As a founding member of San Francisco's Negativland, Mark Hosler knows the value of a good laugh -- in or out of the courtroom. After the band was nearly sued out of existence by Island Records in 1991, for copyright infringements that involved unauthorized sampling of a U2 song, Hosler and company remained committed to borrowing whatever they damn well pleased from America's sonic wasteland -- all in the name of artistic freedom.
"We never set out to be any kind of anticorporate activists at all," the forty-year-old former nursery-school teacher admits. "But the easiest way for me to touch on all these different issues -- about media literacy, advertising, intellectual-property law, globalization and creative resistance -- was to start at the beginning of what we were doing and give a whole overview of how we got into this."
That is the purpose of Our Favorite Things, a ninety-minute video-formatted lecture presentation (and fundraiser for Boulder's KGNU radio), designed to initiate newcomers to Negativland's brand of amusing social commentary. "I worked hard to make it something that is interesting, even if you haven't heard anything about us," Hosler says.
Employing the visual equivalent of the band's cut-and-paste methods, various underground filmmakers collaborated with Hosler to undermine, once again, the concept of ownership -- which is the target of many Negativland songs. One of the short films, Gimme the Mermaid, borrows cels from Disney's The Little Mermaid and alters them to produce a deeper-voiced Ariel making litigious threats; her running commentary is provided by an actual music-business attorney blowing his stack over the telephone. "It's a really angry Little Mermaid," Hosler notes. "She's yelling, 'I own it! I control it! Don't fuck with me or I'm gonna sue your ass!'"
"We're gonna compile [the shorts] into a DVD sometime in the next year," Hosler adds. "We may end up being forced to get it made at some place in the Ukraine that manufactures pirated DVDs. But everything that we're doing is what I'd call fair use and under copyright law." -- John La Briola