by Dee Ann Rexroat
Everybody knows plagiarizing is wrong, right?
Not quite. An Iowa City art and music group called the Tape-beatles is building a career on plagiarism.
“We take artifacts nobody wants anymore and make them our own by remaking them — plagiarizing,” says member Lloyd Dunn.
Tape-beatles use found material in the creation of their multimedia work. They search Goodwills, Salvation Armies and surplus stores for old reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, filmstrips and slides as well as machines on which to play them.
“We like to recycle this culture and fit it into our own framework of meaning,” Dunn says. “We have no mercy for the messages that are in the things that we find, particularly in indoctrination — things that we think need to be criticized and are very rarely called into question.”
“We don’t value originality,” he adds. Artistic ideas sometimes are discarded before their possibilities are effectively used, Dunn says.
One of the filmstrips they found, and will use in a performance Wednesday at 9 p.m. at the Sanctuary, 405 S. Gilbert St. in Iowa City, was once used to teach children how to be nice to each other.
“So what we’ve done is added a soundtrack of our own to it that’s almost feminist in some ways,” Dunn says. “We’ve mixed it with the voice of a famous television hostess (Vanna White) talking about her life and how she’s just a shallow figurehead.”
“When that sound is put with these images of children, we think it sort of shows how this indoctrination takes place and how women are taught to be powerless in society.”
The group formed in 1986 and its members are Dunn, John Heck and Paul Neff. Ralph Johnson, who recently moved out of state, continues to collaborate with the Tape-beatles through the mail.
“We chose the name Tape-beatles because tape recorders are the main instrument that we play, in a sense,” says Dunn. “We tend to think of tape recorders and similar sound-generating machines as musical instruments. Our music is entirely based on machines and doesn’t use conventional instruments.”
Wednesday’s performance (for which there will be a $2 cover charge) will last just under an hour and will include a dozen or so three to five-minute pieces. A live radio performance on Iowa City station KRUI (FM 89.7) follows at 9p.m. April 22.
The piece they’ll perform Wednesday, “Music with Sound” was created in part with a $3,500 grant from Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, which awards funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“We’re using it to criticize culture as a whole. Eventually, as we get smarter, we’ll try to offer some solutions to the criticism that we pose,” says Dunn.