Friday, February 28, 2020

Hans Ulrich Obrist On Copying, Copyright, and Readymades

Copyright and courtesy of Duchamp and Everystockphoto

Our good friend, Ingrid Chu, pointed us to this interesting interview between artist Elaine Sturtevant and curator-critic Hans Ulrich Obrist. In this brief interview, Sturtevant explains her practice vis-a-vis Foucault and Deleuze, and dismisses copyright as passe and copyright lawyers as being obtuse.

In terms of copy and copyright, it‘s impossible to have a discourse about it. You absolutely cannot discuss copyright with lawyers because it’s a complete impasse, and won’t even come close to a discourse or dialogue. If you start talking to them about why copyright is no longer viable, they close the conversation. Copyright is not copyright anymore, but more about how this world is functioning. It’s not about the law, it’s about our way of being. And copy has very different dynamics than something that resembles something else. But it’s not an interesting topic anymore; it’s not viable. But I can also say that Duchamp is not viable.

I take this with a grain of salt. Of course artists can’t discuss copyright with copyright lawyers; artists don’t know the history — let alone case law — of copyright and intellectual property. To be fair, discussing copyright law with an artist is like discussing Duchamp’s readymade with a bankruptcy lawyer (ok, any lawyer): of course there would be an impasse to any fruitful dialogue. But hey, this is why you have contexts.

Sturtevant’s kind of uninformed position sounds cool and theoretical and helps only in getting hippie artists, Birkenstock-wearing legal scholars, and free culture dilettantes all fired up about the evils of property and copyright. That’s certainly not good, but perhaps innocuous. But saying that copyright is “no longer viable” and “not about the law” makes Sturtevant sound not only remarkably antediluvian, but chronically ignorant as well.

You can read the rest of Sturtevant’s intellectual musings on, straight from Berlin.


Comments: 1

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  • MarcW

    All I can say to the art world is that when you decided to give these lunatics the keys to the kingdom, you reaped what you sowed. How any intelligent person can take these rantings – and not just on copyright – seriously for ten seconds is literally beyond me.

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