How To Talk About Art: Now a Column on Hyperallergic

Koons-TrainHow to Talk about Art (H2TaA ) has been The Art Machine’s slowly growing manual for those who wish to master artspeak as practiced by art critics, art educators, galleries, dealers, copywriters, and journalists.

Now, H2TaA has moved from The Art Machine’s umbrella and into the arms of Hyperallergic.com. You can read the first installment at: How To Talk About Art (#h2taa): Jeff Koons Edition by Cat Weaver on April 30, 2012

About the Column:

Originating with the need to validate and describe artwork which was no longer narrative and which relied more and more heavily on inside jokes and academic references, artspeak has grown into its own with a lexicon that is comprised, not only of tropes and catch phrases, but of technical, scientific, and otherwise borrowed terms which have been adapted to its own needs. “Virtual space”, “gesture” ,”intervention”, “appropriation”: these are all words which used to be safely housed in the worlds of aesthetics, dance, psychology, and legal documents and are now used to create press releases for anything from sculpture to performance to collage.

It is my opinion, that many people who feel they can’t talk about art, much less speak TO it, are actually lacking a background in artspeak. H2TaA seeks to span that educational gap.

I also believe that by studying artspeak, one can pull the mask off artspeak-agents and reveal the mechanizations behind the catalogs and pamphlets, bringing to light an artist’s laziness of imagination, or a curator’s dependance on slang and technique, or the general trade tendency to make excuses for work that is overly subjective (or too academic) to be enjoyable. In brief, an interpretation of wall cards can shed light on all of the unnecessary posturing that has led to the elitist view that contemporary art is somehow beyond the ken of the public when it is, actually, beyond the ken of EVERYONE.

Learning H2TaA is just another way to bring art out of the academic tool box and into the light.

FAMBIZ IS NO LONGER TAKING WORK FOR “It’s a Small Small World” Sorry :(

Screen shot from the Family Business Facebook page with Family Business photo and comments.

It’s been madness from the start. Hennessy Youngman was chosen by curating guest art photographer Marilyn Minter who has been putting together a series of “Virgin” shows  in the Massimilano Gioni / Maurizio Catallan pop-up, Family Business.

Called “Virgins” the shows were intended to feature works by artists who have not yet had solo shows.

But Jayson Musson decided to hand his alter-ego Hennessy’s  slot over to any and all artists who wanted to drop stuff off before the show, which he dubbed “It’s a Small Small World.”

This, he thought, would be a gesture of gratitude —a way to “give back” to the arts community that has lent so much love and loyalty to Hennessy and his YouTube series, Art Thoughtz.

But as it turns out, Jayson Musson’s generosity has caused the walk-in-closet sized gallery an epic headache: flooded, as could only have been anticipated, by artwork from adoring fans and artists hungry for some wall time, the gallery was forced, today, to close it’s doors. Family Business had been scheduled to accept work through Sunday but the gallery is now saying that they will not take any work tomorrow.

And this is pretty damned sad.

Musson has changed the title of the show to “It’s a Clusterfuck”

Meantime, Musson’s NY debut will take place at Postmasters: “Through a Glass Darkly,” will feature Musson’s  “BLM” (Black Like Me) posters and a Hennessy Art Thoughtz video. “Through a Glass Darkly also features work by artists Oasa DuVerney, and Julia Kul.

HENNESSY YOUNGMAN, AKA CURATOR

THIS YA BOY, HENNESSY YOUNGMAN, AKA MR. AKA's, AKA THE PHARAOH HENNESSY, AKA HENROCK THE MONARCH AKA THE PEDAGOGIC PIMP

Critic, performer, painter, and lecturer,  Jayson Musson has made a splash on YouTube with his alter ego, Hennessy Youngman. In a series he calls ART THOUGHTZ, Youngman sits in an “alabaster alcove” and delivers laugh out loud funny art critical patter to his audience which he addresses as “Internet.”

The videos which pretend to dispense advice to novice artists and lay people, but which contain a meta-level of art (and art world) criticism, have launched him from relative obscurity to courted celebrity. Recently he has been much sought after for lectures and tours at universities and cultural centers.

So it should be no surprise that, having just begun, he is already “giving back.”

Invited by fine art photographer Marilyn Minter to show work at FAMILY BUSINESS (opened in February by Larry Gogosian, Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni) Youngman has turned curator, deciding to open the floodgates and let all of his fans rush on into the sacred white cube.

Any and all who bring work to 520 W. 21ST ST in Chelsea, NY will be in Hennessy’s  “IT’S A SMALL, SMALL WORLD”  show; no exceptions.

“IT’S MY WAY OF GIVING BACK TO/ AND THANKING THE INTERNET FOR SUPPORTING AND WATCHING MY SHIT.”

Drop Off Dates:
FRIDAY 3/30 – SUNDAY 4/1
10AM- 7PM
Artwork in every media will be accepted and Mr. Hennessy himself will be there to take them from you.

IT’S A SMALL, SMALL WORLD:
OPENING RECEPTION TUESDAY: 4/3 at 6PM.
CLOSING 4/16

Maybe it’s MGM’s Banana?

Everybody Has a Sticker on This Banana! Graphic by Cat Weaver :)

Following up on the Velvet Underground v The Andy Warhol Foundation story, Hollywood Reporter speculates similarly to The Art Machine that the famed fruit’s copyright may belong to the record label.

Hollywood Reporters’s Eriq Gardner, wondering why the Velvet Underground hasn’t used a more fail-proof strategy of claiming the copyright for themselves (instead of opting to claim trademark protection on an image in the public domain) says,

“According to the facts in record, MGM Records paid both the band and Warhol $3,000 to furnish the image for use on the 1967 album cover. If the record label paid the money as a work-for-hire agreement, the true “author” of the image, under the law, would be the record label. We asked Universal Music Group, the seeming successor to MGM Records, to comment, but so far, we haven’t heard anything.”

It is an interesting speculation and one we may wonder about: is MGM silently planning its own little coup? And, if so, was it inspired by the Velvet’s bold but transparent strategies, or by press speculation about the Warhol graphic being a “work for hire?”

Or, maybe MGM has secret plans prompted by questions from sites like Hollywood Reporter asking them questions about the graphic? How meta would that be?

Fun Fun Friday

Olek: UNorthodox

“I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone” 27th January – 23rd March 2012

Congrats to Olek for inadvertently offending readers of Haolam Hacharedi,  an orthodox Jewish magazine which pulled issues containing a review of the artist’s latest coup off stands. Apparently when they decided to review Olek’s show at Tony’s Gallery in London, they were unprepared for the photographic contents of Olek’s texty wall weavings which contain intimate messages from the artist’s own mailbox, many of them of a sexual nature.

Isn’t that all men care about? Text, I mean.

Emergency measures were taken as head of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in London, Rabbi Padwa, knocked out a dictum forbidding sale of the issue.

Read on JR: Orthodox magazine in porn shock
By Nathalie Rothschild, February 16, 2012

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Art Trends:

KRAAAP

Postmodern denial of authorship
Burying big things
Text (see above)
Juicy Colors and Subjects
Critic Art
Ugly Ass Biomorphic Stuff
Arrested Developement Nyah-Nyah Art

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Solidly in the WTF Category

The Press Release says: “THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART PRESENTS THE FIRST LIVE RETROSPECTIVE OF THE ELECTRONIC MUSIC PIONEERS KRAFTWERK” and promises “Entire Repertoire of Eight Conceptual Albums Performed Live Over Eight Consecutive Evenings from April 10 to 17.”

The evening will be comprised of the albums performed in chronological order along with “elaborate staging” “3D images” and (shiver) “new improvisations.”

In case you’re a nostalgic baby boomer or a young technophile:
Tickets are $25.00 and will go on sale to the public on Wednesday, February 22, at 12:00 p.m., only at MoMAKraftwerkTickets.showclix.com. Space is limited. There is a two-ticket limit per person for the series, with each individual order limited to one transaction. Tickets will be distributed exclusively via will call, with photo ID required.

THE ARTIST’s INTENT

Pretty pretty big dick talk talk.

Recently, reading an article on NewsGrist, a blog that mixes equal parts of arrogance and naiveté, I came upon the usual blah blah about inarticulate artists and the ineffable meaning of their awe inspsiring creations. Add to this a wholesome  toot of tired and foggy hot air about Pollock and what did he mean by x,y, or z?

All this wearying nonsense went toward commentary on the Richard Prince case, childishly insisting that Richard Prince’s cocky and deliberately bungling deposition claiming that he meant nothing should simply be ignored while the rest of his deposition, i.e. anything supportive of his fair use claim, should be paid close attention to.

I marvel at this “inarticulate” artist argument— especially as regards Richard Prince, a self named bibliophile who wrote a screenplay and who’s written prose is not only proficient but downright poetic.

The argument that artists would or should need coaching is silly as well. ALL defendants need coaching. EVERYONE who speaks or debates in public has talking points. There is nothing unique to artists that should absolve them of having to make sense.

A fair use defense is not a matter of defending the “ineffable” — we are cultural grown-ups and well beyond such assinine and childish beliefs.

If a defendant wants to claim fair use, they have to prove fair use and that hangs largely, especially in this case, on Transformative use. That’s the way the current practice works.

I happen to think that transformative use is useless anyway: that’s a better argument. Frankly the spirit of copyright law is to preserve the incentive to create. ANd bottom line, these days, that speaks to markets: markets of IDEAS, of INFLUENCE, of ATTRIBUTION, and of MONEY.

So PRACTICE is the issue if you dont’ like coached answers and you don’t like judges mucking about in issues of meaning –practice needs to be changed with regard to transformative use. Remember that transformative use is NOT written into law. Courts can and should pay more mind to market issues and less to “meaning.”

But as things stand, Prince messed up big time by being a cocky inarticulate asshole.

Transformative Use is Useless

‘Transformative use’ is just mucking things up.

That’s what I think.

Providing a pivot for the Cariou v Prince case and the only real point of interest no matter what the pundits say, transformative use, instead of the fog-clearing test that it was supposed to be, has become the main particulate in a legal fog of war that has lasted three years now.

Thus far, the dueling Cariou v Prince briefs have added new certainty to my theory that transformative use is a singularly unhelpful notion.

Read the rest on Hyperallergic

When is a Banana Not a Banana?

When it’s a trademark.

On January 13, 1966, Andy Warhol pulled out all the stops for his debut of The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a series of events featuring his films, and performances from Factory Super Stars. Performing at “Uptight” the opening event which took place at the New York Society of Clinical Psychiatry, a new band, The Velvet Underground were instantly made by the Warhol star-maker machinery.

Taking the band under his wing, Andy Warhol produced their first album pressed in 1967, The Velvet Underground & Nico, for which he also created and signed the now famous banana graphic. Though the band broke up in 1972, Lou Reed and John Cale have, they say, continuously used this image in marketing and promotion for 25 years, most recently to promote a1989 re-union tour and record, Songs for Drella, which they made in tribute to Warhol.

Is this The Velvet Underground's trademark.

On Jan 11, 2012, The Velvet Underground filed a suit against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts (AWF), essentially the Warhol estate, accusing them of illegally leveraging copy rights to the image which they never registered officially, and of licensing it to third parties “in a manner likely to cause confusion or mistake as to the association of Velvet Underground with the goods sold in commerce by such third parties.”

Suggesting that, with so many graphics to choose from, The Andy Warhol Foundation can only be using the banana to capitalize on its association with The Velvet Underground, the band seeks an injunction against the AWF, to make them stop licensing the banana to third parties. They also demand a declaration that the Warhol Foundation has no copyright interest in the design, are demanding “unspecified damages”, and a share of the profits made by the Warhol Foundation from any licensing deals.

“The symbol has become so identified with The Velvet Underground … that members of the public, particularly those who listen to rock music, immediately recognize the banana design as the symbol of The Velvet Underground,” say the plaintiffs who are claiming a trademark on the image.

A pop-culture savvy friend of mine begs to differ. Social media consultant, Nichelle Stephens says, “There are two whole generations that would disagree. Gen Ys and Millennials don’t even think about album art anymore. They’d just think it’s a Warhol.

Also curious is the claim that the AWF have “no copyright interest” in the banana. Apparently the claim by Reed/Cale is that since Warhol never obtained a formal copyright got the graphic, and subsequently the AWF published the image many times, it is “in the public domain.”

Now, I’m left with many questions which I plan to answer in a follow up…

Doesn’t the artist own the copyright whether they registered it or not?
And doesn’t a copyright hold for the lifetime of the artist +75 years?
And wouldn’t that copyright go to the artist’s heirs, again, whether registered or not?
And if the heirs were using the image simultaneously with someone else, couldn’t they retain trademark rights if their use were equal to the others?

On the other hand, if a copyright is never claimed but the art has been gifted to a record company or a band, or, maybe was a ‘work for hire’ then wouldn’t the copyright belong to the beneficiary or employer?

And one more question: can one claim a trademark on an image they never registered, and that has been in the public domain?

I’m confused as to why no reports thus far address these questions. I plan to.

Some Answers: Banana Fanna Faux

Will Round Two of Cariou v Prince Change Art Law Forever?


You're going to see a lot of this guy -from Patrick Cariou's Yes Rasta

Go ahead, expect more of these sweaty headlines with question marks in them. Because, with the now rather infamous Cariou v Prince case up for appeal sometime this year, we are facing another deluge of half-informed, and angrily contentious, punditry which will wash over the raw, dry, factual sands of more professional reports like a tsunami of histrionics.

Drowning in the madness will be all those bleeding hearts who root for the little guy, and the sundry art world know-it-alls who root for controversy, along with the fastidious fence straddlers like myself who can’t do right by anyone — and, let us not forget, the stalwart naifs who insist on seeing appropriation as flat out theft.

In the background, lawyers toil away, building sand castles of the driest, rawest, facts they can muster.

It is no wonder that the case has captured the attention of so many. It involves a lot of money, after all, and it pits an underdog, Patrick Cariou, against an art star, Richard Prince, and his giant posse of star-makers and lawyers. It also comes after artists had become cocky, with most copyright infringement cases settling without trial, and often to the mutual benefit of defendants and plaintiffs.

At base the issue is this: Richard Prince’s team must prove that district court judge Deborah A. Batts ruled in error when she decided against Prince’s fair use claim. Patrick Cariou’s lawyer, Dan Brooks, must argue that the ruling did, in fact, use the correct legal standard.

Brooks will file his opening brief by January 25th. Faced with the formidable 135 page appeal filed on Oct. 26, 2011 by big guns Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and a nearly 50 page amicus brief filed on behalf of Richard Prince by the Andy Warhol foundation, plus similar briefs from Google and a consortium of museums (including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago), Brooks will have to answer five newly refined points of contention.

  1. That contrary to the first circuit court’s decision, the Canal Zone works that use Cariou’s photos are indeed transformative in every sense established by art history and accepted artistic practice and constitute a fair use of those images.
  2. That Prince’s “intentions” do not factor into the meaning that his work may or may not have since it is the viewer and the context of a work that give it its meaning.
  3. That contrary to testimony, Cariou did not lose any marketing opportunities due to Prince’s use of his images; indeed, his lawyers argue, his book prices soared after the initial bout of litigation.
  4. That the first circuit decision, if upheld, will create a “chilling effect” on future creative work, and thereby will override the very purpose of the fair use exception which is intended to protect free speech and works of social value.
  5. That, in the Batts decision to protect the copyright holder, Patrick Cariou, the rights of the appropriation artist, Richard Prince were unduly impeded, as her ruling overreached in lumping all of the thirty paintings under one ruling.

In Part One of this Three Part series, I set up a virtual dialogue between Dan Brooks (Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.), Patrick Cariou’s lawyer and Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School.

In Part Two, I will discuss the five points above in greater detail. In Part 3, I will part the waters.

Read the rest and look forward to Parts TWO and THREE on Hyperallergic

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