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Wolfville, Nova Scotia


Sonic Outlaws

Chris Campbell

Craig Baldwin's 1995 documentary Sonic Outlaws tells the story of audio visual artists and rebels who increasingly are being threated by laws that twist the notion of copyright and creativity. One of the stories in the film is that of Negativland and their battle with Island Records over their amazing reworking and recontextualizing of some audio by Casey Kasem and some of the band U2's song, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". The film is filled with appropriated images and sound and demonstrates the techniques through the interviews and excerpts from the work of the artists interviewed. Shot with a wide range of film and video formats (including the low-res Fisher-Price Pixelvision!), it's a constantly-changing audiovisual feast with images and sound that tap into our collective pop-culture memory. It also is an important account of the folk-art roots and history of cultural commentary and collage.
Things have become much more challenging since the release of the film. The media and electronics conglomerates have clamped down much more both legally and technologically to prevent the recording and reuse of material. The "record" button on VCRs in the future will not be controlled by you! While the situation for artists now is not great, in Sonic Outlaws we see those who fight for the right to remix and reuse and they do it with skill and humour.
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