Preface

— May

Since the 1960s, the prosecution regarding respect for copyright in the art field has led to disputes of a quite unusual nature for artists: either in the case of contracts established to control the circulation of works in the market and their exhibition conditions, or when artists use pre-existing elements completely or partially. More recently, we realize that the immateriality or the ephemeral nature of the works, their fast and uncontrollable circulation due to the Internet and their discursive aspect have accelerated the transformation of the legal domain in copyright.
The hypothesis made by Judith Ickowicz in her recent book considers the relationship between law and contemporary art as a complex interaction, where both fields build themselves one towards the other. It is an audacious hypothesis that considers the science of the law in connection with the social sciences as far as the law embodies the social game. This present issue was built following that publication’s introduction. It proposes a modern art history through a selection of court cases starting from the first case of non-compliance with copyright for a photograph in 1862 (the case of Mayer and Pierson), which established this medium as a work of art and introduced a new notion of the modern author.
Seth Siegelaub died last June as we began to discover his activities in Europe from 1972, the date in which he officially left the art world at the age of thirty-one. He had opened a research and documentation center in the Parisian suburb to let documents of political communication circulate within the framework of critical theories of communication. In doing so, a move was operated from the activity of gallery owner, publisher, dealer and curator towards that of researcher specialized in the theories of communication. As exposed by Sara Martinetti in this present issue, this new position takes place following on from his first. Seth Siegelaub had understood very early how post-conceptual artists should integrate in their own artistic productions a discursive dimension increasingly present in the art system (writings, interviews, talks, contracts…). The critical field of action would move then on the formats of these discursive productions, their circulations and their receptions. Consequently, the copyright would concern in the future more the ideas and texts independently of their formats and mediums.
This text also questions Seth Siegelaub’s common reception, which was ini- tiated in the United States by Alexander Alberro as “a genial artists’ impresario” (S. Martinetti). It shows how Siegelaub kept on using some of the principles of conceptual art in the field of political communication, and how he anticipated from his own political experience the strategies of the post-conceptual artists. He would also have deducted that critical theories of communication undermine the fundamental principles of the notion of copyright in contemporary art because they are still largely based on the immutability of the forms of the artworks.
This reflection on the law in its relation to contemporary art has to be related to the reactivation of the Kunsthalle Bern exhibition When Attitudes Become Forms (1969) during the last Venice Biennial. As the exhibition of 1969 was a milestone, its reactivation in the Venetian Palazzo Ca’ Corner della Regina might have had the same effect. More than anything, it raises the question about the copyright of the “exhibition” as an entity and the status of its author. And finally it opens these questions to other collective practices in the artistic field.Since the 1960s, the prosecution regarding respect for copyright in the art field has led to disputes of a quite unusual nature for artists: either in the case of contracts established to control the circulation of works in the market and their exhibition conditions, or when artists use pre-existing elements completely or partially. More recently, we realize that the immateriality or the ephemeral nature of the works, their fast and uncontrollable circulation due to the Internet and their discursive aspect have accelerated the transformation of the legal domain in copyright.
The hypothesis made by Judith Ickowicz in her recent book considers the relationship between law and contemporary art as a complex interaction, where both fields build themselves one towards the other. It is an audacious hypothesis that considers the science of the law in connection with the social sciences as far as the law embodies the social game. This present issue was built following that publication’s introduction. It proposes a modern art history through a selection of court cases starting from the first case of non-compliance with copyright for a photograph in 1862 (the case of Mayer and Pierson), which established this medium as a work of art and introduced a new notion of the modern author.
Seth Siegelaub died last June as we began to discover his activities in Europe from 1972, the date in which he officially left the art world at the age of thirty-one. He had opened a research and documentation center in the Parisian suburb to let documents of political communication circulate within the framework of critical theories of communication. In doing so, a move was operated from the activity of gallery owner, publisher, dealer and curator towards that of researcher specialized in the theories of communication. As exposed by Sara Martinetti in this present issue, this new position takes place following on from his first. Seth Siegelaub had understood very early how post-conceptual artists should integrate in their own artistic productions a discursive dimension increasingly present in the art system (writings, interviews, talks, contracts…). The critical field of action would move then on the formats of these discursive productions, their circulations and their receptions. Consequently, the copyright would concern in the future more the ideas and texts independently of their formats and mediums.
This text also questions Seth Siegelaub’s common reception, which was ini- tiated in the United States by Alexander Alberro as “a genial artists’ impresario” (S. Martinetti). It shows how Siegelaub kept on using some of the principles of conceptual art in the field of political communication, and how he anticipated from his own political experience the strategies of the post-conceptual artists. He would also have deducted that critical theories of communication undermine the fundamental principles of the notion of copyright in contemporary art because they are still largely based on the immutability of the forms of the artworks.
This reflection on the law in its relation to contemporary art has to be related to the reactivation of the Kunsthalle Bern exhibition When Attitudes Become Forms (1969) during the last Venice Biennial. As the exhibition of 1969 was a milestone, its reactivation in the Venetian Palazzo Ca’ Corner della Regina might have had the same effect. More than anything, it raises the question about the copyright of the “exhibition” as an entity and the status of its author. And finally it opens these questions to other collective practices in the artistic field.

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