To Deuce of Clubs index page To Write index page Autographed copies of Adventures with the Mojave Phone Booth are now available!

A Brief Review of Sonic Outlaws

by Deuce of Clubs

(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 parts—the 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

To Deuce of Clubs