Surveillance Chess (Springerin 4/12)

London. Kurz vor Olympia. Die U-Bahn-Haltestellen sind zu den wohl meist-überwachten öffentlichen Räumen der Welt geworden. Hier setzt sich ein Mitglied der Zürcher !Mediengruppe Bitnik auf den Boden, im Blickfeld einer Überwachungskamera. Sie öffnet einen gelben Koffer und betätigt einen Schalter. Das Bild der Überwachungskamera fällt aus, auf dem Bildschirm im Kontrollraum erscheint ein Schachbrett und aus den Boxen ertönt eine Stimme: «Ich kontrolliere jetzt ihre Überwachungskamera. Ich bin die mit dem gelben Koffer.» Das Bild springt zurück auf die Frau in der U-Bahn-Station. Und wieder schaltet das Bild um auf das Schachbrett: «Wir wäre es mit einer Partie?», fragt die Stimme. «Du bist Weiß. Ich bin Schwarz. Ruf mich an oder schreib eine SMS, um deinen Zug mitzuteilen. Das ist meine Nummer: 07582460851.»

Crowdfunding the Commons: Interview

My interview with Olivier Shulbaum and Enric Senabre Hidalgo, from, has just been published today over at

The most innovative answer to [the crisis of the copyright model] has been the rise of crowdfunding, as a way of pre-financing the first copy by creating a community around emerging projects. has established itself as the dominant model and countless derivatives are imitating it.

Unfortunately, Kickstarter is, in essence, simply a new form of market. Rather than buying the product after it has been produced, one can now buy it before it is produced and, if one donates more than a certain amount, inscribe oneself to a very limited degree into the product itself (e.g. by being mentioned a co-financier in the credits of a film project). Besides that, very little chances.

But does that need to be? Crowdfunding is a promising field because it can address many of the dynamics that underlie the crisis of the cultural economy and its transformation from a commodity- to a commons-based environment. So, it's high-time to think about and experiment with this approach in a more comprehensive way and explore more radical approaches to alternative cultural economies. How can these new means be used to fund the commons, rather than to kickstart yet another round of “cool” new products?

FS: You started your crowdfunding platform in 2010, just when Kickstarter was establishing itself as the dominant model in this field. Why do something different?

Read the entire interview over at

Kritische Strategien zu Kunst und Urheberrecht

Kunstforum_TitelSeit bald 150 Jahren soll das moderne Urheberrecht (UHR) den Umgang mit „Werke[n] der Literatur, Wissenschaft und Kunst“ (§ 1, des aktuellen deutschen Urheberrechtsgesetz) regeln. Rund 100 Jahre zurück reichen die Anfänge der avantgardistischen Subversion bürgerlich-romantischer Konzeptionen von „KünstlerIn“ und „Werk“, die auch dem UHR zugrunde liegen. Durch die Einführung des Prinzips Zufall, die Verwendung bestehender kultureller Artefakte, die Betonung der Rolle des Unterbewussten, oder die direkte Intervention in soziale Prozesse wurde die Vorstellung des autonomen, aus sich selbst schöpfenden Subjekts von allen Seiten untergraben. Dessen ungeachtet propagierte der expandierende Kunstmarkt genau dieses KünstlerInnenbild. Vor diesem Hintergrund ist es fast erstaunlich, dass das Urheberrecht selbst erst sehr spät im Feld der Kunst direkt relevant wurde. Der erste große Gerichtsfall fand 1990-92 statt. Der Photograph Art Rogers verklagte den Künstler Jeff Koons, weil dieser nach Vorlage einer Postkarte von Rogers (Puppies, 1986) eine Skulptur (A String of Puppies, 1988) anfertigen ließ und in der Ausstellung Ushering in Banality präsentiert hatte. Im Kern ging es um die Frage, ob es sich hierbei um eine legitime künstlerische Strategie (die sich auf das US-amerikanische Recht des fair use berufen könne) oder um eine unautorisierte Werkbearbeitung handle. Koons verlor den Prozess sowohl in der ersten als auch in der zweiten Instanz und sah sich bald mit einer Fülle von Klagen konfrontiert, die konzeptuell vergleichbare Werke betrafen.

The extasy of Influence

I'm reading: The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism, by Jonathan Lethem, (Harper's Magazine, Feb.2007). Which is how influences flow freely in art and most artists have no problem admitting this (why should they?). Today's strong claims of copyright are based on what he calls "source hypocrisy" (denial of one's sources, refusal to allow one's work to become the source for someone else). In most cases, artists themselves are less hyporcritics than the corporations, trusts, foundations administring their work. Lethem also mentions that Bob Dylan never refused the permission for a sample.

A large, diverse society cannot survive without property; a large, diverse, and modern society cannot flourish without some form of intellectual property. But it takes little reflection to grasp that there is ample value that the term “property” doesn't capture. And works of art exist simultaneously in two economies, a market economy and a gift economy. The cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange is that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, whereas the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection. (....) But a gift makes a connection. There are many examples, the candy or cigarette offered to a stranger who shares a seat on the plane, the few words that indicate goodwill between passengers on the late-night bus. These tokens establish the simplest bonds of social life, but the model they offer may be extended to the most complicated of unions—marriage, parenthood, mentorship. If a value is placed on these (often essentially unequal) exchanges, they degenerate into something else.

AP alleges copyright infringement of Obama image

NEW YORK (AP, 04.02.2009) — On buttons, posters and Web sites, the image was everywhere during last year's presidential campaign: a pensive Barack Obama looking upward, as if to the future, splashed in a Warholesque red, white and blue and underlined with the caption HOPE.

Designed by Shepard Fairey, a Los-Angeles based street artist, the image has led to sales of hundreds of thousands of posters and stickers, and has become so much in demand that copies signed by Fairey have been purchased for thousands of dollars on eBay.

The image, Fairey has acknowledged, is based on an Associated Press photograph, taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club in Washington.

The AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees.

The article quotes competing opinions about whether this is fair use or not, with all the usual hair splitting.

There's an interview with Fairey where talks about all the different influences that guided his transformation of the image and how other people worked on his stuff. Which makes the fair use discussion even more absurd.

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