The Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition, subversive packaging

The Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition

The effort by multinational corporations to create ‘unique’ products that can characterize them more than the usual indiscriminate propaganda of their brand seems to be growing, and also to be focused on the symbology that these products communicate. The partnerships withequally symbolic and equally global testimonials, makes for bulletproof market strategies. However, all of this can be easily manipulated by leveraging other, equally strategical, symbols. For example, Francis Hwang cracked the perfect surface of Apple’s seamless design by radically modifying one of their luxury products. The Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition is a parody of the iPods that are sold preloaded with the complete works of the U2. He deleted the contents of the device’s hard disk and replaced it with the complete works of the band Negativland, that, more than ten years ago, notoriously plagiarized the irish rock band, ending up in court. This modified iPod was then auctioned independently, so as to avoid possible reactions by Ebay and Apple itself, creating a reciprocal trust that worked so well that the device was sold, after more or less thirty bids, at nearly double its market price. For all intents and purposes, the ‘product’ was radically personalized by keeping its glossy outer shell intact, but culturally subverting the data inside, exemplarily challenging the success achieved by Apple thanks to the compromise it made with the majors and their copyright system to sell more hardware and software. The packaging, perfectly modified according to Apple’s own guidelines, includes the physical copies of Negativland’s albums and two books about them. The profits of the sale were donated to Downhill Battle, an organization that actively advocates the right to the ‘fair use’ of music samples for artistic purposes.