Last night I was woodshedded by a friend, in the sense that I was privately lambasted for my muddle-headed idea for testing the concept of fair use in copyright law.
If I’m in the right lane at an intersection and attempt a left turn any accident is my fault. No ambiguity. But if I justify my publication of an image by pointing to the text I write about it — well my friend says that sucks. A lawcourt might as well.
The lesson I take is that by displaying Gyasi’s image without his permission puts him, the unsuspecting artist, in a weird position he did nothing to provoke. I didn’t pull his name from a hat. I’ve collected well over 800 artists on Artsy and Gyasi’s work stuck insistently in my head. Mainly because of his startling success with color. I sought out his work in my Artsy catalog, going down one-by-one more than halfway before I hit on his entry.
Till then I could see the work in my head but not remember his distinctive name. Now I’ve published and commented on the work. If he doesn’t know yet, Google will most likely tell him. I owe him an apology for snagging him into a controversy. He did nothing to incite this stranger (me) than to do stunning artwork that the stranger saw. Unfair, reprehensible. Stupid.
Sir, I apologize to you.
Recently Ruth Bader Ginsberg lay in state while thousands of people filed past. Some needed to pause a moment to pray or commune, others hustled past mindful of those behind them. I have seen the Mona Lisa, but in that hasty second way. I looked, grokked, got out of the way.
Fact is I don’t quite get it about the Mona Lisa. I observe her standing in public regard but I’ve never connected with an aha! The Nike of Samothrace however takes my breath away. I stayed a long time with her from more than one vantage and as I left felt I was being dragged away from a piece of my heart. The sculpture I assume is centuries wise and understands how to cherish all the nuggets of self we leave in homage.
Prince Gyasi. The artist’s way with color is twofold. First is his ability to achieve an intensity of color saturation that could look hokey but doesn’t a bit. I believe his world contains this powerful color and he has found techniques that initiate and convince us. His second achievement composes photo shoots where color rules even though the models caught show raw individuality. His website quotes him “color can serve as a therapy, it can treat depression and transform emotions.”Here is where I feel we meet, I agree with every bone in my body. Colors are like fruits that you can bite into. Songs that give you wings.
Gyasi’s color is like a limp balloon he pumps with helium. He gives color extra meaning.
Testing, testing. Above we have two images. One is by Leonardo da Vinci whom you may have heard of by now. I know lots about her making, down to the wood that she’s painted on and how it warps seasonally. Green and brown is among my favorite color combinations and lend themselves to the Mona Lisa’s harmonious charm.
The image is copyright-free on Wikipedia. The image on the right is a screen grab from the website of Prince Gyasi, a Ghanaian. I do not have permission to use the image but I want to say that the artist’s achievement of supra-natural colors is the work of an iPhone. His experiments with photo-printing papers call attention to his curiosity.
In my view Gyasi is a fine artist. Da Vinci too. Gyasi photographs the stunning beauty of black black skin. His figures are rhythmic. Da Vinci’s rhythms are more subdued, have gentleness, grace. Gyasi is younger and his energy sings out. His inventiveness — as in the piece above — has nothing to do with the culmination of years of study. The artist’s focus is when the camera clicks.
I continue my tussle with the rights and particulars of copyright laws, specifically what is fair use to a blogger? My use of the works above is a test. I hope Mr Gyasi takes no offense at my using his distinctive work. It’s worth blogging about and I believe I’ve discoursed on it enough to claim fair use when using it.
The only identifiable face exposed is Mona Lisa’s. So no rights infringement there.
When I wrote my profile of Deborah Roberts I was denied the use of images by Stephen Friedman Gallery in London. That made my piece on Roberts less powerful and convincing, more challenging for the reader to decode. And it does the artist, getting less clarity or boost, no favors.
What you want a profile to provide is the flavor of the artist. It should not be hide’n’seek, bait’n’switch. Follow the links — surprise! — you’re the researcher now.
For months I’ve been compiling material for an essay on Furniture in Art. A survey. May I address this topic? By all means. Can I illustrate the survey with widespread examples and still claim fair use? Will that hold true in Bulgaria?
If I use no more than one image from each artist? If the essay remarks on the image and why it’s relevant here? Will Chinese law disagree?
Will USA law agree? British? (Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.)
Why — if I cannot receive even as much as pocket-change from my profile — can’t I use low-resolution, significantly downsized replicas of artworks?
What is free speech to a commentator on the visual arts without showing examples of the visual arts under discussion? Can a gallery refuse me use but can fair use rights override their no?
This is a test. Soon I’ll do another with an essay on furniture in art. Live, test the limits and learn.
“Stern Man” [Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a>Liftarm] with my background.
Copyright and Fair Use
Fair Use is a legal term you use at your own risk. Lawyers can readily be found to take their battling arguments before a judge. Who can you afford?
Fair Use means a blogger profiling an artist’s work may not cut into that artist’s profit from the work. I assume that by profiling an artist the blogger is spreading the artist’s renown. So unless a person depicted in an image is recognizable I have the right to offer that image to you, the reader of my focused profile.
This I assure you is the fine legal opinion of me. Never a member of a law class.
Furthermore if I’m forbidden from using an artist’s image, I am allowed to replicate a part of it, just not in its entirety. Endless arguments festering here. An inch more off the top, judge?
The real problem is I don’t want to be a jerk. You can’t keep me from writing about you but you can vociferously resent my using your image as illustration. So do I say I’m claiming fair use? An ill-smelling choice. Do I publish without visuals? Pretty lame for visual arts. Maybe I can find a way to politely say that I’m writing the profile, you can give me permission to show some works or I’ll have to resort to chopping out pieces of it. How do you convey that without your subject seeing a gun in your hand?
I’m writing my letters and not hearing back. Kehinde Wiley’s crew took me to second base, then fell silent. In Covid times you can’t jump to conclusions. But of course I did. And I re-sent my reply, citing web malfunctions, but surely someone would be answering his email were he out of office.
My profile of Deborah Roberts (below) is my first after an unequivocal no from a gallery for images to accompany my blog. The method does the artist no favors. I’d much rather whole examples but I’ll take what seems legal and in good faith.
Vertical cut from a news column, August 3, 2020, 7News.au
Trump’s Effect on My Reading Habits
George Saunders published CivilWarLand in Bad Decline in 1966. My world should have shook (I was Californian, so not a reach) but I didn’t even hear whisper of it. For decades. When I read the book I went and read five or six others. Here was a voice that tolled inside me like a bell made of heart muscle.
He got how off-kilter the world of humans is. How hilarious and sad, how un-said. Let others swoon over Hilary Mantel, George Saunders became my favorite living author.
I tell you this because I’m dismayed to find that something’s changed. In a funk I pulled out a couple of George Saunders’ books. Always good to read. Foundational as they say. Underpinning.
There are trolls in my bookcase. Or maybe in my head. George Saunders isn’t funny anymore. Wry doesn’t connect to any part I recognize.
I think of the news photo of a frenzied mob outside a subway car, faces shrieking invective at the Covid-masked faces within. Blond woman leading the pack at full bay. I remember the newspaper checked with several zombie movie directors who wished they could get that shot in their films.
Some newswriter noted these were the same people who, when seat-belts were mandated broke their vocal cords demanding their right to be smashed across their windshields. I was driving by then. I lived through the same experience and don’t actually remember it. Seatbelts were weird for awhile and then life rolled like a gentle wave over sand and life erased my noticing. I don’t think about brushing my teeth either but someone must be doing it.
A man yesterday shot at police with an automatic rifle because he didn’t want to wear a Covid-mask. Obviously he wasn’t black or he’d be dead.
Ever since Donald Trump aimed his belly at the podium on January 20, 2017 hate-hearted bipeds have been oozing like water through pebbles into my county’s psyche. They really do throw their passions at astonishing targets. They’re damned if you can make them wear Covid-masks. Actually you’re damned if you do. And if their leader scoffs at cataclysmic viruses, they’re ready and armed.
Is it any wonder that George Saunders rings all too true? Hey mister, your bent world is in my government, gnawing at the floorboards.
This is a double post. The reason will become obvious.
A scholar in his study (‘Faust’), anonymous, Rembrandt van Rijn, after 1652. free via Rijksmuseum
Knowers Knowing What Can’t Be Known
I looked out the window and saw a diagonal contrail aligned perfectly as if it was emitted by the edge of my closest dormer. In many times and places there were augurs, shamans, throwers of yarrow sticks or of piping fresh entrails. Their occupation was to explain portentous occurrences to the rest of society, who were not certified in the art.
Imagine the job security. White collar: you were a doctor, lawyer, high priest — not a wide-forearmed laborer. Not a cobbler or ditch-digger. Not a farmer. Unless you were in a very small town. There were witches too, that young modern women like to call crones.
They’ll outgrow it.
I wonder about the unintelligible people today who are fighting venomously for the right to be infected with Covid-19. A photo of a line of masked gun-toting protesters standing spraddle-legged in front of the Michigan governor’s official door. Heroes in their own fantasies. Remember the menacing weaponized gang who took over a bird sanctuary at Malheur Wildlife Refuge?
If you proposed this plot to Hollywood it could only be a comedy. But with no comedians. No one with an ounce of ludicrous-perception. Haw-haw, isn’t this ridiculous? A bird sanctuary! Their horses’ hooves clopping into it. No lives were lost in the taking.
I read that ancient Egyptian priests collected and perfected parlor tricks to awe their followers. And I’ve heard it worried like a dog toy — shamans know something, they pick up on things that others can’t feel. Or they’re charlatans. Which end of the chew-toy do you prefer?
But our age is oddly swept east and west by conspiracy theories. I personally believe that if you could cure hate you could blot out the belief in malicious others. Maybe even the concept of others as anything but physically differentiated skin enclosures.
Hate is a crime of poison. It can harm others but it inevitably weakens you yourself. Then they’re after you.
A friend of mine has lived in a third-floor apartment for decades. One day her beloved cat went missing. She tried everything but her cat stayed lost. So she called a psychic. She’s someone I’d trust to know the best. The psychic told her that the cat was still nearby outside and instructed her to leave the front door to the building ajar that night and put out some home-smelling food. Next day her cat was waiting for her outside the apartment door.
Of course I asked permission before relating a story belonging to someone else. My friend has added that her cat was terrified of the outdoors, that it rained the entire time, and that the psychic instructed her to keep imagining the cat coming to the steps, finding the food and continuing to her home.
The scoffer in me has a hard time pooh-poohing that. Try though I will. But credulity has elastic limits — you can only stretch it so far before you notice the effort it’s taking you.
My mother and I have both had what’s called pre-cognition. A foreknowledge of something personally momentous which then occurs. Doesn’t even have to be momentous. My mother dreamt of an American Indian cadaver lying on a table. My parents were in college then. My medical-student father had a chore before they went about their earlier plans. He took her into the morgue and there was her Indian.
My mother’s aunt predicted who would win elections with eerie ease. Her psychic powers were a focus of her life. My mom and I have been rare receivers of such epiphanies but never cultivators, builders, practitioners.
But. But. But. How can I explain away the cat’s reappearance?
I recount these things because I take seriously the notion of a reality outside what we can actually grasp. Unrealism appeals to me because my sense is that the real world (real?) can’t be depicted without weirdness. Because we’re only human, well-clouded thinkers, snatchers after approximations because we think they can explain.
They can’t of course. We’re too flawed, too shallow, too muddied and muddled to aspire to Big U Understand. Our view of things is ringed with forest, we never sight horizons. Or how immense ALL is. We’re like mice in the walls of a palace.
We’re like humans of yore who saw the world as an island surrounded by waves. Flat.
Think about that. Humans (and prairie dogs) have no difficulty negotiating the 3D world. We don’t walk smack into a cactus. Yet it takes a separate leap to understand that Earth’s a sphere. OK, you’re sneaking through the Forest of Arden, flat makes perfect sense. But out on wide farmlands, out on the bounding main, you’re confronted with a constant horizon. The longer you clip-clop or sail on, the horizon unrolls before you. Even Marco Polo’s horizon never stopped unrolling unless mountains thrust up in his way.
And yet shipping developed before Earth’s sphere coalesced in our brains.
As of this blog post I’m introducing a new feature that’s been nagging at me.. As the two pieces above say, there are truths and there are Truths. Do no harm is an easy Truth. Don’t rape babies is another. But “I think it’s significant that an artist used pink in this series” is my own little truth. I find it intriguing, plausible, egosyntonic.* But one needs to keep perspective. There are often legitimate arguments for another way to think about the same topics. So often that I intend to begin with the very next post to append material that points away from my argument.
Little truths are like artworks. They’re opinions, ways of seeing, possible but not ironclad Truths.
For Truths, no pointing away.
Egosyntonic refers to the behaviors, values, and feelings that are …consistent with one’s ideal self-image.) (Wikipedia)
Detail of Kristallnacht, showing the child’s face behind broken glass. by Sloan Nota
Kristallnacht, Babi Yar, Tulsa
miso – a combining form meaning “hate,” with the object of hatred specified by the following element: misogyny.
I’ve never forgotten the fact of the Nazi Kristallnacht, an incident so horrible it does not allow you to tuck it quietly into some drawer of yourself. Or have you read Babi Yar? I actually couldn’t finish it.
Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and a site of massacres carried out by German forces during their campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The first and best documented of the massacres took place on 29–30 September 1941, killing approximately 33,771 Jews. Wikipedia
At one time I felt I must understand the Holocaust. At Babi Yar I could stomach it no more.
Butchery. The unfathomable ability to commit cold murder of terrified others. And still live with yourself forever after. Seemingly normal beings, the whites at Tulsa, bartenders, investors, actors. Swept up in a frenzy of hate that blinds them to the simple equations of humanity. To terror in the eyes facing the ghoul in you.
Was the ancient Greek Procrustean iron bed where unwary travelers were stretched or amputated to fit — was that a true tale? Not even a frenzy but an after-dinner routine. A sociopath. Did he waste food on them for dinner before they discovered his hospitality?
Can the perpetrators of Babi Yar, Kristallnacht, Tulsa be described as anything but sociopaths? And yet they faded back into their barrooms, their counting houses, their troupes as if they’d merely burped once in polite society.
Perhaps later they became more fervent in their religion.
The Tulsa attack was ‘carried out on the ground and from private aircraft.’ White people got into their airplanes with bombs. Premeditated bombs. That they felt the right to drop. Their consciences in cold storage. But not dead, oh no, not dead.
It was the third of June, another sleepy dusty Delta day. The Ode to Billie Joe as written and sung by Bobbie Gentry won her armloads of fame in the pop universe. Not only for its pop sensibility. Partly I’d guess for the song’s formal structure, the lazy way the story sets its trap, the snapping-turtle snap when it concludes. We don’t talk much about murdering unwanted babies. Our culture muffles our mouths with wads of bedding. Badding? Taboos.
Here are pictures of another third of June. 1945. The Battle of Berlin has just put an end to the Nazi infamy. German wives, faced with the intricate and unfathomable facts of their next years, find a water source and begin washing clothes. How supernally practical. Not sitting dazed on their couches. Though some are. Not mourning the end of German glory. But taking up the living of life.
The stuff that must also go on while others are dropping bombs.
German women washing clothes at a water hydrant in a Berlin street. A knocked-out German scout car stands beside them, 3 July 1945. Public domain, Wikimedia
You can see in the following photo how incomprehensible the streets of Berlin became. War correspondents in following years have shown us similar heaps of debris clogging civic blocks, Syria, Sudan, Kashmir.
Shangra-la before some men decide they can’t be happy unless they drop some bombs.
A devastated street in the city centre just off the Unter den Linden, 3 July 1945. Public domain, Wikimedia
War, so easy, so paltry to start, always ends with the destruction of more than an innocent babe. But we’re so used to war, the photos of war, the excuses, that flinging whole peoples off the bridge hardly raises an eyebrow. We can talk about this.
You can whack off a part of every paragraph and still make enough sense of these to understand how unreliable the explanations are.
A linguist might well ask (probably study) the minimum proportion of message that you must reveal in order to assess the value of it. Of course paragraphs of Shakespeare will return different values than a treatise on sore throats.
The lesson I draw here is that plenty of twaddle is freely fed, with a satisfying sense of authority (or mischief), into the internet. Look something up at your own peril.
I am again profoundly admiring, jealous, changed by the incisive writing of Rebecca Solnit. From the one essay (above) I quote only a few of her everting-of-the-mind observations.
…white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing.
In New York City, the immigrant population alone exceeds the total population of Kansas (or Nebraska or Idaho or West Virginia, where all those coal miners are).
The Onion nailed it years ago: “College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed.”
And then when the bomber who had been terrorizing Austin, TX, last month was finally caught, journalists at the newspaper interviewed his family and friends and let their positive descriptions stand as though they were more valid than the fact he was an extremist and a terrorist who set out to kill and terrorize black people in a particularly vicious and cowardly way.
We are as a culture moving on to a future with more people and more voices and more possibilities. Some people are being left behind, not because the future is intolerant of them but because they are intolerant of this future.
…the follow-up story to the #MeToo upheaval has too often been: how do the consequences of men hideously mistreating women affect men’s comfort?
Rebecca Solnit is a hawk-eyed master living in our time.
Do you ever notice how few intellectuals visit gun mayhem on churches? Funny isn’t it? Even though their members score unusually high for atheism. Or how few scholars train assault rifles on strangers who have done them no bit of harm? Shooters — in their confused little dinosaur brains they may even believe themselves religious. As if you could pour a vial of ink on yourself to certify your rectitude. Red ink, Hey I’m holy! Gotta go kill someone!
What are these men attempting to prove to themselves? First, think up the very baddest act I could do. Then buy the gun and ammunition. I’m the baddest male in this whole damned world. So I’ll kill me after I’ve killed enough of not-me. Which proves — what?