I was inspired by revisiting the Negativland/U2 fair use copyright case, which saw Negativland sued by U2’s record company for copyright infringement over a 12-inch single released in the 90’s called U2. That single featured Negativland mashing up and parodying “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with four-letter blooper soundbites from American Top 40 personality Casey Kasem mixed in.
I wanted to take Negativland’s Fair Use hassles with U2 (there were extensive phone conversations between the group and members of U2 about the lawsuit) to what seems to be the very end of the road. I took the same record, The Joshua Tree, which contains the song Negativland parodies/critiques/comments upon, and sampled it extensively.
But NOT the music.
Instead, I recorded all the dead spaces on the album-the deadwax, runout, etc. I recorded the clicks, pops, hum, hiss, and other ephemeral noises that were NOT made by the band U2. I heavily edited them, mashed them up, amplified, and otherwise manipulated these “silences” to create a soundscape (and resulting video featuring the vinyl record I sampled) that questions the Negativland/U2 fair use case in the following ways:
- Who owns the physical object that is a vinyl record? Is this YOUR album once you have purchased it in a record store or from an online seller? Or has it simply been loaned to you for a fee?
- If YOU own the record, do you have the right to do with this physical object as you see fit? If not, why not?
- In relation to #2, who “owns” the silent passages on the record? If the record company or artist claims ownership, does that not call into question the nature of ownership of the physical album?
- It’s obvious that the artist owns the original recording/performance that comprises the content on the physical record or digital download. But who owns the physical or digital COPY of this material once it has been sold?
- At what point do the answers to these questions dictate how this recorded/duplicated content may be used in the context of parody, commentary, reportage, or creating new works of art that seek to question/comment on the original? Is art “illegal” when made by and for consenting adults without deception?
The first work in this mixed-media sound art series features the U2 vinyl record, The Joshua Tree, and debuts at the University of Chicago, 400 South Peoria Street on April 7, 2017.