Saturday, October 31, 2020

Inappropriate content, sampling, copyright and national emergencies…and pentagrams

April 26, 2020

“In some lost fold of the past, we wanted to be lions and we’re no more than castrated cats.” – Roberto Bolaño

Is free access to 1.4 million books fair use, or outright copyright infringement? Via the National Emergency Library anyone can access the archive freely via online format until at least June 20, 2020, or whenever the national emergency in the United States is declared over. Of course, some authors and publishers are not very happy about this. So, question for you while you sip your coffee: does a national emergency constitute fair use?

After last week’s missive, I received an email from a subscriber informing me that he was unsubscribing to my updates due to “inappropriate content.” Ay, Jesus (ß- read, ay heysoos; not ay, Geezuz). Was it my comment on Justice Ginsburg’s pants that did it? Was it the Iron Maiden album cover? Art? A keen reader will remember that last week’s missile referenced “goddamned” sensitivity in people, so, yes, sorry, like it or not nobody fucks with da Jesus!

On the subject of fragile egos, art critic Adrian Searle details how he feels about hurting feelings, in particular the fragile feelings of artists and even some from their families, as well as from well-known curators and museum directors, not to mention gallery people, collectors and private individuals.

From the Something Isn’t Right Here Files: Does it strike anybody as odd that so many art museums and institutions are furloughing hourly-rate employees but only decreasing salaried employees by 10 to 30%? Let’s think: zero of $15 an hour is zero, yet 30% of $1.2 million is, what, take home pay of $840,000 (not including perks)? I don’t know…, maybe Cindy was right: money changes everything?

Did you know: that Billy Squier is one of the most sampled rockers in hip-hop? Just listen to The Stroke, featuring the late and my favorite rock drummer, Bobby Chouinard. Chouinard’s quintessential 4/4 rock beat poignantly illustrates that flash and drum set size mean nothing if you ain’t rockin’. Listen also to The Big Beat intro—also featuring Chouinard on drums—and I think you’ll agree (and yes, it sounds better in stereo). As my good friend and drum teacher, Brannen Temple once said to me, “if the crowd ain’t movin’, you ain’t grooving.”

What’s the difference between sampling music and appropriating content for art? Some heavy law thoughts here. If you’re interested in what the hell constitutes plagiarism, here’s a great little book by one of my favorite legal scholars, Richard A. Posner, that will walk you through the differences between the ethics and law on copying, as well as the origins of plagiarism and its socio-cultural standing.

Back to the subject of drummers. Let’s talk this moment to remember and educate ourselves on two other drum greats: Chick Webb and Randy Castillo. For two-thirds of his life, Webb (you might remember) suffered from tuberculosis of the spine. After a doctor’s recommendation to take up drumming, young Webb, all but 11 years old, worked as a newspaper boy in order to save up enough cash to buy a set of drums. Webb did not let tuberculosis stop him, continuing to tour in order to help other struggling musicians make ends meet. Check out Webb’s interesting drum setup…unique indeed.

(Chick Webb)

Webb died at the ripe age of 34. Albuquerque, New Mexico native Randy Castillo is thought to be the first heavy metal drummer of Native American/Mexican descent to make the big stage, playing with the osmosatic Ozzy Ozbourne and Motley Crue. For a little energy, check out Castillo on this drum solo. Castillo passed away in March of 2002 of Squamous Cell Carcinoma at the also ripe age of 55. In 2012 Castillo’s name was chosen to adorn the performing arts center of his former high-school, West Mesa High. Some cool drum cats indeed.

(Randy Castillo)

Let’s get started. I do not miss sports at all. Which to some of you signifies that I have finally graduated from dragging my knuckles to walking upright. But seriously, at a time when cheating scandals abound in the sports arena and every sporting event, including college drafting, has become a money-making spectacle, the escape it used to be from the art industry ironically now reminds me of how similar the sports and arts industries are.

Earlier this month, ARTnews ran an article on “13 Notable Removals of Artwork.” While this list is appreciated, it also lacks at least two art projects by Swiss artist, Christoph Büchel. Certainly the decade-old fiasco initiated by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art against Büchel has to rank in the top 10, if not top 5. Some of you may be old enough to remember that Mass MoCA sued Büchel in federal court seeking a court order allowing the museum to exhibit Büchel’s project, “Training Ground for Democracy,” without his permission. In part, the lawsuit engendered a clusterfuck court order allowing Mass MoCA to make Büchel’s project available to the public. This court order was then rightly corrected by three federal judges who actually attended law school, holding in part that Mass MoCA may have infringed Büchel’s copyrights and moral rights.

And then there was Büchel’s project for the 56th Venice Biennale, THE MOSQUE: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice, which was shut down by police just two weeks after its opening. I’m curious is Büchel’s notoriety in the U.S. pos-Mass MoCA lawsuit played a role in his ouster from this notables list. Politics? Echoing Sheryl Crow’s sentiment from 1993, “I can’t cry anymore.

Mass MoCA covering art

Apparently Marina Abramovic is not a Satanist. I mean, who doesn’t like a pentagram or upside down cross over their couch. While on the subject of the infernal, check out “Broken Vows, by Pentagram for some old school metal. Like photo and squeegee paintings, some classic things never go out of style. Last but def not least: a beautiful film for those of you that emailed asking for some other visual recs, Yo La Peor de Todas (I, the worst of all) by Argentine filmmaker, Maria Luisa Bemberg.

‘til next week, and remember, I’ll be there for you!
-Sergio Munoz Sarmiento



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