Friday, June 17, 2005

On art and the internet

Well, let me say that this is a very interesting and complex topic, and by the end of this writing I’m sure I won’t come to a conclusion. I have some thoughts on this of course, but like many issues on the non-creating side of art, I have conflicting feelings.

As someone whose paintings have been mostly out of the gallery scene (a self-inflicted wound, I admit- I just haven’t tried) I am sort of happy just by the fact that the internet provides such a potentially large audience. When I was a freshman in college, I had a piece published on the back cover (poster-size) of our school arts magazine. During the next couple of months, I learned that a lot of students had not only seen and enjoyed this painting, but had even hung a copy of it in their rooms. I was extremely flattered the first time I walked into some unknown person’s living space and saw my work hanging on the wall. I didn’t receive any money for that, of course, and I never sold the piece, but I could care less.

The internet provides some of the same advantages and pitfalls. I would love it if everyone in the world could have a copy of my work for free. (Of course, the internet can never match the experience of an original painting on many levels, but it’s possible to provide a format that, while inferior, is still highly enjoyable. And the technology’s only going to get better.) Along with increased accessibility comes the issue of actually making a living. I could charge people money to see or download my art off the net. But am I loosing money by letting them have it free? No, I’m just not making as much as I could- I can still sell the original, which doesn’t compare to the internet image.

Now, as for copycats and copyrights. My favorite example of this is “Calvin & Hobbes.” We’ve all seen it, and the stupid pissing Calvin car decals (I’ve even seen here in the South a praying Calvin at the foot of a cross). In its heyday, when the comic strip started getting ripped off, what did Bill Watterson, the creator and copyright owner, do about these unlicensed products? He refused to enforce the copyright, but also decided to stop producing the strip. How is that a good reaction to that situation? Not only do the people making money off illegitimate reproductions continue to this day to make money, but the fans and potential new fans are left in the void. Bill Watterson didn’t lose money from these thefts of his art, but they were insulting. So he just quit. I guess my point is, his art was the real thing- no amount of knock-offs could change that. If stupid people want to put some dumb sticker on their car, as long as you still make a living, who cares?

And so, you can see my ambiguity here. I want to make a respectable living, but I want my art to be accessible to a lot of people, rich and poor. The following link leads to a copy of “The Cheap Art Manifesto,” which I have owned for years. It comes from the Bread & Puppet Theater, based in Glover, Vermont. I have always respected it, and am still trying to reconcile its utopian message with real life. Food for thought, to be sure.



Blogger Jasmine said...

Well said :), I agree with you- this is a very hard topic to discuss! But art should be accessible to everyone in my mind- so I guess the internet is a good thing!

5:24 AM  

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