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…