Friday, September 24, 2021

What’s Good for the Goose…

is not necessarily good for the gander. An article in Sunday’s NY Times asks what many a contemporary artist has asked: what do we do when a corporate conglomerate appropriates (read: steals) our artwork? More poignantly, what is a contemporary artist who herself steals or appropriates from mass media to do?

“I don’t consider what I do stealing,” says Christian Marclay. “I’m quoting cultural references that everyone is familiar with. I make art that reflects the culture I live in. […] I’m not trying to sell phones” (speaking of an i-Phone commercial).

This may be true. But…

even if we dismiss the fact that Marclay’s art work sells for a decent profit, what is more disturbing is Marclay’s belief that his own arwork is not imbeded in and therefore part of, culture. Perhaps if he did he would be allowing for the appropriation of his own work for so-called “commercial” reasons, if the logic of his own argument is that one can appropriate pre-created visual culture (“at large”) for the sake of creating more culture, regardless of intent.

Either way, we agree with Donn Zaretsky, that inspiration is one thing, blatant stealing is something else: “It does seem like like advertising people are pushing the envelope on this…[t]hey’re being more and more brazen in their borrowing. On the one hand they should be mining the artworld for inspiration…[b]ut more and more they seem to be getting into the territory of blatant rip-offs.” After all, larger corporations that can afford to place advertising on major television and cable networks can certainly afford to hire creative, and yes, original, designers and commercial producers. In the end, the amount of monetary gain obtained by even a financially thriving artist is but a speck compared to the millions corporations make peddling their wares, Apple and Toyota included of course. Perhaps we should all (artworld included of course) stop pretending there is an art-market and a financial market at large, as if one is sanctimoniously blessed with preferential ideological or aesthetic value. Of course, the allowance of this position would (perniciously?) disrupt the comfortable utopia which the mere belief in art has created.



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