Copy That!

A new copyright-related exhibition curated by Inke Arns and Francis Hunger, of Hartware MedienKunstVerein, in Dortmund (DE), has one heck of a title: "Anna Kournikova Deleted By Memeright Trusted System: Art in the Age of Intellectual Property." Then again, it sounds like a heck of a show. The first piece visitors will see when they enter the HMKV exhibition space is a video by Negativland and Tim Maloney, called Gimme the Mermaid, in which Disney's Little Mermaid character is seen shouting, "You can't use it without my permission...I'm gonna sue your ass!" The exhibit, which runs July 19-October 19 is part of a larger initiative called "Work 2.0: Copyright and Creative Work in the Digital Age," which includes a, web-based research project exploring new labor relations emerging in this litigious era; and a September 26-28 symposium on "Creative Work and Copyright." The show features a good mix of established artists in that field as well as others from the world of fine art and media production, including Christophe Bruno, Nate Harrison, John Heartfield, Kembrew McLeod, Monochrom, Alexei Shulgin + Aristarkh Chernyshev, Cornelia Sollfrank, Stay Free, UBERMORGEN.COM + Alessandro Ludovico + Paolo Cirio, and others. The show's title is plucked from a short story by participating artist David Rice who writes of a time in the future when stars' brands are maintained by laserbeam-armed satellites who snuff out unauthorized copycats. In the story, the "real" tennis star Anna Kournikova is accidentally misrecognized as a fake and "deleted" by the system. These sorts of sci-fi narratives always provide a touchstone for public fears and fantasies about the future, particularly in relationship to technology. This exhibition emerges from a contemporary context in which the development of new technologies that make copying easier have led to unprecedentedly stringent copyright restrictions. The curators write that the exhibit "puts forward the thesis that the increasingly strict application of intellectual property law hampers the development of culture as a whole." Interestingly, this thesis hinges on the argument that it is the recitation of "images, logos, or soundbites of this very culture" that both generates and recycles (i.e. re-produces) this culture. The hard work of these mechanical reproductions takes center stage in the HMKV show, whereas labor is very often overlooked in discourse that celebrates a readers' "authorship" of a work in which she is engaged. Between this trip to the movies and this dose of real world-informed philosophy, the show itself seems immensely engaging. - Marisa Olson

Image: Negativland and Tim Maloney, Gimme the Mermaid, 2002

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