The following text is a bit buried within the VTMZ site, but since it brings to light some guiding thoughts behind the work, I excerpt it here.

Shared music and copyrights

VTMZ began with the wish to open up an online space for shared music. This wish was guided by certain key images: the street beatbox, the church organ, carillon bells, the car radio, wind chimes, Muzak -- namely sources of musical performance and ambience which serve to create temporary and fluid social zones in the public sphere. We may actively engage ourselves in such shared music spaces, as when we crowd around a street performer, or such zones may happen upon us by chance, as when a bicyclist with a beatbox rides by. These impromptu performances entreat their audiences, whether active or accidental, to recall a tune, feel the beat, and enjoy the ambience.

This notion of a shared music space in the public sphere may seem quite innocuous and well within the norms of civil activity, yet when the public stage shifts to the internet, the activity of sharing music becomes contested. Corporate interests such as the RIAA have used their deep pockets to try to shut down any music distribution not expressly authorized by the holders of copyrights. Their ham-fisted tactics include: prohibitive fines on small-time net broadcasters; mass lawsuits against casual music file sharers; lawsuits against companies whose software allows transfer of music files; and software controls on music files to lock them down to one machine.

The model I propose with VTMZ, that of a higher-tech community organ grinder, violates current copyright law in a couple respects, namely the transfer of copyrighted materials from one machine to another, and the unlicensed broadcast of copyright-protected songs (notwithstanding the fact that the songs being broadcast are derivative versions). This points to a deficiency in copyright law as it stands.

About the artist

Victor Liu's work explores the expressive possibilities of computation. In recent work, the focus has been on the intersection of computing and cultural production, through the performance of computational transforms on cultural datasets. These datasets have come from diverse sources, yet all are chosen for their qualities as cultural touchstones: video clips from television commercials and computer game cutscenes; Ronald Reagan's famous "Evil Empire" speech and Google images; the Linux source code. His work has been shown at the American Museum of the Moving Image and the Whitney Museum's Artport. More on his work may be found at www.n-gon.com.


Skies of gratitude to Helen and Jo-Anne of Turbulence.org for this spotlight.