In my practice I use a lot of materials that I find online in different formats (photos, GIFs, short videos etc.), which I collage or modify with different techniques. The main reason why I like to use found materials is adding an extra layer of meaning to certain works – I use mostly recognizable images from the (pop) cultural sphere. In my view I am creating new images from combining lots of found images, but it’s important for me that these resulting new images directly reference the original source.
As many people, I did not know a lot about copyrights, assuming that if the materials I use are sufficiently modified, form a new work and are used for non-commercial purposes, it would be fine. However, the meetings and discussions we had as part of Open Archief, especially the last meeting with Maarten Zeinstra, were very helpful in clarifying these aspects. I can definitely say that now I have a more solid base of knowledge in regards to types of copyright, their timelines and how these are determined for different materials. And although the (legal) reality is quite depressing, having realized that my assumptions were far from the actual truth, I definitely believe that it is good to be correctly informed and make decisions while being aware of the possible consequences. In addition to this, it was very interesting to see how two different institutions like Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid en Het Nieuwe Instituut deal with it, and it makes me feel a bit better that some things are not 100% clear even in their case sometimes.
In my works so far, I know that some images I used are for sure copyrighted and some of them I’m not sure about. I deliberately chose to ignore it because of a number of reasons, but since my recent works depend on it, if I would have to go through copyright clearing for all of them, the works would probably not exist at all. I firmly believe that, especially in our development as an artist or designer (or any type of creative output), we shouldn’t limit ourselves because of this.
Personally I grew up with artistic appropriation and remix culture as a constant presence around me, from sampling in hip hop music I saw on MTV to collage and ready-made artists I learned about in art history. This made a mark on how I see creative re-use, combined with the fact that today we live in a world where so many new images are created every second. In my opinion that should be reflected in the concepts and aesthetics of new artists and the law should make that easier. Making visual content easier to use for artists can bring so many new forms of expression.
I believe all visual content should be available under the creative commons license for artistic use.
* 3 Feet High and Rising is the title of De La Soul’s first studio album released in 1989, considered one of the most influential hip hop albums of all time. However, it is not available for streaming due to copyright limitations from the record label because of the samples used and the language used to clear some of the samples. Ref: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/14/arts/music/de-la-soul-digital-albums.html
Cover image reference:
- ‘…so different, so appealing’, Oana Clitan, 2017, collage made as part of the Goodbye Expectations exhibition at Visual Kontact gallery, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, curated by Olimpia Bera. Photo by Stefan Badulescu.