Negativland Live in Portland
7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show
All ages welcome
$15 advance, $20 day of show
Boopers, in case you were wondering, are intentionally unstable homemade analog feedback boxes, first created in 1975 by David Wills, a founding member of Negativland. By taking a simple clock radio amplifier and sending its output back into its input to create feedback, and then adding multiple transistors, capacitors, and resistors, along with various knobs and switches to unpredictably control and modulate the signal, the sound that emerges is wildly variable. This creates a dynamic where the Negativland member playing the Booper becomes a fellow collaborator with the device. Using as many as seven Boopers on stage at once (all based on Wills' original design), Negativland further structures, manipulates, and augments these sounds with found voices, cut-up spoken word, ungainly pulsing rhythms, and live collaged visuals.
Since 1980, the 4 or 5 or 6 Floptops known as Negativland have been creating records, CDs, video, fine art, books, radio and live performance using appropriated sounds, images, objects, and text. Mixing original materials and original music with things taken from corporately owned mass culture and the world around them, Negativland re-arranges these found bits and pieces to make them say and suggest things that they never intended to. In doing this kind of cultural archaeology and "culture jamming" (a term they coined way back in 1984), Negativland have been sued twice for copyright infringement.
Over the years Negativland's "illegal" collage and appropriation based audio and visual works have touched on many things - pranks, media hoaxes, advertising, media literacy, religion, the evolving art of collage, the bizarre banality of suburban existence, creative anti-corporate activism in a media saturated multi-national world, file sharing, intellectual property issues, wacky surrealism, evolving notions of art and ownership and law in a digital age, and artistic and humorous observations of mass media and mass culture.
While it is true that, after being sued, Negativland became more publicly involved in advocating significant reforms of our nation's copyright laws (more recently finding themselves being brought to Washington DC and Capitol Hill as citizen lobbyists for copyright and art issues), Negativland are artists first and activists second. All of their art and media interventions have intended to pose both serious and silly questions about the nature of sound, media, control, ownership, propaganda and perception in the United States of America. Their work is now referenced and taught in many college courses in the US, has been written about and mentioned in over 150 books (including "No Logo" by Naomi Klein, "Media Virus" by Douglas Rushkoff, and various biographies of the band U2), cited in legal journals, and they often lecture about their work here and in Europe.
Since 1981, Negativland and an evolving cast of characters have operated "Over The Edge," a weekly radio show on KPFA FM in Berkeley, California. "Over The Edge" continues to broadcast three hours of live, found sound mixing every Thursday at midnight, West Coast time, with online access.
In 2014, for their first new release in six years, Negativland mixed found music, found sound, found dialogue, guest personalities and original electronic music into a compelling and thoughtful musical essay called IT' S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. It comes packaged inside of a Holy Bible, and is a years-in-the-making, densely crafted look at monotheism, our supernatural God concept, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs. It's presented as if it was a "live radio broadcast" (modeled on the group's weekly Over the Edge radio program,) of a new radio format which is unafraid to proclaim that there is no god, just to get listeners. This theater-of-the-mind project is not only a new release from Negativland, but the way it was created (with basic tracks being recorded live in front of studio audiences) documents the unique and unusual style of live collage performance that they have been doing for decades now.
Negativland is interested in unusual noises and images (especially ones that are found close at hand), unusual ways to restructure such things and combine them with their own music and art, and mass media transmissions which have become sources and subjects for much of their work. Negativland covets insightful humor and wackiness from anywhere, low-tech approaches whenever possible, and vital social targets of any kind. Foregoing ideological preaching, but interested in side effects, Negativland is like a subliminal cultural sampling service concerned with making art about everything we aren't supposed to notice.
In a genre known for its randomness and chaotic structure, Daniel Menche has established himself as a musician with an uncharacteristic sense of focus and determination. Rather than creating "noise," he strives for order and cohesiveness. Aural intensity is not a representation of confusion or the chaotic, but a concerted effort to provoke and stimulate the listener's imagination by generating intensely powerful sounds and music.
His presentation of sonic structures is similar to the way a writer might depict a story: from the sound source an allegory emerges; through the imaginative process, confusion is tempered into symbol and structure. In creating the most dramatic energy possible with sound -- whether it's quiet or loud, or whether one views it as music or noise -- the aim will always be drama.