money power and art

October 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

1. thought this was an interesting article: the ecstasy of influence.  i would appreciated it if the writer had spent more time exploring plagiarism and cultural appropriation and power.  because a lot of artists i know have a difficult time understanding the difference between cultural appropriation and simply being influenced of other people’s productions.  he begins to explore these ideas here:

This peculiar and specific act—the enclosure of commonwealth culture for the benefit of a sole or corporate owner—is close kin to what could be called imperial plagiarism, the free use of Third World or “primitive” artworks and styles by more privileged (and better-paid) artists. Think of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, or some of the albums of Paul Simon or David Byrne: even without violating copyright, those creators have sometimes come in for a certain skepticism when the extent of their outsourcing became evident.

what has me thinking in this article.  is the writer’s description of art as a public commons or a public gift rather than as solely intellectual property.

A commons belongs to everyone and no one, and its use is controlled only by common consent. A commons describes resources like the body of ancient music drawn on by composers and folk musicians alike, rather than the commodities, like “Happy Birthday to You,” for which ASCAP, 114 years after it was written, continues to collect a fee. Einstein’s theory of relativity is a commons. Writings in the public domain are a commons. Gossip about celebrities is a commons. The silence in a movie theater is a transitory commons, impossibly fragile, treasured by those who crave it, and constructed as a mutual gift by those who compose it.

i havent read someone articulate this anti-intellectual property view of art so well.  in that he frames art as already being a part of the public commons that has been commodified and sold,  he places art in the stream of european socio-economic movement in the past couple of centuries toward private property and capitalism.

In free-market theory, an intervention to halt propertization is considered “paternalistic,” because it inhibits the free action of the citizen, now reposited as a “potential entrepreneur.”

and i think this is part of the problem that a lot of artists have.  we are not entrepreneurs by nature.  and in free market ideological societies, entrepreneurs are the ones who are considered to be ‘rational’ persons who work in their own self interests.  so if an artist creates work that is not in their own self interest but is in the interest of another or in the interests of the community primarily, that work does not exist really in the free market world.  so to me the free market inhibits the free actions of the community artist.

lastly, in looking at art through the eye of social and economic power.  i love the way the writer characterizes disney.  the very hypocrisy.  of copy right.  and intellectual property ideas.  meshed with free market theory.


The Walt Disney Company has drawn an astonishing catalogue from the work of others: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, and, alas, Treasure Planet, a legacy of cultural sampling that Shakespeare, or De La Soul, could get behind. Yet Disney’s protectorate of lobbyists has policed the resulting cache of cultural materials as vigilantly as if it were Fort Knox—threatening legal action, for instance, against the artist Dennis Oppenheim for the use of Disney characters in a sculpture, and prohibiting the scholar Holly Crawford from using any Disney-related images—including artwork by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Oldenburg, and others—in her monograph Attached to the Mouse: Disney and Contemporary Art.



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