Piracy is the New Black (Again)

This month and next, Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive hosts a screening series entitled 'Arrr, Matey: Pirates and Piracey.' Curated by Steve Seid, the unique program puts classic pirate movies in context with pirated media, making for some interesting juxtapositions. This Wednesday, the PFA will screen Sonic Outlaws, Craig Baldwin's feature-length documentary mash-up. The piece was made in 1995, and though it focuses on legal and cultural issues specific to the music recording industry, it also manages to foreshadow ten years of debates around file sharing, user-generated content, and 'copyleft' remixing that would ensue with the further development of the internet. Baldwin spins his narrative by quoting the likes of the Barbie Liberation Organization, the Emergency Broadcast Network, Negativland, John Oswald, and The Tape Beatles, 'all the while anchoring these aural activists in tactics related to Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, and the Situationists,' says Seid. Like any mixtape maestro, Baldwin amassed a treasure trove full of aural and visual ephemera for use in this entertaining classic, which has itself become remix fodder in an ongoing testament to the artistic value of recycling. The curator's ultimate question, in an era of 'USS Hollywood' glamorizing of piracy, is what it now means to be rogue. The answer proposed here is to take the media into one's own hands. - Angela Moreno