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'Copyclash' at Roodkapje, which opened on Sunday, offers some interesting arguments in the copyright vs. copyleft debate. Curated by Trailer, who also published an accompanying magazine (mostly in Dutch), the exhibition brings together classic examples of sampling, copying, reusing and recontextualizing. In all these cases, the "stealing" of artistic ideas, works and samples resulted in great new art works, or even entire genres and subcultures.

This spirit of freely "devouring" and using other works is articulated nicely in the fifth of Jim Jarmusch's 'Golden Rules':

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don't bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: "It's not where you take things from - it's where you take them to."

(Note that this is me quoting Trailer quoting Jarmusch quoting Godard, so let's just hope all parties consider this 'fair use'...)

Not surprisingly, most of the works in the exhibition can be found online. This in fact illustrates another aspect of the debate: the ease and ubiquity of digital reproduction, which is changing the meaning of concepts like "original" and "copy", "owning" and "stealing". And not just in the rarified art world, but for mainstream consumers all over the world.

Anyway, highlights of the exhibition include:

  • 'Der Lauf der Dinge' (1987) by Peter Fischli and David Weiss is a half-hour long film depicting one long chain of cause and effect involving anything from tires to fireworks. The film inspired a kind of mini-genre of causal chain films, including television commercial 'Cog' and OK Go music video 'This Too Shall Pass'.
  • 'Can I Have an Amen' (2004) by Nate Harrison is an audio installation tracing the use of the socalled 'amen break' from a 1969 song to countless hip hop samples and drum 'n' bass deconstructions. The story of this six-second clip illustrates "the rise and subsequent problematic of digital sampling in relation to today's increasingly stringent copyright and trademark laws".
  • 'I Am Sitting In A Video Room' (2010) by Patrick Liddell, who uploaded a video of himself to YouTube, downloaded it and uploaded it again, and repeated this 1000 times. The result shows the limits of digital reproducability, or more specifically, of YouTube's video codec. Of course, Liddell's work also pays hommage to Alvin Lucier's famous audio piece 'I Am Sitting in a Room' (1970).

good copy bad copy

An interesting Danish documentary on the friction between copyright and creativity, ' Good Copy Bad Copy ' cites free culture movements ranging from Sweden's Pirate Bay to Brazilian Tecno Brega and Nigeria's Nollywood , along with ex… Read the full post »

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