Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Droplift Project

The Droplift Project

Tim Maloney spearheaded this project, instigated by a few and fleshed out by many different collage artists, from a variety of backgrounds. Richard Holland coined the term, and stAllio! even recently put out a new album purporting to be "Droplift II," although if there was an actual sequel to the project, it was the disc, "Free Speech For Sale," which was released a couple of years later.

The Droplift Project was officially launched in July of 2000, after years of preparation. All participants, and more than just a few supporters (primarily in the US and Europe), snuck copies of the CD into big name record stores such as Best Buy, and performed an act which was the opposite of shoplifting. Instead of removing product from the shelves of these chain stores, they left brand new, shrink wrapped copies of "The Droplift Project" in the racks, filed under "D," of course.

As a participant in this project, I personally left several copies in about a half dozen different record stores in the Twin Cities area. I wrote all about it to the message board at the Droplift site, and a writer for Flakmag picked up on those comments as the basis for a nice introduction to the project...

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Tim Maloney, on behalf of The Droplift Project...

The Droplift Project

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Nope.

*Do you use a pseudonym? Droplift was made by a number of artists all unified by their membership on an email discussion list dedicated to discussion of Negativland called "Snuggles." Each of the artists may or may not have used pseudonyms (or even a variety of them) at any given time. But "Snuggles" is definitely the uniting factor.

*Members: There are 21 tracks on the disc, and a few more available on the website that probably SHOULD have been added.

*Founding Members: The project came together so slowly and organically... I was the nominal ringleader in that I collected money, authored the disc, and coordinated the effort. I guess you could say I took care of most of the "real world" factors involved in the project. But conceptually, musically, and artistically the project is the work of many minds. I refer you to droplift.org for more info! It is all ruthlessly detailed there. In addition, the site has all the tracks as mp3s and even the cover art as downloadable pdfs. Grab it all and burn your own - Droplift has always been in the public domain.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: Most of the work on the disc seems to be of the "digital deconstruction" variety. Droplift came together in July of 2000 - before that we had been discussing the project for almost three years on the list. During that time the big issues were the collapse of Napster and the emerging efforts of the RIAA to classify everything as piracy. Coupled with the development of digital tools that made audio editing even easier, many of the Droplift artists found themselves creating work that explored those themes and practices. Most all of the tracks feature copyrighted materials cut and recut in a variety of ways. It was part of our concept that this disc should originate from materials in our popular culture, be rearranged and transformed, then reinjected into that same culture.

*Another genre descriptor: The variety of expressions and styles on the disc makes any descriptor difficult. There is everything from cover song to mash-up to straight-up noise. There's good and bad, and few people agree on which is which.

*Location: Droplift participants were international! Most were from the U.S., but we had a sizeable European contingent as well. Because of the nature of the mailing list, people from all over could participate.

*Original Location: See above.

*What is your creative/artistic background: There were no questions asked on the Droplift disc. In fact, there was no method for selecting tracks. If you were interested, you paid into the project and you got a certain amount of time. I think it was around 3:30 in the end. Enough to fill a CD. The money went towards pressing the disc and mailing the copies to everyone - including special Droplifting-only agents who did not contribute to the disc but merely droplifted it. So, there are a variety of backgrounds presented here. I think some of the tracks were the first efforts by some. Others were regular cut-and-paste veterans. Try to see if you can guess which is which. Actually, don't do that; it's a pointless waste of time because I don't think anyone knows what the answers are.

*History: Droplift was a one-off. Years later some of the same people contributed to a second "Snuggles" project - this one called "Free Speech for Sale." It was also droplifted, but it was not organized by me, and it should be considered a separate project. Not because I'm trying to separate myself from FSFS, mind you - I contributed to that as well, and supported it enthusiastically. When we did FSFS we all realized that it was not going to be a "Droplift II" or anything like that. Years later than FSFS and we on the list would like to come up with a new project. But we have not, so far, and no one has stepped forward to shepherd a new work. Putting out a CD seems, like it should for the music industry, to be less effective than it once was. There seem to be lots of new avenues for distribution and lots of new ideas. "Droplifting" has become a regular practice in Europe. I know of some French artists who make a regular sport of it, and futurists in London have interviewed me about what they call "shopdropping" as a kind of anti-corporate practice.

*Born: No idea about any of this! "Snuggles" members are deliberately obscure. Most of us do not know each other's proper names unless we use them regularly. It's odd, but there seems to be a trend amongst people of a certain age not to use their real names or personas. Those who seem to have been influenced by the Subgenius, the Neoists, the Art Strikers, Stuart Home, et. al., tend to create deliberately bizarre pseudonyms that mostly seem like supernatural creatures, powerful and slightly evil corporations or really weird robots more than musicians. It seems very much the opposite of the mainstream music business, where the persona of the pop idol is crafted to seem like a real desirable person.

*Motivations: "Snuggles" member are all freaks. There is simply no way of understanding why they do what they do, except my favorite explanation these days, and that is some kind of brain damage.

*Philosophy: Now THAT is a question I can answer. The concept of The Droplift Project is deceptively simple. 20 or so audio collage artists take, cut-up, reassemble, and reuse whatever they receive from the world of sound and reinject it back into the culture by "droplifting" CD's. This term, coined by Richard Holland, was named to reflect the opposite of shoplifting: the operator sneaks a CD INTO a store and leaves it in a bin for someone to purchase. It is effectively "jamming" the corporate structure that dominates the way we consume music. To add another layer of fun, most of the tracks of the CD have some thematic relation to this same premise, either by cutting up/distorting/detourning popular music or by "electroquoting," to use John Oswald's term - using recognizable pieces of audio in the midst of an otherwise different composition. Most of the participants in the Droplift Project would never be able to have their music heard otherwise. Regardless of how it sounds, even, no label would publish it. No music producer would touch it. And this would have nothing to do with sound or art or the experience of listening to the CD. It's purely a legal/financial consideration – something the Droplifters felt should not intrude in the world of music. Most importantly, by planting these cuckoo eggs into the bins at regular chain stores, the hope was that the consumer, now put in contact with the work of such "radicals" may not know the difference, and may select Droplift and enjoy it for what it is - music. What we did was to steal real estate. We heard from a number of people who actually DID buy the disc. Their experiences are still on the website, I believe. We didn't have enough money to really destroy the music industry, by the way. Droplift was a tiny drop in the bucket in terms of practical effect on the entire corporate music industry. But it was a damn good art project, and gave lots of people something to talk about for quite awhile. And it was an entirely uncommodifiable art project - at least from the standpoint of the artists. We couldn't possibly make any money from it, we gave them all away! My understanding is that some chain stores did benefit from it, however, as they charged some consumers for the disc (although some simply gave it away when they found no barcode on it and it wasn't in the computer system).

*How would you like to be remembered: With Droplift the concept was strong enough that I would hope it is remembered before any of the participants. If the CD market had not died so badly it would still be a pertinent statement about the corporate control of music and the lack of respect for an artist's rights to transformatively reuse materials that originate from existing recordings. Although collage has long been a staple of fine art production, the music industry (and now, increasingly, the MPAA) have been involved in an absurdly greedy game of bullying everyone who wants to use the music they've already paid for.

*Web address: www.droplift.org


1 comment:

stAllio! said...

droplift II can be downloaded for free here.