Tag Archives: installation art

Theft, Copyright Violations, and Fair Use–Plus Nudity, Erotica, and Pornography

Joe Wallace South Korea Street Photos103The above image is one I took in Seoul, South Korea back in 2005. Yes, Ms. Donuts is exactly what you think it is–a donut and coffee shop using a variation of the registered trademark of a different company.

To be sure, trademarks and copyright are quite different in terms of the law, how the law is enforced, and the application of Fair Use. But it’s a funny image, especially for anyone who has visited Seoul and knows of the ubiquity of such practices there–I’ve frequented “Bucks Coffee”, with a very familiar green and white logo in South Korea, as well as many other establishments advertising themselves in ways that look amusingly familiar to Western visitors.

But what’s the point?

Well, I suppose it’s that appropriation is EVERYWHERE.

It’s not just the domain of musicians who like to sample, mash-up, and repurpose other works; it’s not exclusive to visual artists who want to make other statements with existing material. When it comes to copyright (as opposed to trademarks), Fair Use is a legal gray area that has many people–including those in the legal system responsible for enforcing copyright laws–scrambling to apply standards that are fluid by nature and depend greatly on circumstance.

I have many artist and musician friends who do not understand Fair Use laws. There are many myths. “You can use under 10 seconds of anything and get away with it” is one of the most popular. Another is that repurposing the original work in a different context or commenting on it is bulletproof protection against legal action.

Neither of these things are true–each and every Fair Use case will be dealt with on an individual basis and in spite of miles of case law, individual circumstances will still loom large in any copyright case involving Fair Use.

I learned all of these things thanks to a series of classes I took in 2014 via Berklee Online, the web learning arm of the Berklee College of Music

Since a significant portion of my work is affected by Fair Use, I thought it important to become more literate about the laws that could affect me.  To that end, I strongly recommend the lengthy but quite informative volume of copyright case law, Copyright Cases and Materials 8th Edition (Hardcover Edition), by Gorman and Ginsburg.

But there’s another reason why I am writing about Fair Use here; I am working on a new installation called Adult Landscapes which leans heavily on appropriation and Fair Use–with a means to an end.

In the same way that anyone who studies Fair Use will discover how many shades of grey there are with the law, there is a similarly murky topic that my art show addresses with respect to nudity, eroticism, and pornography. At what point does one become the other? What are the boundaries between simple nudity and eroticism? And when does the erotic become pornographic?

As you might guess, there are no good answers to those questions, in the same manner that you can’t get a court of law to state definitively what constitutes Fair Use, and when Fair Use blurs into blatant copyright violations.

And a more important question is, SHOULD the courts make such a distinction? In the same way that it seems completely wrongheaded to declare the mere appearance of a naked body in art as pornography, it feels similarly misguided to lay down a specific line in the sand about copyright and Fair Use.

I am exploring all these ideas with Adult Landscapes. The show will be a mixed-media installation art piece featuring photography, audio, and video appropriated and recontextualized for the show. The photographs I took and edited for this show involve vintage men’s magazines layed out in a variety of “poses” involving single pages, multiple pages and multiple magazines–the centerfolds of multiple magazines comprise MY “centerfold photography”.

But it doesn’t stop there. I have also photographed and collaged a number of the advertisements from these magazines–selected mainly for content–and presented as supplementary images. The selective editing and manipulations I have done to the photos in the post-production environment accomplishes several things, but one of my main goals was to remove the most blatantly clinical aspects of the original images in favor of more suggestive and less revealing images. More “R-Rated” and less “XXX”.

This was done for several reasons–one being my own personal aesthetic, preferring suggestion over what Kurt Vonnegut referred to in his novel Breakfast Of Champions as “wide-open beavers”. But I also wanted to recontextualize the images enough to avoid a blatant, wholesale reproduction of the original images–that doesn’t fit my own personal standards when it comes to creating art or displaying something as your own work (as opposed to curation).

So there’s a lot of grey area going on here. When does my work stop being appropriation and recontextualization and start being a simple reproduction of the original? How much nudity can my show display before it crosses out of “nude and/or erotic” and into “pornographic”?

I believe that good art raises far more questions than it addresses, so I am happy to be working on an installation where I do not have the answers–I feel I am evolving my own position on these things along with the viewer. And that is an important part of my work–keeping it personal, keeping it out of easy-to-digest territory and making the work as difficult for me as it might be for anyone who views it.

–Joe Wallace

New StudioLab Installation Show In Progress: Adult Landscapes by Joe Wallace

Retro Oddities10An installation art project I started working on two months ago has been steadily mutating, and it’s really taken on a life of its own. I began collecting horrid old vintage men’s magazines from obscure publishers active in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and rephotographing them to create more abstract work out of the originally lurid and sometimes clinical images of men and women pretending to have sex for the camera.

The project took on a strange direction when I found my lens gravitating to the words and images that were the least enjoyable, the least evolved in terms of modern attitudes about sexuality and how men and women relate to one another; the most crass and vulgar the text, the more relevant it seemed to be in the collection of images I was growing.

It took me a long time to decipher what this growing collection of abstractions was telling me; as I worked with the images I discovered a glaring contradiction. One one hand you have the attitudes toward the women involved in the creation of the original images¬† and the fact that those women are in fact the backbone of the work–the lurid men’s magazines with their sexist–and occasionally possibly criminal–language (an ad for “knockout pills” was particularly troubling) could not exist if not for the participation of the models.

All at once, these mags showcase their models, while seeming to disdain or at the very least, take for granted, their participation at the same time.

I found that selective re-photographing and re-interpretation of the original work has actually in some cases increased their potential as actual erotic material. Cropping out clinical attention to specific body parts in favor of more suggestive arrangements seemed to enhance the originals, but the power of these re-interpreted images as more abstract impressions of this world are the real goal of the work.

Vintage men’s publications are time capsules that can be studied for clues about where American society has been and where it might be going. They have much to teach us once you get past the content and visual approach.

The show is called Adult Landscapes and I’m currently processing and curating the images I’ve been working with. Once the installation has been finalized I’ll announce show dates and more details.

The video below was one of my early first steps toward this work–I originally had a less focused idea in mind to showcase retro odditites on vinyl and in print, but as I continue to shoot photos in this series, the adult men’s magazine aspect has taken over. Not surprising since this subject matter raises so many questions and creates plenty of opportunity for dialog about the culture of these publications, but also Fair Use, appropriation, and repurposed work.

–Joe Wallace

2015: Year of the Manifesto, The Rant, and the Screed


StudioLab 2015 Year Of The Manifesto

What you see here is an event at StudioLab as viewed through the large picture window in the hallway of the space. That window area becomes home to a new StudioLab installation art project in 2015 that will last an entire year and feature an ever-changing collection of material being posted and documented.

The project is called 2015: Year of the Manifesto, the Rant, and the Screed. Partly inspired by outsider artists, partly inspired by the “Aspen Wallposter” art of Hunter S. Thompson, and partly inspired by zine and indie publishing culture, this project is ongoing through the entire year. It will be extensively documented here and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The entire project will be collected at the end of 2015 and published in a book bearing the same name.

Keep watching this space for news, updates, and more information about this unique and challenging installation art project at StudioLab!

Joe Wallace Paisley Babylon Art and Music

Mixing Music and Visual Art


Joe Wallace Paisley Babylon Art and Music–by Joe Wallace

I’ve been working on a lot of action paintings at StudioLab lately, and after performing last night at CIMMFest as Paisley Babylon, I’ve been thinking about doing a show featuring paintings that each have a soundtrack accompanying them. It wouldn’t always be music–sound design, soundscapes, atmospheres, etc…

I’ve toyed with working on visual art as Paisley Babylon and making the pieces more transmedia…it’s an interesting (to me) concept but I wonder if there’s a harder sell hiding behind a “band name” or stage name as opposed to selling your work as yourself.

Which makes me think that bringing “branding” to art is probably a bad idea. It’s goofy enough that you have to deal with branding as a musician or even as a writer, the idea of having a “brand” as a visual artist (at least in the context of doing shows and trying to go that traditional route more or less) makes me gag a bit. However, I understand that things are just moving in that direction anyway.

It’s a dilemma–do you buck the trend, or do you introduce it and embrace it and make it part of the work? I can’t decide which is worse–seeming like a luddite or joining the fray.

Or maybe I should just not worry about it and do what I do.

I am Joe Wallace. I am a visual artist, multi-media creator, musician, writer and vinyl seller. I have a lot of projects going on at any one time and I am always interested in new collaborations, paying work, and group shows. Get in touch with me at jwallace242@gmail.com