Sunday, November 29, 2015

SXSW 2016: Creative Thievery = What’s Yours Is Mine.


In March 2016, I’ll be participating in a panel presentation at SxSW in Austin, TX, titled Creative Thievery = What’s Yours is Minewith three other panel members, including Hrag Vartanian, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hyperallergic, Jonathan Rosen, NYC-based conceptual and appropriation artist, and Mary Crosse, Executive Producer of Derby Content. We will discuss the effect of digital technology and social media platforms on appropriation art, artistic ownership, and copyright law.

Date, time, and venue information will be available in January 2016. This session is part of Convergence Programming at SXSW 2016 and open to all Film, Interactive, Gold, and Platinum badgeholders. If this session is scheduled on Monday, March 14 or Tuesday, March 15, then it is also open to all Music badgeholders.

Find more information here.


Minimalism, Appropriation and the Public Domain

I’m probably going to get called an asshole for writing this, or maybe sarcastic. If I’m lucky I’ll be called both.

I’ve taken it upon myself to turn a new leaf. Starting this week I’m making it a point to see more art in person. To be honest I have dreaded doing this for the last, say, 15 years. It’s not so much laziness or my predilection for viewing images authored by monkeys. It boils down to the simple fact that 99% of the stuff out there is positively not worth a subway ride. Truth be told I’d rather look at and read about ’60s and ’70s art, particularly conceptual and minimalist art. And when the writings are from the October group, that much the better.

Donal Judd at David Zwirner gallery (2015).

Donal Judd at David Zwirner gallery (2015).

With that aside, let me say that last week I walked over to David Zwirner gallery on 20th Street (in NYC, of course), to see  Donald Judd’s Cor-ten steel sculptures from the late ’80s and early ’90s. I’m not really writing much on Judd here, primarily because there’s already so much better stuff out there, but also because the other two exhibitions I viewed (and which I did not plan on viewing) lend themselves more to the subject matter of this blog. Let me just say that if you’re in NYC between now and December 19th and you don’t see this show, you’re simply lacking in cultural sophistication.

That aside, I had some extra time and decided to see the Jeff Koons and Jim Shaw exhibitions (both also in NYC). The Koons, well, let’s just say it’s Koons. They’re not particularly mind-blowing, but after seeing Judd’s work they reminded me of the main criticism against Minimalism; that Minimalism’s claim to self-referentiality was more a dream than reality. In the new Koons works the blue reflective “crystal” balls make this quite evident, particularly when you view the wall works as invoking the issues and questions usually reserved for sculpture. The architecture and site as well as the role of the viewer are clearly highlighted. I could not help but wonder why Koons had opted against recreating Velazquez’s painting, Las Meninas, which would have been more than apropos for this exhibition.

But the most interesting aspect in the Koons exhibition came as I exited the Gagosian gallery. It’s not a major confession of sorts, but when it comes from one of appropriation art’s seminal leaders, it has particular significance. I’m not necessarily calling the guy a hypocrite, but I’m certain Koons can afford good lawyers who would advise him–and Gagosian–of the pros and cons of using copyright accreditation language (and doing it properly). Not sure what exactly Koons or Gagosian are claiming copyright to here. The artwork list? The artworks? The gallery? All of the above? Comical indeed.


One last note, and please correct me if I’m wrong. In this recent exhibition, is Koons using images solely from the public domain (under U.S. law)?

I concluded my art tour with the Jim Shaw exhibition. I am often asked what I think is good appropriation of copyrighted or trademarked work. Well, if you want to know the answer in person head over to the New Museum and see for yourself. You may have to spend time thinking and, god-forbid, doing a little reading, but I can guarantee that not only will you not be disappointed, you will leave with a better understanding of how appropriation in visual art is supposed to work.

Jim Shaw at the New Museum (November 2015)

Jim Shaw at the New Museum (November 2015)

I’ll leave you with Shaw’s use of a Howard Johnson motel, which many of you will recall if you ever traveled with your parents on hot summer days and stopped off for what was, for some of us, a luxurious suite with ample maple syrup and a water hole to cannonball. Note the subtle use of the architectural facade that when turned side-ways becomes not only a beautiful formalist gesture, but a conceptual one as well (does this drawing not remind you of some kind of ’60s schematic as they are found in school textbooks?). Together with the kids’ faces pointing (viewing) at the HJs (in anger, pleasure, disgust), the menu of food items absorb new meanings and potential uses. The Howard Johnson’s is but a trigger effect transformed by the kids’ faces which, emblematically, become the focus of the work and not the other way around. Appropriation.


“It’s not stealing if I can afford the potential legal bills.”

In more recent instances of such lawsuits, like that involving Richard Prince and photographer Patrick Cariou, the wobbly copyright standard has come under newfound scrutiny. Among the legal experts reexamining the statute’s application are Stanford Law School professors Andrew Gilden and Timothy Greene, who authored a 2013 University of Chicago Law Review paper titled “Fair Use for the Rich and Fabulous?” In the brief, Gilden and Greene worry that the courts today are converting “the right to rework, comment on, or otherwise engage with creative works into a privilege largely reserved for the rich and famous.”

We’ve been saying this for years. Buy your tickets to the bandwagon; space is limited!

More here.

UPDATE: November 15, 2015

Here’s the link to the Gilden and Greene law review article mentioned above. Of note is that although Gilden and Greene champion the Second Circuit’s new Cariou test, they do hope that courts do not focus on socioeconomic and cultural factors. I would add that this new socioeconomic and cultural approach is particularly harmful and ill-advised when it is done by judges or, simply put, by anyone without adequate and in-depth knowledge of art history and contemporary art.

Gilden and Greene:

In its recent decision in Cariou, the Second Circuit appears to have recognized the unfairness, unworkability, and empirical deficiencies in these practicable boundaries. In shifting towards an audience-focused inquiry, however, it is important that the new boundaries of fair use are not set by socioeconomic status or judicial distinctions between high and low art.


Who Owns the Scrambled Eggs? Abramovic Sued by Former Lover and Collaborator


Ulay, Marina Abramovic’s former lover and collaborator, is suing Abramovic for breach of contract. Ulay claims that Abramovic has not shared profits and denied Ulay creative accreditation on their performance collaborations.

Abramovic’s lawyer claims Abramovic firmly denies Ulay’s allegations: “My client doesn’t want to comment on them, they are libellous [sic]. My client considers that this lawsuit is abusive and aimed to damage her reputation in public, which is proven by his allegations to you. My client is very confident in her position in front of the court. She will defend her rights and reputation by all legal means.”

Apparently the lawsuit will be heard by an Amsterdam district court.

More via The Guardian.


Federal Court Points Out, Fair Use Both Shield and Weapon

Via Wikipedia. Used under CC license BY-SA 3.0.

Via Wikipedia. Used under CC license BY-SA 3.0.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that where the creator of a parody makes fair use of another copyrighted work and where the same creator adds sufficient originality to her parody, the creator may claim copyright protection over the original components of the parody.

Jaime Keeling, authored Point Break Live!, a theatrical work that adapts and parodies the 1991 film Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Keeling’s play adds its own fictional elements and also borrows heavily from the film: according to the opinion, “Keeling added jokes, props, exaggerated staging, and humorous theatrical devices to transform the dramatic plot and dialogue of the film into an irreverent, interactive theatrical experience.” The question at hand was whether the parodic elements of a copyrighted film are themselves protected by U.S. copyright law even if the parody was unauthorized. The Second Circuit answered in the affirmative.

Here’s more, via Seattle Copyright Watch.


Paintings May Not Be Authentic Jackson Pollocks

Questions have been raised about the authenticity of twelve works attributed to Jackson Pollock. 




Photographer Says Steve Jobs Film Infringed His Copyrighted Photo

Carl Roessler alleges that Universal Pictures (among quite a few other named defendants) used Roessler’s shark photograph in the new Steve Jobs film without his permission.

Roessler seeks an accounting, an injunction and damages for copyright infringement, vicarious infringement and contributory infringement. Other named defendants are Legendary Pictures Funding, Legendary Pictures Productions, AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings, and Cinemark USA.

More here.


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