Wednesday 21st September 2016The Weird and Wonderful
Art imitates life, and life imitates art. Old sayings are often ridiculous, but that one certainly holds true, especially in an age of social media photography and vapid self-reflection. But there are few times when it's been more literally true than during a recent moment in Berlin.
A large statue of American pop star Rihanna was unveiled in June as a part of the ninth iteration of the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Built by Colombian sculptor Juan Sebastián Peláez and entitled Ewaipanoma (Rihanna), the statue is a much larger than life version of Rihanna, clad in nothing but a bikini. The only thing missing from the statue is her head, while a 'to scale' version of her face is plastered across her chest as the sculpture holds up sunglasses to hide her nonexistent head.
So what better way to reflect on the absolute insanity of that old saying than to see a picture of Rihanna visiting the sculpture of herself and striking the same pose?
One can't help but wonder if the accompanying photo (credit: Hayden Manders) is a work of art in and of itself. In the technical sense, it is, as in 'he has copyright to this piece of imagery', but what about from a formal aesthetics sense?
If we accept Richard Prince stealing other people's Instagram photos, enlarging them and claiming to have modified them enough to distinguish his own copyright (backed up by the American legal system), is a photograph of a sculpture a work of art in its own right? Especially one that actually (whether intentionally or not) makes a commentary about the nature of that work?
It seems like a far more valid premise than Prince's, to this writer at least. Perhaps there's an interesting photo series to be made there, with each photo starring one person and the sculpture that supposedly represents them.
Probably not a great way to make friends in the art world, as Prince has found out. However, the art world does also love a rebel, regardless of whether or not they actually like them. No matter which side you come down on, there's something weird and wonderful about this photo - and perhaps it wouldn't last as a series, since the spontaneity would be lost.
What do you think? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.
Posted on September 21st 2016 on 07:06pm
Friday 16th September 2016Does Defacing an Artwork Create a Copyright?
It's more or less an open secret that the legal system's understanding of the nature of art is deeply flawed. Of course, both sides of the argument tend to believe it's flawed in the other direction, as in the case of the work of Richard Prince that we've covered extensively here in the past.
What makes a collaborative work of art? Does a remix constitute copyright infringement or creative license? It's the quintessential question of the postmodern world - and even if you think we're living in the post-postmodern world, the legal system still hasn't really caught up.
But regardless of how carefully you've been following these struggles over the years, you probably never expected that a 90 year old woman from Germany would be at the centre of the debate.
The woman, whose name was reported as Hannelore K. by German authorities, was visiting the Neues Museum in Nuremberg and stopped to admire a piece by 20th century avante-garde artist Arthur Kopcke. The piece, apparently entitled "Reading-work piece" (probably a terrible translation from the German, apologies that we can't find the proper name), features a blank crossword grid. Beside the piece is a sign in English that says 'Insert Words'.
So that's exactly what she did. She began to fill in the crossword puzzle squares, and managed quite a few before museum officials stopped her and called the police.
She was released after briefly being questioned by the police, but the story doesn't end there. While that alone would probably be enough for the basis of an article, the really juicy bit comes in the form of her response.
She's suing the museum for removing her additions to the artwork, claiming that she has a new copyright on the collaborative result of her tweaks to the piece. Whether this is her opinion or the suggestion of her lawyer remains to be seen, but it's a story that strikes straight to the heart of the question of the nature of media and art.
Interestingly enough, the Fluxus school which Kopcke was a member of during his career, doesn't seem to support the museum's decision to "restore" the work. As Ars Technica quoted The Art Story:
"Fluxus artists did not agree with the authority of museums to determine the value of art, nor did they believe that one must be educated to view and understand a piece of art."
Posted on September 16th 2016 on 06:41pm
Wednesday 04th November 2015Copyrights and Art
Copyright is one of the stickiest parts of the creative arts. It causes more problems and lawsuits than anything else, and with good reason. Nothing is more frustrating that pouring your heart and soul into a piece only to have someone show up out of the blue and steal the whole thing, lock stock and barrel. Think about Richard Price's use of others Instagram photos to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, for just one example. With that in mind, copyright is one of the most valuable things we own, but like many legal powers, it can be both a blessing and a curse.
In a rather shockingly ironic display of legal zealousness, the estate of George Orwell, world-famous author of the novel 1984 (among many others) has attempted to assert a copyright claim over the number '1984'. Stop and let that sink in for a second. The irony is palpable, especially when you consider that the supposed infraction was a t-shirt design that bore the slogan '1984 is already here'. The claim is that this is a quote from the book, but clearly it is not. "This is blatant abuse of the copyright system and more off it’s a ridiculous attempt to control something that needs no control," said Josh Hadley, the creator of the shirts and the defendant named in the lawsuit.
The implications are huge, of course. While this particular case is in regards to a string of characters from a novel, if a precedent was established that this kind of usage constitutes infringement, the entire art world could be affected. Imagine that you're working on an abstract painting, and you're using a palette of monochromatic reds. You manage to mix up a bright red that you absolutely love, and use it throughout the piece, only to find out later that you've managed to reproduce the famous red from the world's most iconic soft drink. Suddenly, you can't sell prints of the piece anymore because it violates their copyright on that particular colour!
This is an extreme example, of course, but it still highlights the potential dangers of an overzealous copyright protection system. It should be used to protect real abuses of copyrighted material, not simply those who can afford an incredible number of lawyers and their fees.
Posted on November 04th 2015 on 11:10pm
Friday 14th November 2014Kurt Perschke and the Big Red Ball
Sometimes, copyright infringement is a murky situation - difficult to prove, as in the case of derivative artworks, satire, and convergent design - but sometimes it's pretty hard to deny. If you're a relatively well-known artist with a signature piece, it can be hard to see how others managed to miss it. Enter the artist Kurt Perschke, whose most recent project involves an installation of a 15 foot high red plastic ball near various major landmarks around the world. Named the RedBall project, this continually unfolding and ongoing project was started 13 years ago, so it's not exactly a question of prior art - and yet earlier this year, Perschke found some undeniable similarities between RedBall and a recent marketing campaign by petrochemical giant Shell.
While Perschke has yet to file any kind of formal challenge or lawsuit again Shell, he has nevertheless made many public comments about the similarities. “It’s painful. There isn’t any doubt in my mind. Even though it might seem that a ball would be a ball would be ball, RedBall is specific in the way it is constructed and built and these graphics that they have created are spot on.”
Shell has so far denied the informal accusations, as a spokesperson told the Guardian recently, “This Shell campaign uses red spheres as a visual device to illustrate the volume of CO2 that the Peterhead CCS project is designed to capture each day. It is intended to help consumers understand through a simple visual representation the importance of capturing CO2 for a better energy future." It's a remarkable testament to their public relations abilities that even while refuting accusations of plagiarism they can manage to stay completely on-message.
Curiously enough, this isn't the first time Perschke has had issues with a large company's advertisements. In fact, just last year, he filed a lawsuit against a French company, Edenred, and they settled out of court with undisclosed terms. Perschke hasn't yet decided whether he is going to file a similar lawsuit against Shell, but as he said to the Guardian, "It is my creation. I think it is lazy. My work has a history, it has been around for years and to appropriate it maybe seems more than lazy – even a little dangerous. The larger issue is the impact on the work, I don’t want the work impacted or associated in this way. We’ve worked for many years on a project which really does bring joy and surprise to people and we don’t want it co-opted.”
Posted on November 14th 2014 on 11:23pm