"Sonic Outlaws, a fragmented, gleefully anarchic documentary by Craig Baldwin, approaches this incident from several directions. Some of the film is about the legal nightmare that ensued from Negativland's little joke. In a highly publicized case, U2's label, Island Records, charged Negativland with copyright and trademark infringement for appropriating the letter U and the number 2, even though U2 had in turn borrowed its name from the Central Intelligence Agency. SST then dropped Negativland, suppressed the record and demanded that the group pay legal fees. Trying to remain solvent, Negativland sent out a barrage of letters and legal documents that are now collected in 'Fair Use', an exhaustive, weirdly fascinating scrapbook about the case.
Sonic Outlaws covers some of the same territory while also expanding upon the ideas behind Negativland's guerilla recording tactics. Guerilla is indeed the word, since these and other appropriation artists see themselves as engaged in real warfare, inundated by the commercial airwaves, infuriated by the propaganda content of much of what they hear and see, these artists strike back by rearranging contexts as irreverently as possible. Their technological capabilities are awesome enough to mean no sound or image is tamper-proof today."
"The documentary is inspired by the unpredictable events of recent times – from the rise of Donald Trump to Brexit, the war in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, and random bomb attacks. It seeks to explain both why these chaotic events are happening, and why we and our leaders can't understand them. Curtis's theory is that Westerners - politicians, journalists, experts and members of the public alike - have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all-encompassing, we accept it as normal.
HyperNormalisation explores this hollow world by looking back at 40 years of events, and profiling a diverse cast of characters such as: the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, the early performance artists in New York, President Putin, intelligent machines, Japanese gangsters and suicide bombers."
(Holly Barrett, 22nd September 2016, Royal Television Society)
"The writer Ken Hollings examines how an artistic device called the 'cut-up' has been employed by artists and satirists to create new meanings from pre-existing recorded words.
Today's digital age has allowed multi-media satirists like Cassetteboy to mock politicians and TV celebrities online by re-editing - or cutting up - their broadcast words. But the roots of this technique go back to the early days of the avant-garde. The intention has always been to amuse, to surprise, and to question.
The founder of the Dadaist movement, the poet Tristan Tzara, proposed in 1920 that a poem could be created simply by pulling random words cut from a newspaper out of a hat. And it was this idea of the random juxtaposition of text, of creating new meanings from pre-existing material, that so appealed to the painter Brion Gysin in the late 1950s when he and his friend, the American writer William S Burroughs, began applying the technique not just to text but to other media too - including words recorded on tape."
"My aim is to try to get people to look at those fragments of recorded moments from Afghanistan in a new and fresh way. I do feel that the way many factual programmes on TV are edited and constructed has become so rigid and formulaic – that the audiences don't really look at them any more. The template is so familiar.
I am using these techniques to both amplify and express the wider argument of Bitter Lake. It is that those in power in our society have so simplified the stories they tell themselves, and us, about the world that they have in effect lost touch with reality. That they have reduced the world to an almost childlike vision of a battle between good and evil.
This was the story that those who invaded Afghanistan carried with them and tried to impose there – and as a result they really could not see what was staring them in the face: a complex society where different groups had been involved in a bloody civil war for over 30 years. A world where no one was simply good or bad. But those in charge ignored all that – and out of it came a military and political disaster.
But the film also tries to show why Western politicians have so simplified the world. Because Afghanistan's recent past is also a key that unlocks an epic hidden history of the postwar world."
(Adam Curtis, 24 January 2015, The Telegraph)