BY SHAUN BRADY/CITY PAPER Negativland is best known as the prankster collage band whose sample-heavy cut-ups both indulge in and comment upon copyright infringement as a critique of corporate control (most notably the infamous U2 EP which got them sued by Island Records and not at all liked by Casey Kasem). They’ve also garnered attention with media hoaxes such as the one documented on 1989’s Helter Stupid, when the band claimed that their song “Christianity Is Stupid” had been implicated in an actual axe murder in Minnesota, which was then reported as fact by several media outlets.
“Our work continues to be collage and we’re always appropriating, we’re always infringing on someone else’s copyrights ? it’s a background noise that exists in anything we do, no matter what the subject matter,” explains founding member Mark Hosler. “But since these were the first shows we were doing after 9/11, we thought that we really needed to do something very different because we’re in a really different climate right now in this country. It’s part of your duty, if you’re going out there and doing something creative in the public, to be responsive to what’s going on. So we thought what better topic to pick than the subject of God, and belief and faith.”
Hosler continues, “With the war in Iraq and this so-called ‘War on Terrorism,’ there’s an aspect of it all that’s literally a war over God. We have a fundamentalist president who thinks God tells him what to do and he’s out there trying to hunt down and kill fundamentalist terrorists who think God tells them what to do. It’s a shock that in this day and age, something so primitive and primal and such an old part of human history would come back again so strongly and ferociously.”
In conceiving the show, the members of Negativland gathered for discussions of belief that they’d never had, even after knowing each other in some cases for 27 years. Hosler believes those conversations ultimately enhanced the show. “We assume the audience coming to see a Negativland show is smart, they’re intellectual, they’re probably politically somewhere to the left, so we’ve gotta do a show that’s thought-provoking to that person. As we created the show, the rule was if it made us uncomfortable and made us question things about ourselves and what we thought, then we were probably onto something good.”
Negativland: “It’s All In Your Head FM,” Fri., Aug. 3, 8 p.m., $15, International House, 3701 Chestnut St., 866-468-7619, www.ihousephilly.org.
“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
“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
“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 MAGAZINE