Response to Natilee Harren's "Knight's Heritage: Karl Haendel and the Legacy of Appropriation"
Art Journal Open, February 29, 2016
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"In the first part of her three-part essay on the work of Karl Haendel, Natilee Harren thoughtfully proposes a 'subjectivist' authorial model that enables us to nuance the complexity of appropriation in contemporary art. Such a proposal is relevant in the current moment, when the act of copying occupies an essential and apparently natural place not only in artistic production but also in what may be called 'technological life production.' From post-internet art to Google Books to patents on pharmaceuticals, who copies what has become an increasingly pressing concern. Within the logic of self-individuation and what Jodi Dean terms 'communicative capitalism,' we witness the rebirth of the author."
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"Reflections on the Amen Break: A Continued History, an Unsettled Ethics"
Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher and xtine burrough, eds., The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies
(New York and London: Routledge, 2014)
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"It is not uncommon, when engaged in a conversation about copying, appropriation and remixing, that I hear the terms "copyright infringement" and "plagiarism" used interchangeably. This happens especially in educational settings, though any context is perhaps understandable given that, despite artists' increased awareness of intellectual property issues over the last decade, "plagiarism" as an idea still seems hazy--simultaneously bygone yet ever-present. Its "old school" connotation somehow replaced by copyright's digital "tech-now." And although related, copyright infringement and plagiarism are significantly different concepts. Simply put, while copyright infringement is a legal violation, plagiarism is better understood in terms of ethical misconduct. One can plagiarize without necessarily infringing a copyright. For instance, assume a scheming dramatist copies a Shakespeare play, hoping to pass it off as an original work. As all of Shakespeare's plays are in the public domain, no copyrights will be infringed, yet most would regard the playwright disparagingly as an unoriginal and unethical thief--taking something creative and attempting to take credit for it without the due effort or responsibility to its historical significance. Conversely, cartoonists the Air Pirates were found guilty of infringing Disney's copyrights in 1978, though clearly the adult comic books in question parodied rather than plagiarized Mickey and Minnie Mouse's perceived wholesomeness."
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"Review: Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law"
Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation, Volume 30, Issue 1 (March 2014)
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"Control critics have also reinforced a dominant narrative, even as they have sought to problematize it: that is, the epic battle between unmitigated information suppression and liberation. Certain very valid concerns notwithstanding, theirs has been a predominantly "the sky is falling" determination, antagonistic to apparent monolithic private interests that are locking everything down for good. Jason Mazzone's Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law
is therefore a welcome volume insofar as it eschews the conventional control critic diagnosis in favor of an examination of the normative behavior surrounding what Mazzone considers to be the "overreach" of intellectual property (IP) rights. For Mazzone, a legal scholar and advocate for both strong IP rights and a robust public domain, the "defect of intellectual property law is not...that intellectual property rights are too easily obtained, too broad in scope, and too long in duration" (p. ix). Rather, it is the overzealous and sometimes flatly erroneous assertions of legal protections by content providers--and their allowance by content users--that has created a perception gap between what the law allows and actual practice, causing disequilibrium between private rights and public interests. Throughout its chapters, Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law
documents what Mazzone claims is a widespread but less understood problem and, importantly, prescribes practical solutions that might help restore a symbiotic relationship protecting private rights and public interests."
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"Immanence of Intervention, Revival of Critique"
Untitled, Pacific Northwest College of Art Online Magazine (2013)
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"The mythic status of the Duchampian narrative is matched only by the utopian thrust of much twentieth-century artistic intervention. In the last 100 years, scores of artists have montaged, appropriated, and remixed existing materials as commentary on the standardizing and de-authenticating effects of industrial development, and the increasing commodification of daily life. If a critique of cultural production under a capitalist configuration is latent in Duchamp's interventions, it comprises the kernel of the Situationists' subversion of spectacular society or, more contemporaneously, the Billboard Liberation Front's commandeering of outdoor advertising. Thus, to inquire as to the state of artistic intervention necessarily demands interrogating the legacy of artistic critique of various stages of capitalist development. Stated otherwise, Marion von Osten asks, "Aren't artists' historical and current forms of self-organization, and interventions into the art system's historical division of labor, signs of a détournement within the actual distribution of wealth and value, whether monetary, cultural, or symbolic?"..."
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"In Fair Use, Freedom Does Not Equal Progress"
Antenna, blog for the Media and Cultural Studies area, Dept. of Communications, University of Wisconsin - Madison (2013)
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"Last year I wrote an essay for the book Media Authorship
in which I traced the issues surrounding copyright's fair use doctrine in the context of contemporary appropriation art. Specifically, I compared two of art's most notorious copyright infringement lawsuits, Rogers v. Koons
(1992) and Cariou v. Prince
(2013). Artist Richard Prince's appeal in the latter case was still pending by the time my words went to press; on April 25 of this year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court opinion. It found that, for the most part, Prince's appropriations of photographer Patrick Cariou's pictures constituted fair use. Many in the art world saw the ruling as a decisive victory for appropriation art—a type of practice seemingly doomed to perpetually teeter on the precipice of illegality..."
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"Appropriation Art, Subjectivism, Crisis: the Battle for Fair Uses"
Cynthia Chris and David Gerstner, eds., Media Authorship (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), 56-71.
Book description on Routledge web site
"United States District Court Judge Deborah Batts's March 2011 ruling that artist Richard Prince had infringed photographer Patrick Cariou's copyrights threw the art world into a frenzy. Rigorous debate over Prince's appropriation of Cariou's images for a series of paintings titled Canal Zone had been mounting since Cariou filed his claim at the end of 2008, but it was Judge Batts's decision that really prompted the punditry. Critics, curators, gallerists, artists and other commentators, writing in print publications, press reports and the blogosphere all—for the most part—decried the verdict, claiming that it would have a "chilling effect" on appropriation-based practices, which would likewise stifle creativity and free expression in the long-term. And with serious concern over Cariou's suit also naming Prince's exhibition organizer, Gagosian Gallery, as an accomplice, no fewer than ten distinguished museums and arts foundations, as well as--indeed--Google, filed briefs in support of Prince's appeal, which is, as of this writing, pending..."
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"The Yes Men: Parody in Aesthetics and Protest"
MATERIAL Issue 3 (Los Angeles: Material Press, 2012), 21-34.
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"Appropriation as a critical and politically resonant practice has enjoyed something of a revival over the last decade. Much of this recent work has been categorized as "tactical media," a movement of mostly electronic art and activism that developed out
of anti-globalization sentiment in the mid-1990s. The Yes Men have been regarded as among the most prolific of these media tacticians. I will be discussing their recent legal battle with the United States Chamber of Commerce, which erupted in 2009 when the Yes Men appropriated the Chamber's intellectual property. My analysis will operate from theoretical articulations spanning different disciplines: capitalist critique via scholars Luc Boltanksi and Eve Chiapello; the notion of "tactic" as espoused
by Michel de Certeau' the legal doctrine of fair use' and scholar Linda Hutcheon's theory of postmodern parody. Let me begin here by quoting artist and scholar Lucy Soutter. Recently she writes..."
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"The Pictures Generation, the Copyright Act of 1976, and the Reassertion of Authorship in Postmodernity"
Art & Education (New York, June 2012).
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"In the three decades since artists Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince first exhibited their provocatively infringing appropriated photographs, inexpensive reproduction technologies and distribution systems have further thrown established conventions of authorial control into disarray, and at a seemingly exponential rate. Reactionary focus, then, to both the legal regulation of image production and the prosecution of violators has been rigorous. "Intellectual property" now figures significantly as a cross-over category between legal and cultural discourse. Within the domain of art, appropriation since the Pictures generation might have been determined by artists to be a very risky endeavor. But while there has been the occasional lawsuit, there is nonetheless no doubt that the practice of appropriation in contemporary art is alive and well. There is a lot of copying going on, with, as scholar Martha Buskirk describes, 'The types of copies that appear in contemporary art...as varied as the materials artists have employed...'"
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"Fared Use: A Political Economy of the Digitally Empowered Subject"
The Sound of Downloading Makes Me Want to Upload (Paris: Institute of Social Hypocrisy, 2010), 285-295.
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"Notwithstanding the "digital divide" barrier to entry into the networked society, well along now in its "2.0" phase, the author, it seems, has become the producer. Today's digital subject has now folded "reading" (downloading) and "writing" (producing/uploading) into one another, altering our preconceptions of the creative act, which has in turn altered the very definition of what it means to be a creator. And while Roland Barthes' proclamation of the "death of the author" four decades ago may be somewhat misguided, as I intend to argue, it cannot be denied that there has been, on an unprecedented scale, a "birth of the reader," which has consequently shifted the sites of cultural agency in contemporary society..."