I’m glad that you visited our museum and had a deep insight about the copyrights of those artists’ works. Most of the exhibited pieces are remixed art, which means that they are derivations from the originals. These artists focused on the the form, context, and the relationship between the two to cause new works to rise and used them to critique society and culture. In order to solve your concern about plagiarism, I will explain to you how these works are legal because of fair use, which indicates that the changes of form and context in these works lead to satirization not piracy.
In order to make clear references to the legal terms: plagiarism, copyright infringement and fair use, I want to first specify the differences between them. Plagiarism is “simply unacknowledged copying, whether of copyrighted or uncopyrighted work” (Posner). Copyright infringement means to “appropriate revenues generated by property that belongs someone else” (Posner). While according to legal documentation, fair use allows quotations from a book or a critical essay; and for parodies, it permits “as much of that work as is necessary to enable readers to recognize the new work as a parody” (Posner). All of the exhibited works are “quotations” not copy-and-paste from the original pieces, and their changes in form and context can further explain to you that they are produced within the legal permission of fair use. Artists did not simply copy and paste but rather transformed the subject from its original form into a new one to let the audience approach art from a new perspective.
Market Forces by artist Stephanie Syjuco is a piece exhibited at our museum. You may be concerned about the copyrights of these pictures of luxury products; however, in the images taken from eBay, the luxuries serve as a satire to our consumption-based view of the time, so the work is a fair use of the images. Stephanie Syjuco printed these images out and folded them to recreate the consumer goods, which are mostly expensive and exclusive to high-income groups.
The work provides the audience a new way of looking at the structures of the goods and encourages people to reconsider their value. By removing the luxuries from their original contexts and building a new form for them, Syjuco wanted to show that items that can be used to show off people’s social status are actually breakable and disposable. Therefore, Market Forces is not a work of plagiarism or copyright infringement but a satirical work on capitalism. Another example of Stephanie Syjuco’s work is The Counterfeit Crochet Project (Critique of a Political Economy). Syjuco recruited people to join her in “hand-counterfeiting designer handbags: Fendi, Gucci, Chanel, Prada, etc.
” (Syjuco). Participants chose the designer brands they most desired and crocheted the bags out of low-resolution images. It shows that the final works may or may not resemble the originals, but transforming a real luxury bag into a handmade craft is satirical. The work leads people to rethink what luxury really is. If it is something that could be homemade, then what is the purpose of purchasing a bag with a ridiculously high price when you can make it yourself. The crocheted works are in the legal realm of fair use because by changing the form of these high-end products, crocheted items imply a more transcendental value for having sentimental and personal embodiment.
When remixing art, artists are not limited to re-formation, but also re-contextualization, which also creates a critical effect on the social situation. Stephanie Syjuco’s Body Double illustrates her concerns about the destruction of war and her appreciation of the beauty of her homeland. The movie consists of two parts — films of nature in Philippine that show vitality, life, and green, and a movie called “Platoon” that is masked out all the destruction of war but left with the beautiful peripheral landscapes of Philippine. “Platoon” is movie about the Vietnam War, but it was filmed in Philippine.
By covering up all the bloody and tragic scenes of the war movie, and intentionally showing the beauty of nature, Syjuco re-contextualized the meaning of “Platoon” in a pictorial way to appeal to cherishing our homeland. While Stephanie Syjuco used a video project to demonstrate the transformation of context from its original to a new meaning, artist Roy Lichtenstein used pop art for the same purpose. In the creation of Drowning Girl, Lichtenstein looked into details in comics and used a snippet from a comic strip to form it into a large scale piece of art. By looking at the drowning girl, the audience has no clue who the girl is and who “Brad” is, what is the reason of her drowning and crying, and why she is having that passive thought. Lichtenstein did not provide us with an answer in the work, so it makes us ponder the purpose of this melodrama.
The form of this work is preserved as it is borrowed from a 1962 DC Comics panel; however, its original meaning is now collapsed and the work is referring to something else — not simply a comic story but perhaps Mondrian’s idea of art that paintings could be zoomed in and be very flat, and therefore they are not as the Renaissance artists said to be the window into another world. Although these works show obvious changes in form and context, and clearly derive from their originals into new pieces of art, you may still argue that the “vagueness of ‘fair use'” is not enough for all the remixed art to “be considered ‘fair use'” (Lessig 107). As an attorney, you must know that “the law was born as a shield to protect publishers’ profits against the unfair competition of a pirate” (99). If those artists did not create art for the purpose of piracy, then the audience should spend more time on interpreting the message artists intended to convey instead of focusing on insignificant topics, such as “copyrights.
” Lichtenstein’s In The Car is as Drowning Girl a “found” image, which means they look exactly the same as the way they were originally made. However, Lichtenstein did not select those comic snippets to be a copycat, he wanted to expose the stereotypical situations of women in relationships — women oftentimes suffer tragedies from their romance because of the unfair treatment given by men — and in this way to teach women a lesson to avoid this melancholy end. The harm of copyright infringement and plagiarism is “not to the reader but to those writers whose work does not glitter with stolen gold” (Posner).
Same idea applied to art. Lichtenstein instead of stealing those comic artists’ works rather quoted them directly and reformed them to uplift the conceptual value over the optical. According to fair use, all of the exhibited works are legally presented. The artists expressed their concerns about the problems with our worldviews, intrinsic and extrinsic values, existing policies, social issues, etc.
through their remixed art works. These artists credited the originals by acknowledging their presence and quoting them in public. These artists also endowed the remixed pieces with different meanings by giving them new forms and contexts distinct from the originals. Dear visitor, I believe that you, as an attorney, are more familiar with the laws and regulations. However, the law “has matured into a sword that interferes with any use, transformative or not” (Lessig 99).
If a person as a viewer of art walks into our museum with a critical perspective on art’s content rather than its legitimacy, I believe that more meaningful discoveries can be found here.