THE STRANGER, March, 2006

Consolidated Works shows "Negativlandland," a 25-year retrospective of the anti-corporate collective Negativland that opened last year in New York. It is a sprawling playland of sharply funny and socially critical video, installation, music, and sculpture made almost entirely of borrowed material. Longtime fans will get their Negativland-prank fix, but there are also gently affecting photographs of wrecked cars paired with personal notes taken from the junkers.



Media pranksters Negativland brings their installation "Negativlandland" to Creative Electric Studios in Minneapolis, which has previously hosted visual art shows by musicians such as Tobin Sprout and Mark Mothersbaugh. "Negativlandland" features pop political commentary, a surprisingly poignant photographic series involving crushed cars and the handwritten notes found inside them, as well as sounds and various films, including videos for some of their most infamous songs. The show runs through June 10th and is well worth checking out.


THE RAKE, June, 2006
Negativland is celebrating its first quarter century in the music business with notoriety, empty pockets, and an art show, of all things. The collective has always lived double lives in the visual and aural worlds. Core members Mark Hosler, Richard Lyons, Don Joyce, and David Wills entertain various fascinations with video, radio mechanical experiments, and fine arts, in addition to the band’s better-known musical pursuits, media hoaxes, and ongoing efforts to make culture jamming and copyright infringement more than just publicity ploys. Hosler talked to us about Negativlandland, a traveling exhibit that takes the themes Negativland has explored in its music and makes them into a full sensory experience.
How would you describe the Negativlandland exhibit?
The show is divided into different lands, just like Disneyland, with more than seventy pieces of art, and in every medium. There’s the Booper, which is an electronic noisemaking device built by David of Negativland, and a seven-foot-tall animatronic robot of Abraham Lincoln, and a virtual automotive wrecking yard, with things we found inside the cars, car parts, video, and a soundtrack.
Wait—go back to the part about the robot.
A fan of ours who worked in the archives of Disneyland sent us a fifty-CD set of every individual sound component of every Disney ride that has ever existed, including the voice sessions and outtakes of the man doing the voice for Lincoln in a Disney attraction called “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” which debuted in 1964 at the World’s Fair and was the world’s first animatronic robot. We collaborated with Joe Griffith, a robot artist from Tampa, to make a Negativland version of this Disneyland attraction. We manipulated audio out takes from those Lincoln recordings. It’s really funny and surreal, but it’s also about imperialism and references the direction our country is going in with all of our wars to promote so-called democracy.
So you guys are making political art now.
Well, we have a new live performance called “It’s All In Your Head FM”, and its all about why we believe in God. We wanted to talk about something that’s going on now, globally. One way of looking at what’s happening in America and Iraq is that it’s not only a war about oil, it’s also a battle for God: Who is right? And if you’re wrong, we’re going to kill you. It’s nice to do something that’s not about copyright infringement, or anti-corporatism, or any of the things we’ve been associated with previously. We wanted to pick something timely and timeless.
Hey, speaking of copyright infringement, are you a little worried about Disney?
Not at all! Our new record [No Business], in fact, is one hundred percent appropriated—there’s nothing original on it whatsoever. There’s an image of Mickey Mouse on the cover, and Starbucks on the back. The project is about collage and appropriation, and includes an essay about these issues. Any lawyer who picked up this project would read the essay and say, “We can’t sue these guys, because the project itself is their defense.” I think—I could be wrong—it’s bulletproof.
Sample-based songs are all over the radio now, so it seems the world has changed for sound-collage artists. Do you guys take any credit for that?
Well, when we were sued by U2’s people for our U2 record [which mixed samples of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with an unauthorized, off-the-air rant by Casey Kasem], we really did cause enough of a stink, and embarrassed the people who went after us enough, that people in the mainstream music industry have told us that they won’t go after us anymore with lawsuits. But who knows?
Who buys Negativland’s visual art?
So far, almost nobody! It’s hard for us to get by making records and running our own record label. It’s even harder with art. I just did a lecture tour across the state of New York, and I’ve been making more money talking about what we do than actually doing it. But we got a really nice review in Art in America, so I guess the art world has decided we’re OK.