Negativland Live On Tour
For the first time in 34 years of presenting unique one-of-a-kind stage shows, Negativland performs radically new audio-visual versions of many Negativland fan-favorites that have never before been heard live. Negativland's current performance project finds them teaming up with with electronic musician Wobbly, and "live cinema" video artist Steev Hise, to create a visually and sonically unique performance that reinvents favorite past and present dialog cut-ups, while showcasing Negativland's homemade electronic noise-making devices that they call "Boopers."
Boopers, in case you were wondering, are intentionally unstable homemade analog feedback boxes, first created in 1975 by David Wills, a founding member of Negativland. By taking a simple clock radio amplifier and sending its output back into its input to create feedback, and then adding multiple transistors, capacitors, and resistors, along with various knobs and switches to unpredictably control and modulate the signal, the sound that emerges is wildly variable. This creates a dynamic where the Negativland member playing the Booper becomes a fellow collaborator with the device. Using as many as seven Boopers on stage at once (all based on Wills' original design), Negativland further structures, manipulates, and augments these sounds with found voices, cut-up spoken word, ungainly pulsing rhythms, and live collaged visuals.
Please scroll down and read Negativland's bio for more background on this unclassifi able and uniquely American experimental music and art group who were cutting up analog audio tape to "sample" long before the term existed.
The Negativland Story
Since 1980, the 4 or 5 or 6 Floptops known as Negativland have been creating records, CDs, video, fine art, books, radio and live performance using appropriated sounds, images, objects, and text. Mixing original materials and original music with things taken from corporately owned mass culture and the world around them, Negativland re-arranges these found bits and pieces to make them say and suggest things that they never intended to. In doing this kind of cultural archaeology and "culture jamming" (a term they coined way back in 1984), Negativland have been sued twice for copyright infringement.
Over the years Negativland's "illegal" collage and appropriation based audio and visual works have touched on many things - pranks, media hoaxes, advertising, media literacy, religion, the evolving art of collage, the bizarre banality of suburban existence, creative anti-corporate activism in a media saturated multi-national world, file sharing, intellectual property issues, wacky surrealism, evolving notions of art and ownership and law in a digital age, and artistic and humorous observations of mass media and mass culture.
While it is true that, after being sued, Negativland became more publicly involved in advocating significant reforms of our nation's copyright laws (more recently finding themselves being brought to Washington DC and Capitol Hill as citizen lobbyists for copyright and art issues), Negativland are artists first and activists second. All of their art and media interventions have intended to pose both serious and silly questions about the nature of sound, media, control, ownership, propaganda and perception in the United States of America. Their work is now referenced and taught in many college courses in the US, has been written about and mentioned in over 150 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.
Since 1981, Negativland and an evolving cast of characters have operated "Over The Edge," a weekly radio show on KPFA FM in Berkeley, California. "Over The Edge" continues to broadcast three hours of live, found sound mixing every Thursday at midnight, West Coast time, with online access. In 1995 they 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" and 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 and the ways that we are affected by advertising. In 2004 Negativland worked with Creative Commons to write the Creative Commons Sampling License, an alternative to existing copyrights that was widely used by many artists, writers, musicians, film makers, and websites. In 2005, they released the elaborately packaged "No Business" (with CD, 15,000 word essay, and custom made whoopie cushion), and debuted "Negativlandland" - a large visual art show of over 80 piece's of their "fine art" works, video, home-made electronic devices, and a life-sized animatronic Abe Lincoln robot, at New York City's Gigantic Art Space. That art exhibit continues to change and evolve and has traveled around the country, showing in Seattle, Minneapolis, Houston, Richmond and Los Angeles.
In 2007, Negativland released "Our Favorite Things", a feature length DVD collection of their many years of collaborative film work, and in 2008 they surprised themselves and everybody else by putting out a toe-tapping all-songs project of one members compositions called "Negativland Presents Thigmotactic," and they continue to occasionally visit Washington DC as citizen lobbyists.
More recently, Negativland has been performing a show of radically new audio-visual versions of many Negativland fan-favorites that have never before been heard live. Negativland's current performance project finds them teaming up with with electronic musician Wobbly, and "live cinema" video artist Steev Hise, to create a visually and sonically unique performance that reinvents favorite past and present dialog cut-ups, while showcasing Negativland's homemade electronic noise-making devices that they call "Boopers."
In 2014, for their first new release in six years, Negativland mixed found music, found sound, found dialogue, guest personalities and original electronic music into a compelling and thoughtful musical essay called IT' S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. It comes packaged inside of a Holy Bible, and is a years-in-the-making, densely crafted look at monotheism, our supernatural God concept, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs. It's presented as if it was a "live radio broadcast" (modeled on the group's weekly Over the Edge radio program,) of a new radio format which is unafraid to proclaim that there is no god, just to get listeners. This theater-of-the-mind project is not only a new release from Negativland, but the way it was created (with basic tracks being recorded live in front of studio audiences) documents the unique and unusual style of live collage performance that they have been doing for decades now.
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 for much of their work. Negativland covets insightful humor and wackiness from anywhere, low-tech approaches whenever possible, and vital social targets of any kind. Foregoing ideological preaching, but interested in side effects, Negativland is like a subliminal cultural sampling service concerned with making art about everything we aren't supposed to notice.
See Negativland founding member Mark Hosler's entire presentation on Negativland's work, history, copyright activism, and fair use, as shared at the 47th Ann Arbor Film Festival, titled "Adventures in Illegal Art"
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... - NEW YORK TIMES
Negativland isn't just some group of merry pranksters; its art is about tearing apart and reassembling found images, objects, and sounds to create new ones, in an attempt to make social, political and artistic statements. Hilarious and chilling. - THE ONION
It's an often ignored request, but you may pay more attention to the phrase "Please remember to take all your belongings" after seeing Negativland's eerily mesmerizing new project... - NEWSWEEK
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...the band's latest project is razor sharp, microscopically focused, terribly fun and a bit psychotic. - WIRED MAGAZINE
The band hilariously juxtapose and layer sound bites and jingles...to help their targets hang themselves. What if the Pepsi execs actually like the album? - SPIN
It's no "Abbey Road", but it's a pretty good listen. - PEPSI SPOKESMEN