupid (MP3)
03. Helter Stupid (Excerpt)
04. Greatest Taste Around
05. I Still Haven”™t Found What I”™m Looking For
06. Car Bomb
07. A Nice Place To Live
08. Seat Bee Sate
09. Roy Storey”™s Sports Line
10. I Am God
11. Playboy Channel
12. Oven Noises
13. Theme From A Big 10-8 Place (Live)

A Big 10-8 Place Track Listing:
Release Date: September 25th, 2007
01. Theme from a Big Place
02. A Big 10-8 Place, Pt. One (MP3)
03. Clowns and Ballerinas
04. Introduction
05. Four Fingers
06. 180-G, A Big 10-8 Place, Pt. Two

More About The 180 Gs:
The 180-Gs began in 2001 when David Minnick and his four or five brothers got together to sing and perform in their family’s two-car garage in Rochester, Michigan. Soon the whole neighborhood knew of the “Singing Minnicks” and the crazy ruckus that David, Chris and the triplets set up on those hot summer nights. It wasn’t long before their pastor, Reverend Al “Sugar” Sweet heard them and decided to take the youngsters under his wing. It was in Reverend Al’s venerable Airstream Trailer home that David Minnick found, under a dusty anorak, the album which was to transform the sound of the group: Negativland’s Points.

Under Reverend Al’s tutelage the Minnick boys redirected their energies into the delightful and stunning arrangements found on the recordings. Christened “The 180-Gs”, their performances went from basements and garages in Bloomfield Hills to crowded church halls and Elk’s Lodges in the entire Detroit Metro area. Their soulful styling of such Negativland classics of “Car Bomb” and “I Am God” were particularly uplifting in the tough times that followed 9/11, and their popularity came to the attention of local DJ and impresario D’Andre Xavier Jones, who produced their first singles. Jones sold these out of the trunk of his car – often moving as many as three crates in a weekend – first to folks in the neighborhood, but later to people all over who had heard bootleg cassette recordings of the Gs at block parties and dance clubs throughout the city. What started as a local phenomenon had broken out into the world, and The 180 Gs were going to ride it to the top.

“The mission of the 180-Gs is to bring music with a positive message to the youth of today. Their music is the complete opposite of the gangsta rap and techno devil music and all the stuff kids think they’re supposed to like. They’re 180 degrees away from that. In fact, the sound of their voices is an insult to the entire gangsta rap community. Coming up in the streets, the Gs learned the hard way that you’ve got to use your head to get ahead. There’s just no other possibility.” – Reverend Al “Sugar” Sweet

More About Negativland:

“Negativland, longtime advocates of fair use allowances for pop media collage, are perhaps America’s most skilled plunderers from the detritus of 20th century commercial culture. Negativland are media addicts who see society suffering under a constant barrage of TV, canned imagery, advertising and corporate culture…the band’s latest project is razor sharp, microscopically focused, terribly fun and a bit psychotic.” – Wired

“Brutally hilarious…a compelling argument for the anti-copyright movement.” – Village Voice

“Fearless artistes or foolhardy risk-takers…. by constantly haranguing the audience with authentic advertising spiel and highlighting its transparency, they kill the messenger, kill the message and produce highly entertaining art simultaneously.” – L.A. Weekly

Since 1980, the four or five Floptops known as Negativland have been creating records, fine art, video, books, radio and live performance using appropriated sound, image and text. Mixing original materials and music with things taken from corporately owned mass culture, Negativland re-arranges these bits and pieces to make them say and suggest things that they never intended to. In doing this kind of cultural opposition and “culture jamming” (a term coined by Negativland in 1984), Negativland have been sued twice for copyright infringement.

Okay, but what, you still ask, is Negativland exactly? That’s hard to answer. Negativland definitely isn’t a “band,” though they may look like one when you see their CDs for sale in your local shopping mall. They’re more like some sort of goofy yet serious European-style artist/activist collective – an unhealthy mix of John Cage, Lenny Bruce, Pink Floyd, Bruce Connor, Firesign Theatre, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Rauschenberg, 1970’s German electronic music, old school punk rock attitude, surrealist performance art, your high school science teacher”¦and lot’s more.

Over the years Negativland’s “illegal” collage and appropriation based audio and visual works have touched on many things – pranks, media hoaxes, media literacy, the evolving art of collage, creative anti-corporate activism in a media saturated multi-national world, the bizarre banality of suburban existence, file sharing, intellectual property issues, wacky surrealism, evolving notions of art and ownership and law in a digital age, artistic and humorous critiques of mass media and culture, and, of course, so-called “culture jamming” (a term now thoroughly and somewhat distastefully commodified by Adbusters Magazine.)

While they have been, since getting sued, aggressively and publicly involved in advocating significant reforms of our nation’s copyright laws, and are often perceived as creative and funny shit-stirring anti-corporate activists, Negativland are artists first and activists second, not the other way around. Their art and media interventions have (often naively) posed questions about the nature of sound, media, control, ownership, propaganda and perception, with the results of these questions and explorations being what they release to the public. Their work is now referenced and taught in many college courses in the US, has been written about in over 30 books (including No Logo by Naomi Klein, Media Virus by Douglas Rushkoff, and various biographies of the band U2), cited in legal journals, and they often lecture about their work here and in Europe.

In 1995 Negativland released a 270 page book with 72 minute CD entitled Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2. This book documented their infamous four-year long legal battle over their 1991 release of an audio piece entitled U2. They were the subjects of Craig Baldwin’s 1995 feature documentary Sonic Outlaws. Negativland also created the soundtrack and sound design for Harold Boihem’s 1997 documentary film The Ad and The Ego, an excellent in-depth look into the hidden agendas of the corporate ad world that goes very deep into the gross and subtle ways that we are adversely affected by advertising.

Negativland is interested in unusual noises and images (especially ones that are found close at hand), unusual ways to restructure such things and combine them with their own music and art, 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.

A complete discography of Negativland’s work is available at the band”™s website (LINK).

On The Web:

Related link on ArtofthePrank.com: Mark Hosler of Negativland Interviewed