Category Archives: Blog

Sneak Preview: The DeadWax Project

LOGO DEADWAX PROJECT U2 Negativland 12 inch single

In the late 20th Century, sonic troublemakers Negativland found all the trouble they ever wanted when they released a 12-inch single on vinyl and cassette. The single, titled U2, had consequences best described by the artists themselves. From the Negativland official site:

“In 1991, Negativland’s infamous U2 single was sued out of existence for trademark infringement, fraud, and copyright infringement for poking fun at the Irish mega-group’s anthem’ I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’ In 1992, Negativland’s magazine-plus-CD ‘The Letter U and the Numeral 2’ was sued out of existence for trying to tell the story of the first lawsuit. In 1995 Negativland released Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2,” a brand new 270-page book-with-CD to tell the story of both lawsuits and the fight for the right to make new art out of corporately owned culture.”

Negativland poses some intriguing questions with all of this. Who owns the record purchased in the record shop? Who owns the sounds on the album, and is there any room for institutional critique of the record industry, and music culture in general via appropriation, mash-up, or detournement? And most importantly of all, what is considered legally fair use of the recordings intended for mass consumption?

But there are other pieces of the puzzle missing with all of these questions; at what point does the art leave the artist’s control and become fair game? Are the sound vibrations pressed into vinyl “loaned” to us for a fee? Or is the vinyl record “ours” to do with as we please-up to and including mashup, appropriation, et cetera? And finally, where, physically, on the record itself, do these legal and artistic grey areas end or begin?

The DeadWax Project addresses these question by appropriating the same release by the band U2 as Negativland did. U2’s The Joshua Tree is the source of the song lampooned by Negativland, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. But for the purpose of the DeadWax Project, there is no appropriation of the actual music found on this album.

Instead, the needle drops on The Joshua Tree (and several other albums by U2 including October, and Wide Awake In America) ONLY on the dead wax on the record-the spaces at the beginning of the record before the music begins, in between the songs, at the blank spot at the end (known as the runout) near the center label, and even on the center label itself.

The crackles, clicks, pops, flaws, warps and other audible sounds in these spaces has been amplified, manipulated, remixed, and repurposed to create sonic landscapes that ask the question, “Does U2 or its’ record label own these things in addition to the actual created content?”

If there is no copyright law broken by appropriating the SILENCES on this record that no microphone has listened to, at what point would lawsuit-friendly copyright infringement begin that is not ultimately considered fair use for parody, commentary, news reporting, etc.?

The DeadWax Project is an investigation of these concepts, questions, and sonic manipulations. Sound art, abstract photography, and video for this project forthcoming…

Looking Ahead to Art In 2017

StudioLab began in 2013 as an idea, and in early 2014, as a physical space where multi-media/multi-disciplinary art could be created and presented. As we get ready to round the corner into 2017, it’s a bit hard to believe that three years have gotten past us already. In that time we’ve done solo and group art shows with Jessica Barnett DeCuir, Patrick Ogle, Sharon Gissy, Andrew Rehs, and others plus performances by Binary Partners, and Paisley Babylon, plus screenings,  plus…plus…

(There were far too many commas in that previous sentence.)

As December 2016 begins to enter the downhill slide toward New Year’s Eve, there are several ideas flying about the place regarding what to do next with StudioLab. Some of those ideas involve notions inspired by Fluxus; some others are inspired by the wonderful writings and work of Bob and Roberta Smith, Raymond Pettitbon, and Ralph Steadman.

One thing is certain-this space in the past has been used mostly as a sort of signboard for upcoming events, but at least two of the notions we’re considering in 2017 involve use of digital and online delivery systems in a more active way. This will naturally affect how the website here functions, so we urge you to keep an eye on this space as we endeavor to blur the lines between the gallery, the website, the art studio, and the outside world in general.

It’s too early to let any more details slip for now, but we’ll be doing more discussion of our plans in the weeks to come.

–Joe Wallace
Owner/Curator
StudioLab Chicago

Greece, The Debt Crisis, And The Arts

Greek Debt Crisis and the ArtsIt can be tough as an American, not currently IN Greece, to research the debt crisis in Greece as it relates to how artists and galleries might be affected. At least not without running into a lot of distracting side conversations, blogs, and articles about less important issues like, “Will the Greek Debt Crisis Ruin My Vacation?”

That’s all well and good for those planning a trip overseas, but since I am interested in how this continuing economic disaster is directly affecting the arts in Greece, such distractions are more than a little annoying.

One article published by the Huffington Post talks directly about the situation in Greece as it relates to the arts, but I find the tone for some of this piece–at first glance–is likely somewhat removed from reality. At least until you read past the declarations that seem to imply that Greece is turning into the New York art scene of the 1980s.

“It’s a curious thing, but amid a stunning unemployment rate (26 percent), unsustainable debt (almost twice the gross domestic product) and the threat of more austerity, Greece’s capital city is flourishing in one way: as a mecca for artists.” That’s according to Ozy writer Laura Palet’s piece for HuffPo titled, This Part Of Greece’s Capital Is Flourishing Amid Austerity, which also adds:

“…And not despite the debt crisis, but because of it. The very downturn that brought Greece to its knees has also made it fertile ground for creativity. Prices are cheap, open spaces are plentiful and social tensions are sending artists into rapture.”

I’m not sure how rapturous those artists are feeling in the face of closed banks, the possibility that the IMF could intercept and deny wire transferred funds to people in Greece, or the potential lack of groceries and essential services in the coming weeks or months. But the article does go on to point out that the economic realities in Greece are forcing galleries and artists alike to rethink ways of doing business.

Not surprising, given blog posts like the one at Freestylee.net, the home of Artists Without Borders, which features one article that reports:

“In a nation where joblessness is now more than 20 percent, with no family untouched by it, the sight of people sleeping on pavements and park benches, in metro stations and shopping arcades, doorways and cars, is the most visible sign yet of an economy in freefall. More than 10,000 people have been decanted on to the streets of Athens, home to the vast majority of Greece’s 11 million population. The government has just announced emergency aid for the destitute and the Greek Orthodox Church has revealed it is feeding 250,000 people a day.”

Here’s the surprise about the quote above. It was reported roughly FIVE YEARS AGO. As many know, (or at least I hope they know) Greek economic problems are not new, despite the way the headlines lead us to think about the current crisis. So it begs the question–if things were tough before all this, how bad are they NOW?

I am having a difficult time finding stories of individual artists, gallery owners, and art patrons who are affected by these issues. So I set out to find some of their stories myself. I am searching for interviewees who can tell me their stories or stories of people they know who are in the arts, or supporters of the arts, and are directly affected by the current levels of austerity and crisis in Greece.

If you know someone who fits the above description, or if you yourself are affected, do get in touch. I would love to tell your story and offer a more up-close view of the Greek debt crisis than we’re getting here in America with CNN and the other news services.

Contact me: jwallace@thestudiolab.net

–Joe Wallace

Retro Oddities Volume One: Video Collage by Joe Wallace

cover-imageIn between curating Jessica Barnett DeCuir’s record cover collage art show Remix, and getting ready for a new third Friday event for June, I’ve been working on a series of video collage pieces titled Retro Oddities.

This is a collection of images from men’s magazines that have been re-photographed and recontextualized. The original images have been manipulated by selective photography, cropping and juxtaposition of several printed pieces within the frame of the photograph.

The results are something that looks far more like crime scene photography than what was originally intended; the men’s magazines I selected for this project are from the late 1960s and early 70s and were sold as adults-only print matter.

Special emphasis was placed on finding images that showed models who appear to be grimacing rather than smiling, straining, rather than enjoying, enduring as opposed to reclining. Other images were selected for their relevance to the central theme of the project, which includes the notion that creepy men’s magazines of decades gone by reveal far more about the people who create this material than the people who read it.

Have a look at this first installment of the video series below: