STAND BY FOR FAILURE: A NEGATIVLAND DOCUMENTARY
BUFF 2023 documentary feature STAND BY FOR FAILURE is an acid trip in creativity. An explosion of overlapping media and audio, jump cuts, and dissolves are mind-bending. Filmmaker Ryan Worsley takes us on a journey through Willy Wonka’s creepy ass tunnel whether or not we want to ride. Welcome to the world of Negativland.
David Wills, Don Joyce, Ian Allen, Tim Maloney, Chris Grigg, Mark Hosler, Peter Dayton, Jon Leidecker, Mark Gergis, Peter Conheim, and Richard Lyons embrace creativity to make things that have never existed before. Mixing home videos, commercial clips, photographs, and creative sound editing of everyday items like a toilet flush, Negativland comes to life. Beginning in 1980, bizarre albums and a radio show with live on-air mixing caught an unexpected audience’s attention. A lawsuit with U2 over some cover art got them a different kind of attention. Negativland turned that into a book. These guys are smart. Negativland exposes the intersection of culture and profit.
Immaculate editing from Worsley wows from the very first frame. The film includes videos from their live stage shows and studio time. It is fascinating to witness their genius in real-time. The film slyly reveals how the media sculpts our perception of life. You might not immediately realize how relevant the film is today. David Wills’ ramblings teeter on the edge of madness and insanity. Are we witnessing an unstable person’s stream of consciousness or an artist holding a mirror up to society? Who’s to say? As a whole, the band, and the film, are unafraid to cross the line and blow your mind.
As a theatre kid, a singer in a ska band, a podcaster, a writer, and a general weirdo, the film is tailor-made for my sensibilities. It is hypnotizing. It deserves a watch in IMAX or a planetarium. For maximum effect, it should show in every modern art museum. STAND BY FOR FAILURE: A NEGATIVLAND DOCUMENTARY is an undisputed must-see.