May 17, 2020 | doors at 8:00pm
Sharing is Caring
Triple Ds presents:
This show was originally scheduled for May 17, 2020
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Since 1980, the 4 or 5 or 6 (or more) Floptops known as Negativland, a multimedia
collective originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, 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
surreally re-arrange 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, death, the evolving art of collage, the bizarre banality of
suburban existence, creative activism in our media-saturated and 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 (even 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, power,
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 and cited about in over
150 books and legal journals, and they sometimes lecture about their work here and
in Europe.
While their tactics and art practices have now become something a tween can do
with a few clicks on their smartphone, Negativland is still 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 been 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 a subliminal
cultural sampling service concerned with making art about everything we aren't
supposed to notice.
M O R E _ A B O U T _ N E G A T I V L A N D
Negativland’s self tilted sound collage debut came out in 1980 when some of the
members were still in high school. The album covers were handmade and
numbered, with 15,000 one-of-a-kind covers (9000 vinyl and 6000 CD) eventually
being made over the next 15 years. A vinyl re-issue is in the works.
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, and over 34 years of shows are available
“A Big 10-8 Place” came out in 1983. It was the groups third record and their first to
be a concept album, a format they have more or less stuck to ever since. This tape
splicing extravaganza, three years in the making, came in a wrap-around sleeve with
poster, bumper sticker, inspection cards, hand embossed inner sleeve, and a baggie
of lawn clippings (or beauty bark in the later CD version).
1987 saw the release of their seminal (and best selling) fourth album “Escape From
Noise,” which contained the track “Christianity is Stupid,“ and lead to a startling axmurder hoax that became the subject of 1989s “Helter Stupid” album.
1993 saw the release of “Free,” a reaction to the current state of affairs in the USA at
that time, and 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," documenting 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.
1997’s "Dispepsi" was a high-concept collection of original music, songs, and
collaged advertising that brought Negativland’s brand of thirsty cultural critique to the
parched and dehydrated psyches of of young consumers everywhere. It focused on
the impact of mass advertising via the idea of making a record that was about
nothing but Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi (and a bit of Coke).
2002 saw the issue of “Deathsentences Of The Polished And Structurally Weak.”
Actual wrecking yard detritus, found notes, cassettes, laundry lists, etc, formed the
basis of a poignant 64-page full-color book with read-along CD soundscape. The
album was a return to pure noise collage and closest in spirit to "A Big 10-8 Place,”
but utterly unique in the Negativland canon... no words, just sounds.
In 2004 Negativland worked with Creative Commons to write the Creative Commons
Sampling License, an alternative to existing copyrights that is now 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 pieces of their "fine art" works, videos, home-made
electronic devices, and a life-sized animatronic Abe Lincoln robot, at New York City's
Gigantic Art Space. The exhibit traveled around the country, showing in New York,
Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Houston, and Richmond, VA.
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-singing song project of one
member's compositions called "Negativland Presents Thigmotactic.”
"It's All In Your Head" found the group tackling their biggest subject ever: why
humans believe in God. This ambitious and densely-crafted double CD was
packaged inside an actual King James Holy Bible, repurposed into a "found" art
object. Negativland mixed found music, found sound, found dialogue, guest
personalities and original electronic noises into a compelling musical essay on
monotheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, neuroscience, suicide bombers, 9/11,
cola, war, shaved chimps, and the all-important role played by the human brain in
our beliefs. The audio was presented as a live radio broadcast (modeled after the
“Over the Edge" radio program). The audio was first presented in over 35 stage
performances as a live radio broadcast (modeled after the “Over the Edge" radio
program), with the album itself being assembled from tracks recorded live in front of
blindfolded audiences, documenting the unique style of live collage performances
that Negativland has been presenting, since the formation of the group.
In late 2016, Negativland released a new CD entitled "The Chopping Channel",
volume 9 in an ongoing series of albums edited from their ongoing live mix radio
show, Over The Edge. The first record released since the 2015 and 2016 deaths of
both long-time member Don Joyce and co-founder Richard Lyons, “The Chopping
Channel” was a manic collage work about the ravenous commodification of every
last aspect of our physical and emotional lives, and was completed in the months
before Don died. Taking the packaging to its ultimate and logical conclusion, 1000
copies of the CD included actual “cremains” (ashes) of deceased member Don
Joyce himself, and came with the gift of one of Don's unique, handmade audio tape
carts, used in the creation of Over The Edge and Negativland live performances as
his “main instrument” from 1981 up until his death. As a statement from beyond the
beyond, the release is perhaps the ultimate end game in Negativland’s history of
found art, appropriation, repurposing and productizing. The “release” of Dons ashes
in this manner kept with his lifelong devotion to the creation of art above all else,
speaking to the degree to which virtually no idea in art was ever off-limits to him.
And what is “True False”? “True False” is their 13th studio album and Negativland’s
2019 return to all original music that you could mistake for actual songs, albeit ones
being sung by dozens of sampled vocalists who have never met. The first of two
interconnected double albums, “True False” tackles concerns that will be familiar to
any surviving fans of the band: our nervous systems, our realities, and the evolving
forms of media that inevitably insert themselves between us. Shootings, bees, the
right's rules for radicals, climate control, dogs pretending to be children, the oil we
eat, capitalism, and the right of every American to believe whatever they want to
believe ….all are explored. It’s the first Negativland album to come with a lyric sheet,
and is a reminder that we need more than just one memory before we can safely tell
anyone else that this is not normal. Juxtaposing Occupy mic checks with US militia
rallies, FOX news hosts and ecoterrorists, and your own sanity with the home
viewing habits of Negativland's lead vocalist, the Weatherman, as we witness the
entrenched political beliefs of left and right cleanly switching sides in under one
generation, when you put the word 'True' next to the word 'False', a broader reality
reveals itself.
And, finally, just who's even in Negativland these days? Didn't half of you die a few
years ago? For ”True False,” Negativland consists of Mark Hosler, David Wills, Peter
Conheim, and Jon Leidecker, as well as our dearly departed Don Joyce, Richard
Lyons and Ian Allen. Containing tapes from the earliest years of the band (including
dozens of samples that will be very familiar to regular listeners of our radio program
Over The Edge), work on ”True False” began in earnest in 2012, folding the decades
on top of each other until they finally resembled all the of feelings that tomorrow has
for today.