79º ~ today I noticed the sun rising later for the first time, a hint that the seasons might actually change, a hint in the forecast that we may not experience the 99+ days this week, and miracle of miracles, the window open this morning and no muggy heat seeping in, just a cool sense of the outer world
Ah, Dear Readers, I am troubled. I continue to mull over my thoughts about David Shields' book Reality Hunger and his thoughts on an artist's ownership of his or her works. If you missed the discussion, you can catch up here and here, where I comment after checking out the book itself. Today, I've been reading another essay by Shields that was published in Volume 3, Issue 1 of The Normal School, one of my newest favorite lit mags. I've read Shields' essay there and have scribbled all over the margins, but I'm holding off on commenting just yet. The essay is followed by another by a different writer in conversation with Shields and I want to digest that too.
So why bring it up, you ask. Well, thanks to some long lingering doubts and Marie Gauthier's blog, I couldn't leave it alone today.
First the doubts. While thinking about Shields' argument for the right to mish-mash the words of other writers without having to attribute the copyright, I had this vision of how this might apply in the art world. According to Shields' premise, he would be fine with me copying the paintings of great artists and then having a show of my own in which I placed these pieces of art "in conversation" without adding the typical tag next to the art that gives the who and when for the piece. Really? That just rankles me...in this scenario, I would not be an artist, but a copyist. Yes, there is value in putting pieces of art, fragments of dialogue, bits of music "in conversation," but to act as if they are my original works, as Shields does in his book, I just can't get my Midwestern ethics around that.
***I do know that Shields expects his readers to pick up on the fact that he's quoting from others, and when the quotes are obvious, I did; however, when it turned out that the majority of his book was made of copied paragraphs, I had serious doubts about his work. Much more on this later.
Here's an image I did capture myself at school last week that sums up how my brain feels right now.
As some of you know, I've taken to creating collage cards, mixing images and text that I've cut out from magazines, junk mail, and any other material I can get my hands on. I make these cards as inspiration for poems and also as personal cards that I send to friends and family. When I started doing this, I talked with an artist friend of mine about the rights of the artist. After all, I was chopping up their work and had no way of attributing it, as many of the photographers weren't listed on the junk mail or in the ads of magazines. However, there were some images with credits. Talking with my artist friend, we talked about collage and fair use and how I wasn't using the entire photograph and calling it my own. I was cutting it up and making something new. She said that was okay and that artists had been doing it for quite a long time.
Then, today, I was blog reading and Marie Gauthier provided a link to photographer Steve McCurry's blog. Marie's link was to the most recent post of images of people reading, which is really cool. However, I caught the title for the previous post and had to click it: Pirating and Plagiarizing. In this post, McCurry gives examples of people using his images without seeking permission or rights. In fact, he talks about one woman submitting his photographs as her own and getting them published. ACK! Of course, I'm on his side! This is exactly my problem with David Shields' non-quotation marked, embedded quotes (what his book is mostly made of). And yet, now I wonder, have I done the same thing with my cards. No, I do not sell them, no I do not publish them as "art." I do not claim the images as my own. They are private, and no one who sees them would believe the images to be my original work. Have I crossed a line? Should I stop?
I did do a quick Google of "fair use in art" and "collage copyright," and it seems that artists are being warned against collage that uses other people's images. If I don't claim to be an artist, is what I'm doing okay? Because I use images from popular magazines and advertisements, is that different from using images from photos that are fine art? Who owes what to whom?
I'm troubled, Dear Reader, because I get such joy and such a creative charge from creating these cards. Must I stop?