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Label: postmodernism

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
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