This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution: 3.0) License (US), though the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed.
A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars: symposium at The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, April 28-30, 2006 [slides, audio, transcripts]
download the report [PDF]
Nancy, who passed away Sunday, and Leon, who passed away in 2004, together were an inspiration to so many of us. Truly they left behind a rich legacy in the community that gathered around them. They are each irreplaceable and will be sorely missed.
Published: October 19, 2009
Nancy Spero, an American artist and feminist whose tough, exquisite figurative art addressed the realities of political violence, died on Sunday in Manhattan. She was 83 and lived in Manhattan.
The cause was infection leading to respiratory problems that in turn caused heart failure, said her son Philip.
Born in Cleveland in 1926, Ms. Spero studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and there met her husband, the painter Leon Golub, to whom she was married for 53 years until his death, in 2004.
The couple moved to Paris in 1959, where Ms. Spero steeped herself in European existentialism and produced a series of oil paintings she had begun in Chicago on the themes of night, motherhood and eroticism. When they settled in New York City, which became their permanent home, in 1964, the Vietnam War and the social changes it was creating in the United States affected Ms. Spero profoundly.
To come to grips with these realities, Ms. Spero, who always viewed art as inseparable from life, developed a distinctive kind of political work. Polemical but symbolic, it combined drawing and painting as well as craft-based techniques like collage and printmaking seldom associated with traditional Western notions of high art and mastery.
One result was a group of pictures in gouache, ink and collage on paper titled “The War Series” (1966-70). With its depictions of fighter planes and helicopters as giant, phallic insects, the series linked military power and sexual predatoriness, but also included women among the attackers. Ms. Spero later described the work as “a personal attempt at exorcism”; it remains one of the great, sustained protest art statements of its era, all the more forceful for its unmonumental scale. Exhibited in 2006 at LeLong Gallery in Manhattan, its pertinence to contemporary politics was unmistakable.
In 1971, Ms. Spero also returned to the interests of her Paris years in the introspective and tormented “Codex Artaud,” a series that interspersed images of broken bodies and hieroglyphic monsters with the transcribed writings of Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), the mentally ill French poet who viewed himself as an outcast from society and who spoke of human folly with a mocking rage. To some degree, the work reflected Ms. Spero’s own sense of exclusion from an art world that had the character of a men’s club.
By the time of the “Codex Artaud” her long involvement with the women’s movement had begun. Ms. Spero was active in the Art Workers Coalition, and in 1969 she joined the splinter group Women Artists in Revolution (WAR), which organized protests against sexist and racist policies in New York City museums. In 1972, she was a founding member of A.I.R. Gallery, the all-women cooperative, originally in SoHo, now in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. And in the mid-1970s she resolved to focus her art exclusively on images of women, as participants in history and as symbols in art, literature and myth.
On horizontal scrolls made from glued sheets of paper, she assembled a multicultural lexicon of figures from ancient Egypt, Greece and India to pre-Christian Ireland to the contemporary world and set them out in non-linear narratives. Her 14-panel, 133-foot-long “Torture of Women” (1974-1976) joins figures from ancient art and words from Amnesty International reports on torture to illustrate institutional violence against women as a universal condition.
Ms. Spero considered this her first explicitly feminist work. Many others followed, though over time she came to depict women less as victims and more often as heroic free agents dancing sensuously.
Although Ms. Spero received relatively little art world attention during the early part of her career, she gained visibility in the 1980s and ’90s as socially concerned art came into favor. By this time her work had gained in formal complexity and variety, with its weavings of image and text, its time-consuming techniques of painting, cutting and stamping, and its adaptation of aspects of Pop, Minimalism and Color Field painting, styles she had previously distanced herself from.
Beginning in the late 1980s, she transformed the scroll format into site-specific wall murals. In 2001, she completed a mosaic installation for the 66th Street subway station at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. In 2006, despite painful degenerative arthritis that had crippled her for years, she executed wall paintings for “Persistent Vestiges: Drawing From the American-Vietnam War,” an exhibition at the Drawing Center in SoHo. For a concurrent solo show at the LeLong Gallery, she made a single printed-paper frieze that wrapped around the base of the gallery’s walls.
Titled “Cri du Coeur,” (2005) and adapted from an Egyptian tomb painting, the mural depicted a procession of mourning women. Some viewers saw in it a reference to the war in Iraq or to Hurricane Katrina; others understood it as Ms. Spero’s response to the death of her husband the previous year. Like her, he had created an art that insisted on balancing ethics with aesthetics.
Ms. Spero had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1992 and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1988. A traveling career retrospective was organized by the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse in 1987. In 1997, she was included in Documenta X in Kassel, Germany. She often exhibited in two-person shows with Mr. Golub. A Spero retrospective is planned for the Pompidou Center in Paris next year.
In addition to her son Philip, who lives in Paris, her survivors include her sons Paul, also of Paris, and Stephen, of Swarthmore, Pa.; six grandchildren; and a sister, Carol Neuman, of Portland, Ore.
Kiki Smith, one of the many younger artists influenced by Ms. Spero, once said in an interview: “When I first saw Nancy Spero’s work, I thought, ‘You are going to get killed making things like that; it’s too vulnerable. You’ll just be dismissed immediately.’ ”
Ms. Spero herself, who experienced both being dismissed and celebrated, said simply of her work, “I am speaking of equality, and about a certain kind of power of movement in the world, and yet I am not offering any systematic solutions.”
To read: Deborah Frizzell, “Nancy Spero’s War Maypole: Take No Prisoners”, Cultural Politics v. 5, no. 1 (March 2009);
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Meeting Hall, New York City Bar Association, 42 West 44th StreetHow should the law treat “orphan works”? Please join us as we discuss proposals that would enable copyrighted works to be used when their owners cannot be located to obtain necessary permissions. What should be the obligations of potential users with respect to searching for copyright owners? How should infringement claims be handled if a copyright owner emerges? Do different types of copyrighted works present unique issues? What roles might registries and recognition and detection technologies play? Our speakers will address these and related questions, focusing on orphan images.
Brendan M. Connell, Jr., Director and Counsel for Administration, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Frederic Haber, Vice President and General Counsel, Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.
Eugene H. Mopsik, Executive Director, American Society of Media Photographers
Maria Pallante, Associate Register for Policy & International Affairs, U.S. Copyright Office
Charles Wright, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Legal and Business Affairs, A&E Television Networks
June M. Besek, Executive Director, Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts
This program is free and open to the public; registration is not required.
POSTED AT 2:52 PM October 19, 2009
POSTED AT 2:52 PM October 19, 2009
We've been following artist Shepard Fairey's work here on Boing Boing for some time now. A disclaimer, first: I love his work, we have mutual friends, he strikes me as a stand-up guy.
Last year, Pesco was among the first to blog the Obama "Hope" poster which quickly grew far more popular than anyone anticipated. The iconic artwork spawned street cottage industries worldwide, and became an official element in the presidential campaign.
Then, the Associated Press (the same DRM-happy copyright bullies who threaten their own affiliates and try to shake down bloggers over 5-word excerpts) threatened Fairey over claims the poster was based on an AP photo, and violated their copyright. Fairey and his supporters fought back. They argued the poster was permitted under the concept of fair use because the artwork was significantly changed from the reference photo. Additionally, they added, the poster was not based on the specific photo the AP claimed -- but on a different image that required more cropping and alteration, further supporting the fair use argument.
On Friday, that high-profile case took a turn
nobody expectedthat I did not anticipate. Fairey confessed to having made false statements to a federal judge about exactly which AP photo he used. He also admitted having fabricated evidence. Snip from his statement:The new filings state for the record that the AP is correct about which photo I used as a reference and that I was mistaken. While I initially believed that the photo I referenced was a different one, I discovered early on in the case that I was wrong. In an attempt to conceal my mistake I submitted false images and deleted other images. I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment and I take full responsibility for my actions which were mine alone. I am taking every step to correct the information and I regret I did not come forward sooner.The attorneys representing Fairey will soon step down. Nobody knows what will happen in the case. The question of which photo was used was a minor, tangential issue before -- but Friday's revelation is not minor. As David Kravetz says in his account at Wired News, "Everybody agrees the case is now tainted and that Fairey's courthouse actions could undermine his case, even if he did not commit copyright infringement." But for those who believe in the merits of the original fair use argument, there is still hope.
Read Kravets' story (some interesting links between this case and that of the BitTorrent tracker TorrentSpy), and check out Marquette University professor Bruce Boyden's blog post here. Here's Shepard's mea culpa. Here's the AP's statement - and a note on that: I found it odd that many news organizations were sourcing that statement and a subsequent report from the AP as if they were regular wire service items, without regard for the fact that the AP is also a plaintiff in the case, and therefore inherently biased.
- Shepard Fairey on the Obama Photo Controversy
- AP tries to shake down Shepard Fairey over Obama poster he didn't profit from (updated)
- Shepard Fairey shirt for Creative Commons - Boing Boing
- Shepard Fairey's Comment on Recent Updates in the AP Legal ...
- BB Video: Shepard Fairey and the Obama Poster, on Inauguration Day ...
- Boing Boing Video: Our 4-part Glen E. Friedman/Shepard Fairey ...
- Shepard Fairey's covers for Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 - Boing ...
- Shepard Fairey and Paul Frank Industries laptops - Boing Boing
- To do in LA: Glen E. Friedman's photo show at Shepard Fairey's ...
- Stanford Fair Use Center needs your Mannie Garcia Obama photo ...
- Shepard Fairey Counterfiles in Associated Press Obama Poster Conflict
more via Wired:
Despite Fraud, ‘Hope’ Remains for Obama Artist Shepard Fairey
Street artist Shepard Fairey committed an egregious legal and ethical blunder by lying to a federal judge in his copyright battle with the Associated Press. But legal experts say his fundamental “fair use” case remains sound.
The nearly year-old legal dispute centers on Fairey’s iconic Obama Hope poster, which he based on of the photos of President Barack Obama taken in April 2006 by AP photographer Mannie Garcia at the National Press Club.
Fairey had long claimed he based his abstract graphic rendition on a photo of Obama seated next to actor George Clooney. In court documents (.pdf) filed Friday, Fairey admitted he actually used a solo shot of Obama from the same event, and had destroyed and fabricated evidence to support his lie.
It’s enough deceit that the New York judge in the case could issue sanctions against Fairey and rule in favor of the AP, regardless of whether he even committed copyright infringement. That’s what happened in the Motion Picture Association of America’s lawsuit against TorrentSpy, a BitTorrent tracker that a Los Angeles federal judge ordered to pay $111 million for pretrial shenanigans. The copyright infringement claims in that case were never even litigated.
But if Fairey’s case makes it far enough to be judged on its merits, he still has a chance.
“From a technical infringement point of view, I don’t think it makes much of a difference about what Fairey did,” said Fred von Lohmann, a copyright attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “But as a practical matter, you don’t want a situation where your client admits to deceit. I’m sure AP will argue that Fairey’s behavior indicates he had doubts about his fair-use argument.”
Fairey’s lawyers, who were themselves deceived by their client, have said they are dropping out of the case, but insist Fairey will still win in the end.
“We believe as strongly as ever in the fair use and free expression issues at the center of this case, and believe Shepard will prevail on those issues,” departing attorney Anthony Falzone said in a statement. “We hope this unfortunate situation does not obscure those issues.” The legal team declined further comment.
Though both photos at issue were shot by the same AP photographer, the fact that the solo shot of Obama was the source is important because the more one transforms a photograph, the higher the chances that the art constitutes a fair use of the original work.
Theoretically, Fairey still has a good defense against infringement. In essence, Fairey has redone or transformed an AP picture capturing Obama at a certain point in time, sitting with his head cocked with much of the basic lighting in the press room out of the photographer’s control. These facts themselves cannot be copyrighted, as Garcia, the photographer, had virtually no control over them, copyright lawyers said.
Von Lohmann said Fairey, 39, likely could find new lawyers to continue with the litigation, now in its pretrial discovery stage. The artist might also choose to settle.
Sri Kasi, AP general counsel, said in a statement that the AP had “correctly surmised that Fairey had attempted to hide the true identity of the source of the photo in order to help his case by arguing that he had to make more changes to the source photo than he actually did.”
Kiwi Camara, the defense attorney for Jammie Thomas, the Minnesota woman dinged nearly $2 million for infringing 24 songs, knows well the impact that a less-than-forthcoming client might have on a jury. “If the jury believes your client mislead the court, that doesn’t go over well. ”
“If it goes to a jury trial, there’s no question, things like destruction of evidence can be played up by a trial lawyer,” he said.
A Minnesota jury delivered the whopping verdict against Thomas this summer, shortly after Thomas testified in a trial brought by the Recording Industry Association of America that she did not unlawfully download the music in question using the Kazaa file sharing network.
“I suspect what happened, they simply didn’t believe her story that she wasn’t the one that downloaded the songs,” Camara said. “We were betting that we could convince the jury that she didn’t do it.”