Friday, June 2, 2017

Portrait of the Artist as a Whiny-arsed Grifter

Riddled staff caught in act of fly-
tipping "Bundle of Sticks" sculpture
Here is a novel judicio-aesthetic doctrine: If city authorities tolerate the presence of an unlawfully-dumped artwork in a public place, they accept the dumper's preferred interpretation of the piece, and take on the responsibility of preventing other artworks from appearing in the same public place, such as might alter the context of the first one, for fear that this would allow passers-by to place on it an interpretation or appraisal that is not officially approved.

I am not making this up:

One can only speculate what the Czechoslovak gubblement could have done with the theory back in 1991, when David Černý was re-contextualising monuments of the Soviet occupation with the help of a pot of pink paint.

So nearly three decades ago, one Arturo Di Modico dropped a few tonnes of bronze in a New York street -- an imitation of the bull installed four years earlier in Frankfurt* -- to advertise his services as a producer of bull-shaped kitsch knick-knacks for tourists. This has remained central to his subsequent art-practice, along with litigation. His installation, we read, was a symbol of love and vitality, and a obseqious lordosis-postured gesture of confidence in America's financiers, after the markets went tits-up in the second or third Reagan / Bush economic disaster.

Then someone else left their own statue / advertisement nearby, and great was the ensuing of hilarity, for it violated Arturo's copyright on the whole concept of "dumping sculpture in the street to piggyback off fame of more familiar landmark", and reduced him to a state of lugubrious litigatious lachrymosity.
He is expecting pecuniary compensation from city authorities, whom his lawyer blames in advance when and if it comes to a lawsuit, for not simply paying him off with emollient emoluments at the first polite request.
In addition to the removal of the statue, Di Modica was seeking unspecified damages from the city of New York. Siegel said, however, that his client had not filed a lawsuit yet and is hoping the city – specifically its mayor, Bill de Blasio – will come to the table with the artist in good faith.
The argument appears to be two-fold. We have already met the "guaranteed constancy of context and interpretation" theme. Should this come to court, it would pit Arturo against that guild of preening art-museum curators whose careers are built on Challenging, Transgressive exhibitions that place familiar art in Contextual Juxtaposition for Refreshing New Appraisals, and I for one will be cheering for injuries.
“The Charging Bull no longer carries a positive, optimistic message. Rather, it has been transformed into a negative force and a threat,” said Di Modica’s attorney, Norman Siegel. 
But such a consummation is too much to devoutly wish for, for an actual lawsuit from these bumptious censorious asshats would provoke Popehat to new heights of taint-inflected invective.

Then there is a copyright argument -- that the new sculptural deposit is not complete in itself, but is in fact a larger installation that incorporates Arms-Akimbo Girl and Charging Bullshit and the rest of the street and the gaggle of tourists and the guy with the hot-dog stall.
“The statue of the young girl becomes the ‘Fearless Girl’ only because of the ‘Charging Bull’: the work is incomplete without Mr. Di Modica’s Charging Bull, and as such it constitutes a derivative work of the Charging Bull,” reads a letter his lawyers sent New York Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this week.  [...]
Siegel pointed to a 1990 copyright statute that grants visual artists the right “to prevent any intentional distortion, mutilation or other modification of that work which would be prejudicial to [the artist’s] reputation”.
But wait, the hilarity continues to ensue! -- for in accordance with the iron-cast ineluctable workings of the Morphogenetic Field, the second parasitical advertisement acquired its own subsidiary, recontextualising satellite, in the form of a pissing pug. Sadly, the third sculptor was too gutless to leave the dog in place long enough for it to acquire its own fourth-order sculpture... perhaps an infestation of little bronze fleas.

There is nothing to stop Di Modica from taking his mignon opus away. Or if the city authorities melt it down and recast it as lots of little bronze T-bone-steak souvenirs, everyone will presumably be happy again.
Number of whinging complaints from creator of the Frankfurt Bourse Bull & Bear, when both sculptures were recontextualised by guerilla yarn-bombers, = zero.
Uncle Smut, the artist died in 1995.
I believe this is central to my point.

The whole imbroglio is notable for the amount of high-minded pearl-clutching and lamentation about the fallen status of art in the modern world, and the way that corporations are blurring the distinction between high art and advertising.

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