A Brief Review of Sonic Outlaws
(First published in Planet Magazine, 04jul1995)
Craig Baldwin's Sonic Outlaws is much more than the
story of Negativland's troubles with U2 and Island Records. It's
an informal history of "culture jamming" and various forms of
detournement, a term made popular by Situationist
theorists. Detournement means the taking of existing
artifacts and modifying them to convey meanings different from
their original or intended meanings.
Starting with portions of the offending Negativland record
including some of the Casey Kasem partsthe film runs at blurry
speed through a veritable police line-up of "sonic outlaws,"
including Negativland, the Tape-beatles, Doug Kahn, John Oswald,
and the Emergency Broadcast Network, all of whom share the goal
(as expressed in the film by Negativland's Chris Grigg) to "turn
the [media] barrage back on itself."
Sonic Outlaws is interesting also in that the film
itself is an example of copyright violation for art's sake, in
that it uses tons of stock film footage and television video
captures. Baldwin's footage was shot mostly in 16mm, but parts
were shot with the beloved Fisher-Price PXL-2000 toy video
camera. This one is not to be missed.
© Deuce of Clubs