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Pohled odjinud

Glosa

Pohled odjinud

23. 10. 2013

Festivalové snímky pohledem zahraničních kritiků

The Free-for-All World Of Appropriation Art

Janet Maslin – New York Times

Text Janet Maslin se věnuje snímku Sonic Outlaws, který ve filmografii Craiga Baldwina figuruje jako atypický. Maslin se šířeji věnuje kontextu okolo skupiny Negativland a aféry okolo žaloby ze strany společnosti Island Records a reflektuje i kontext Baldwinovy tvorby a jeho přístup k tématu.

By their own reckoning, members of the Bay Area recording and performance group Negativland got themselves into trouble by having too much fun. Their prank began with a pirated audiotape of Casey Kasem, the normally boosterish-sounding disk jockey and radio personality, as he cursed a blue streak while trying to record a spot about the band U2. Sensing opportunity at hand, Negativland enthusiastically mixed these mutterings with samples from a U2 song, then put out a 1991 single on the SST label with a picture of the U-2 spy plane on its cover.

Sonic Outlaws, a fragmented, gleefully anarchic documentary by Craig Baldwin, approaches this incident from several directions. Some of the film is about the legal nightmare that ensued from Negativland’s little joke. In a highly publicized case, U2’s label, Island Records, charged Negativland with copyright and trademark infringement for appropriating the letter U and the number 2, even though U2 had in turn borrowed its name from the Central Intelligence Agency. SST then dropped Negativland, suppressed the record and demanded that the group pay legal fees. Trying to remain solvent, Negativland sent out a barrage of letters and legal documents that are now collected in “Fair Use,” an exhaustive, weirdly fascinating scrapbook about the case.

Sonic Outlaws, a fragmented, gleefully anarchic documentary by Craig Baldwin, approaches this incident from several directions. Some of the film is about the legal nightmare that ensued from Negativland’s little joke. In a highly publicized case, U2’s label, Island Records, charged Negativland with copyright and trademark infringement for appropriating the letter U and the number 2, even though U2 had in turn borrowed its name from the Central Intelligence Agency. SST then dropped Negativland, suppressed the record and demanded that the group pay legal fees. Trying to remain solvent, Negativland sent out a barrage of letters and legal documents that are now collected in “Fair Use,” an exhaustive, weirdly fascinating scrapbook about the case.

“Sonic Outlaws” covers some of the same territory while also expanding upon the ideas behind Negativland’s guerrilla recording tactics. Guerrilla is indeed the word, since these and other appropriation artists see themselves as engaged in real warfare. Inundated by the commercial airwaves, infuriated by the propaganda content of much of what they hear and see, these artists strike back by rearranging electronic information and altering contexts as irreverently as possible. Their technological capabilities are awesome enough to mean no sound or image is tamper-proof today.

 

 

 

Mr. Baldwin, who expressed his own interest in culture-jamming and recontextualization through practices like altering billboards before making this documentary collage, explores the implications of this approach. These sonic outlaws specialize, according to one of them, in “capturing the corporate-controlled subject of the one-way media barrage, reorganizing them to be a comment upon themselves and spitting them back into the barrage for cultural consideration.”

 

“Sonic Outlaws” does some recontextualization of its own by connecting such appropriation art to its antecedents: anything from Cubism or Dada to using Silly Putty to copy comic-book drawings. Using quick snippets and flashes that often emphasize the film maker’s taste for proudly tacky sci-fi movies of the 1950’s, “Sonic Outlaws” captures the wide range of effectiveness such tactics can have.

What “Sonic Outlaws” makes intriguingly clear is that it’s a free-for-all out there on the airwaves, as piracy becomes increasingly easy and the law remains vague. Ranging from a discussion of the Fair Use concept to illicitly monitoring a gay lovers’ quarrel conducted by cellular phone, the film presents a provocative range of image-tampering possibilities. And it makes clear that Negativland is hardly alone in wanting to exploit those possibilities in both reckless and esthetically daring ways.

Janet Maslin – New York Times