CFP Update -- Hollywood Sci-Fi and Collages

I'm at CFP 2005 in Seattle and it has been an interesting week so far. Today, Nicole Ozer, Civil Liberties & Technology Policy Director of ACLU-Northern California, gave an interesting presentation linking several events in Hollywood sci-fi films (Enemy of the State, Gattaca, Brazil, and Minority Report) to post-9/11 "realities." Props to Ozer for a provocative presentation, with thought given to how to bring her message of surveillance and privacy concerns to a broader audience.

Right after Ozer's presentation, I attended a presentation by Mark Hosler of Negativland. I have to admit I had never heard of Negativland before this conference. What I gathered from his presentation is that Negativland does lots of interesting and creative things by mashing pop-culture sounds and visual things together into various types of video and music "collages." My initial reaction to some of the Negativland work that Hosler shared with the audience was along the lines of: "wow, that's bizarre" and "hmmm, not sure I really care to Ibe watching this." I guess "Mashin of Christ" and the "Give me Mermaid" are just not my kind of music, videos, or art.

But, setting aside my personal taste issues, I do find Negativland's work -- esp. HOW they go about creating new materials from the old (and not so old) -- fascinating. Building new art from existing culture has gone on since the beginning of time. And Hosler's stories describing the cultural debate in which Negativland's work now exists gave context to the copyright dilemmas faced by many artists today. Having roots in the 1980s, Negativland came on the scene at a time when copyright protection in this country was expanding and deepening unlike ever before. Their collage-style works put them directly on a collision course with the music sampling controversy as well as serious questions underlying the practical application of copyright's fair use doctrine. The group has even gotten itself sued by U2 a number of years back. (Listening to Hosler tell the story, it's no surprise in hindsight why they were sued.)

While I may not personally enjoy the fruits of their labor, I am glad I live in a world that allows creators like Negativland to exist and be prolific in the culture/art they produce. I'm certain that society will ultimately gain from such creative pursuits (as it has for many centuries). But I do hope more artists will create things that I will actually enjoy watching and listening to.

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