Tag Archives: Joe Wallace

U2 Vinyl Record Sound Art Project: Dead Wax And The Sounds Of Silence

I am lucky enough to have a neighborhood record store, Laurie’s Planet Of Sound. In Chicago, there are lots of neighborhoods with at least one shop nearby, but even after more than a decade in Chicago I am still feeling very spoiled by this.

So naturally when I decided to start doing vinyl-based sound art, Laurie’s became a go-to place for me. I like the people who work there, it’s a shop with a lot of character, and I always find unusual vinyl records there. Mostly though, I go in, do my own research, and take what I can find.

But today, Thursday Feb. 16 2017, I needed just a bit of help. With fun results.

“I’m looking for a really crappy copy of The Joshua Tree.” Yes, THAT Joshua Tree, the 1987 release by U2 produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, recorded by Flood, and album photography by the legendary Anton Corbijn.

Which got laughs, questions about why I needed a crap copy of an RIAA Diamond-selling record (the highest record sales award you can get..Gold, Platinum, Diamond, lots of money). I explained to them what I’m about to explain to YOU, except this is not the condensed version.

Earlier in the day, I spent some time in an isolation tank, floating in pitch blackness, having some zen experiences, contemplating the void, getting salt water in my eyes, and hearing my own blood rushing through my ears with a bit of tinnitus thrown in for good measure. OK, more than a bit.

I got out, showered, and went home to do some research and try to get some inspiration for a new sound art project to work on. I sat down at the computer and started thinking about that isolation tank. About how black it was. As black as the dead wax on a vinyl record, except not as reflective. As in, not reflective at all.

Thinking about dead wax and vinyl records and sound art all together started making me contemplate Negativland for some reason. I have no idea why the name popped in there except that in relation to sound art, they have always been front and center in my mind as a group of people working on things that obsessed them even when it had the potential (fully realized) to get them into big trouble with corporate media.

That controversy happened when Negativland released some material featuring appropriated sounds from DJ Casey Kasem and U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from the Joshua Tree record. This is all documented by Negativland in Fair Use and is generally fascinating.

Then I started thinking about how one could revisit this controversy, paying tribute to Negativland’s work with one hand and poking the goofy lumbering corporate media they had to battle with the other. But, it must be stressed, without reinventing Negativland’s wheel or breaking into their wheelhouse, so to speak.

So I decided to make a little pilgrimage to Laurie’s Planet of Sound to see if I could first find some source material-preferably The Joshua Tree-and go from there.

My goal was to find a beaten-to-death copy of The Joshua Tree, one with a lot of surface noise, skips, and age-related wear of the worst kind. Something that looks like the dog took it out to the back yard and buried it. And then dug it up again and took it surfing.

But Laurie’s likes to stock records that do NOT resemble this, so I was out of luck-even after squatting down and dealing with the knee-destroying Fifty Cent Bins. As in, records for sale at the incredibly high price of fifty cents, not bins crammed full of recordings by Fifty Cent.

I had set some parameters for this little project on my walk to the record shop. The rules for this art project are that my source material must be purchased from the local record shop, must be a U2 record on vinyl, and most important of all, the use of my source material cannot contain ANY MUSIC from the record.

You read that correctly. This sound art project investigates the intersection of copyright, physical media, the ephemeral nature of that media, musical history, and appropriation.

Which is why this project, Dead Wax and The Sounds Of Silence, uses samples from the album’s runout grooves, the spaces between songs, even silences found within the album itself. These are recorded, edited, manipulated, mutilated, and otherwise altered to create a new, transformative work.

I suppose it’s fair to say that this project also riffs on John Cage’s 4’33, which I include below at the end of the post (while this clip lasts, it may be yanked at any time from the poster’s account via the whims of YouTube) for reference.

This project is ongoing, I was just pretty eager to share all this before memories get too blurry about what happened on the day of the record store trip.

What ultimately happened at Laurie’s? I had to settle for a copy of the U2 vinyl record, Wide Awake In America, which features Lanois/Eno. Sure, it would be more historically accurate and fun to manipulate the silences of The Joshua Tree in general, and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” in particular. But for now, source material has been obtained, and the manipulation begins in 3…2…1.

Updates and progress reports to follow.




Every artist goes through evolutionary changes in their art practice, and I’m experiencing some of those lately. Over the years I have created a great deal of visual and audio artwork, but only lately have I realized that the audio work I have done should be placed in an art context rather than a musical one.

When I paint, I use the tools of the trade to create visual art. But almost exclusively, I’ve felt the work I have done in the past with audio to be something residing either in music or cinema-limitations or short-sightedness¬† I can only attribute to a lack of serious investigation into sound (and indeed, painting, drawing, etc) as part of a larger transmedia art practice.

But now that I’m exploring that option, I feel the nature of my art practice shifting into something both totally unfamiliar and very comfortable. I see my work in painting and photography in a very different light now, and my audio work has a new importance I never really assigned to it before.

And so…the practice changes to incorporate these things. It means I have to revise a good many things-my artist statement, the way I present my work, the way I structure my art studio space and hold shows and events. But these changes are good ones-the alterations one makes to her or his practice should come when they are ready, and this is definitely something that’s been a long time in the making, even if it was only subconciously fermenting away.

Stay tuned.

It Begins…

Joe Wallace Bridgeport Art Center abstract Art If you read the blog post that ran right before THIS post, you’ll see that my website has had a bit of an identity crisis. So be it.

I’ve used this space for a variety of things, but as my creative direction has changed and mutated in the last couple of years, it became obvious to me that I needed a place to post my work in the visual arts, installation art, sound sculptures, multi-media art, and multidisciplinary work.

This site started off showcasing my work in audio–sound design, original music, audio art and more. I haven’t ditched my audio work, but my focus has been more on visual, installation, and multi-media work in the last two years.

The only way to be a working artist is to create work on a regular basis, try to find the people who it speaks to, and build a relationship with a potential audience or group of patrons. I’m fortunate that my subsistence income is freelance, writing/editing-based, and completely divorced from typical 9-5 routines. I have found a great balance between my paying work and my creative work. Many times the two start to blur together, but I find that money is a typical struggle for most of the artists I know, so I’m likely never to give up my writing. That said, I have found a way to devote a large amount of time to my work (who needs sleep?) without shortchanging my writing.

All this written here is either a good introduction to my world and work or it’s fairly self-indulgent. Maybe both. Probably both. But as someone who devotes a large amount of time daily to the arts, the artist statement is something I like to embrace rather than shy away from. So yeah, manifestos, statements of intent, rants, screeds, written commentary/critique is a way of life for me–it’s my writer damage.

Some of my fellow artists have a tough time with the artist statement–they rightfully feel it’s a minefield fraught with danger–you come off looking like a self-important jackass, a clueless navel gazer, or an overly conceptual pie-in-the-sky thinker if you’re not careful with your writing. But these things are very important if for no other reason that to help your potential audience, patrons, fan base or whatever form of public awareness you are after understand what it is you’re about.

Hell, maybe I should hire myself out to people to craft their artist statements. I think I’m pretty good at cutting out the pretentious bullshit and getting to the heart of the matter. I believe in the Gospel According to Strunk And White: “Omit needless words”.

Do drop me a line if you want to hire me to help you with your artist statement, bio, show catalog, etc. I can give you an artist-friendly quote–I am at jwallace242@gmail.com. My only caveat is that I will be both fair AND honest. I will tell you if your approach sounds too high-minded, or not high-minded enough. I will tell you that the ten dollar words in your artist statement alienate the reader, but I will also point out everything you’re doing right and should be doing more of–honesty is the best policy.

End of shameless plug for more writing work.

So consider this long winding blog post as a statement of intent. My work takes many forms–I do video installation and collage that appears on YouTube and in my gallery shows, I have strayed into illustration that some might accuse of being political cartooning, I create dreamlike and nightmarish landscapes with charcoal and pastel, Steadman-inspired splattery ink landscapes, and strange semi-architectural fever dreams on watercolor paper. All of these things will find a permanent home on this site. Most of the completed work is for sale, unless otherwise indicated, as originals and/or prints.

This site will grow exponentially in the coming days. If you need to contact me about anything at all, do drop an email to me at jwallace242@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading.