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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Negativland member talks media hoaxes, intellectual property and being sued”

    Mark Hosler of the experimental band Negativland is hitting up Solar Culture tomorrow at 9 p.m. The band is most well known from releasing the EP U2, which featured samples of Casey Kasem ranting and the U2 song I Still Havent Found What Im Looking For.
    Mark Hosler of the experimental band Negativland is hitting up Solar Culture tomorrow at 9 p.m. The band is most well known from releasing the EP U2, which featured samples of Casey Kasem ranting and the U2 song “”I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.””

    Known to many as media pranksters, the members of Negativland have made a name for themselves as thorns in the media’s side. Famously making a phony press release which said that mass-murderer David Brom had been inspired by one of their songs, Negativland has periodically stirred the media into frenzy.

    Inspired by Pink Floyd and Monty Python, Negativland is as much an experience as a band.

    “”We sample from anything: the TV, talk-radio, noise out on the street,”” founding member Mark Hosler said. “”And it’s mixed in with strange noises we make in the studio and rock instrumentation.””

    Collage is such an important theme that even the record covers are individually handmade, with an estimated 15,000 produced for the band’s first LP released in 1980. However, Negativland is most famous for its struggles against copyright laws and intellectual property rights. As Hosler said, “”We’re not famous for a hit song; we’re famous for a hit lawsuit.””

    In 1991, Negativland released an album called U2 featuring songs which sampled heavily from the U2 hit “”I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,”” mixed with kazoos and a tape of DJ Casey Kasem mouthing off. The release of this album quickly led to a lawsuit from U2’s recording company.

    Hosler said the band was not expecting that degree of trouble. “”We thought maybe we’d get a slap on the wrist, but they didn’t even make any threats; they just slapped a lawsuit on us.””

    It was this lawsuit that inspired Negativland to fight the corporate control of music and mass culture.

    “”It was a nightmare, but a fascinating experience.”” Hosler said. “”We realized there was something wrong with corporations saying they owned culture.””

    Negativland used the media attention from the U2 lawsuit as a platform to confront the music industry.

    “”The lawsuit turned out to be an extension of the art project,”” Hosler said. “”We wrote a book about the experience.””

    “”Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2″” included copies of many of the legal documents in a collage style not unlike their music. Members of the group have been invited to speak about their experiences and the idea of what it means to make art in the modern world at numerous law schools across the country.

    Hosler explains his ideas on intellectual property rights with a metaphor: “”Humans build on what came before them. When we invented the bike, different people had to invent the wheels, the spokes, the gears. Ideas in art and science and technology build upon each other. That’s how they evolve.

    “”If you have a bike and I steal it, then that is theft because you can’t use it any more. But if I had a bicycle copier and copied your bike, then you would have one and I would have one. We’re not even doing that in our work; we’re copying bits of hundreds of bikes and building our own hybrid bike.””

    Hosler will be in Tucson to give a film and lecture presentation on his experiences in Negativland. The presentation will touch upon critiques of mass media and culture, intellectual property issues, evolving notions of art and ownership and law in a digital age, as well as stories of the band’s pranks.

    Anyone with an interest in intellectual property issues, file sharing and hoaxes will find this presentation worth his or her time and attention. The presentation is tomorrow at 9 p.m. at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Tickets are $10.

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