Monday, February 08, 2010

Anachronistic Desires: The Impossibility of Controlling the Image in the Information Age

I have to admit to being so intrigued by the work of Tino Seghal, that my first response to hearing about his strict prohibition of photography of his work is to give him the benefit of doubt. He is, after all, staking everything on the importance of actual experience in exhibitions like his current solo exhibition at the Guggenheim (which I have yet to see, but, like everyone else, can't escape, should you put yourself in a position where other people can approach you and talk to you in Chelsea).

As reports, however, the ban on photos isn't exactly going as planned:
Berlin-based artist Tino Sehgal’s show has opened at the Guggenheim Museum to generally good reviews, particularly for his moving performance This Progress, which has volunteers engage visitors in philosophical conversation while ascending the museum’s famous spiral ramp. However, one aspect of the work has notably provoked a small-scale revolt -- Sehgal’s much-commented-upon prohibition on photographic documentation of his work. Even before the show had opened, in fact, the art blogger Martin Bromirski (a.k.a. Anaba) posted some lovely shots of Kiss, the performance piece that occupies the museum’s central atrium (the work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, which has “loaned” it to the Guggenheim). Asked in the comments section of his blog where he had acquired the pics, Bromirski answered that they were from “someone's facebook” whose “photo settings are public.”

This was followed, on Jan. 31, 2010, by a thoughtful review of the Gugg show by Holland Cotter in the New York Times. Cotter (approvingly) described This Progress as “awkward, rambling, indeterminate, peppered with doubt and ambiguity.” Of the photo ban, however, Cotter stated that it “may be unenforceable in this day and age.” And, to hammer home the point, his article was illustrated with two more photos of the embracing actors interpreting Kiss in the Guggenheim lobby. Both were captioned that they were “taken on an iPhone,” yielding the humorous mental image of the Times critic sneaking a snap on his phone while the guards were looking the other way.

Not only was Cotter correct in noting that a photo ban is essentially unenforceable, but as also noted, a video ban is likewise wishful thinking in this day and age:
And though Flickr doesn’t seem to be overflowing with newly purloined images of the show, people are posting rather impressive homemade vids of the exhibition on YouTube, here and here.
As I noted a few posts back, very few events in the course of contemporary human history are not being recorded in pixels or video. But here we have a very highly acclaimed artist who goes to great lengths to set up situations in which we, the viewers, can focus on (as the Guggenheim statement notes) "the fleeting gestures and social subtleties of lived experience rather than on material objects." That goal is so gorgeous that part of me wants his photo ban to succeed so his ideas are realized as purely as possible. On the other hand, however, what he desires (that viewers agree to certain terms so that others can have this experience) apparently requires that his work exist in another time.

Or, what he's creating has the unfortunate side effect of also requiring a draconian overtone
. Yes, museum visitors are accustomed to having guards rush up and remind them of the no photography policy, but many institutions have caved with regards to non-flash photography opting not to fight against the tsunamic tide that is the contemporary impulse to flip open one's phone and snap. How pure an experience is it for a 21st Century viewer to curb that impulse under such duress?

There are other installations that require the viewer to give in to the work to experience it. Ernesto Neto's work (which I love) frequently requires you to take off your shoes to enter. Other work I've seen requires the viewer to don a lightweight hazmat-looking coverall outfit before climbing in. It seems feasible (philosophically more than logistically perhaps) for a museum to insist viewers leave all phones and cameras with the coat check before entering, but the dread many visitors would feel not being connected to their portable link to the world would be another distraction from the experience the artist created.

All of which makes me wonder whether what Mr. Seghal is hoping to achieve at the Guggenheim is truly possible today. He's received rave reviews (including this one from Jerry Saltz, who visited five times), but the fact that even the New York Times ran an image, against the artist's will, tells me that the artist can't control such matters in this point in history and therefore, to be of its place and time, such experiences will (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) need to take that into consideration.

Labels: art viewing, photography in galleries


Blogger Tom Hering said...

The artist could be so stupid as to think a ban on capturing images is enforceable, but I doubt it. It's marketing; a clever draw. If you tell people they can't have something, they'll come to your show to prove they can get it - even show it off to others on the internet.

2/08/2010 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger HMNA said...

I am intrigued by the show, I like the ideas and the focus on human gesture I bet it is interesting to make people think by force-able engagement since many go to museums to superficially look at paintings or other "objects". I wonder if anybody says "beat it little girl, I don't want to talk about progress..."

But I fear this one is going to rile up the "sour grapes" folks from before who see this young artist have not only a slot at Marian Goodman but a solo show at the Gugg. : )

2/08/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Paul de Guzman said...

I think a ban on photographing any art, performance or artistic endeavour may likely fail but it still must be attempted. In the case of Tino Seghal's work, the "experience" is the artwork and any form of photographic or videographic predation diminishes that experience. And the apparent dematerialization of the art is certainly classic conceptualism.

2/08/2010 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Sowa said...

exactly, the ban makes photos more valuable and thus ups the value/interest of the piece. I want to know how the piece is stored at MOMA

2/08/2010 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger gierschickwork said...

I too would tend to be of the opinion that absence makes the will grow stronger... In some ways, it may even be seen as a challenge by the artist to set into effect a viral group of "illegal" images. Not being familiar with Seghal's work, I'm not sure I'm in the right direction. On the other hand, there is a growing cultural indignation with any limitations on visual re-appropriation...especially of the informal kind.

2/08/2010 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Three reasons for banning photograph in a museum:
1. Those fricking tourists who insist on having their picture taken in front of the Monet, the Picasso, the whatever famous, to them, painting they encounter--and worse, who ask you, oh so sweetly, if you'd take a picture of them. (Why, yes, I'd love to shoot you.)
2. Flash
3. The institution being able to control the quality of the images

One big reason for not banning photography:
We're going to do it anyway. An official OK would mean better-quality images, too.
I do wish the tourists would stop already with the posing, though.

2/08/2010 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Researching Sehgal, I found this: Photos for Tino by Ben Davis at Artnet.

"I prefer Claire Bishop's take on Sehgal in an Artforum essay a few years ago ... Sehgal's prohibition on documentation is actually a canny kind of 'viral marketing,' a sure-fire way to get attention, to generate buzz and interest ... The urge and ability to photograph is so all-pervasive that Sehgal's prohibition on pictures really can only be another arbitrary restraint to intensify his visitors' desire for his work ..."

In a time when an artist must go to extremes to stand out from a huge crowd of competitors, we're wise to be skeptical about the artist's (and his promoters') statements, explanations, justifications.

2/08/2010 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

...there is an approach to psychology that views the world as either socially and market driven. One - the social- you choose to participate in a given situation, in the market driven- you are "coerced" into participating. Banning photography seems counter productive in that possibly bringing the market mentality - "don't photograph this art work" displaces the artists intention of "viewer participation" which is a social approach.

Often when an artist gives freely access to parts of their creative repertoire, people connect socially to it, and return and purchase more again and again. But if you first force the market mentality approach on them, they back off, and don't return.

For a great description see "Emphasize Meaning over price"

I think banning photography of the exhibit will actually curtail the artist from achieving the social connection his art work seeks.

2/08/2010 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I think the ban is pretentious and impertinent to the work.

It's a desire for a police state. I am totally against it, and it's not very original. I have met tons of artists who act like princesses about people taking pictures of their art, and very few who on the contrary would (like I would), ask a museum to not let the guards stop people from taking non-flash photography (I understand the dangers of flash).

If Tony is doing this for publicity, than bravo, another artist eaten by his own ego. How profound.

I don't know what the Kiss performance is about, but if it's about 2 people kissing non-stop in the middle of the space, a vancouver artist named Tagny Duff made that piece years ago.

Cedric C

PS: the best piece that would make people feel weird about taking a photograph is The Sound Of Silence by Alfredo Jaar, and you don't even have to police people. Let them take pictures. They'll feel very embarassed. THAT was about the experience, pretty much.

2/08/2010 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really care how pure his motives are, I like the idea that by making the rule, he is forcing viewers to be more mindful about how attempts to record the present change the quality of it.

Since the goal has failed to be met (and surely he knew that it would), it can't be too helpful as promotion anyway.


2/08/2010 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++how attempts to record the ++present change the quality of ++it.

That's what I'm trying to say: instigating a police state makes the present even worse.


2/08/2010 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Basically the way I'm reading the description it sounds like what is going on at the Guggenheim right now is a theatre piece. They just call it visual art because they don't actually know what they're talking about, and Sehgal profits from the fact people in visual arts have a poor knowledge of the history of experimental theatre, including "happening theatre", microtheatre, interactive theatre, and whatnot.

It's not even performance art, not exactly. From what I read, it really seems Sehgal writes theatre pieces and sell them as if they are art pieces. Then what is wrong with theatre? Why do you have to frame it as visual art? What is so wrong with the legacy of theatre??

Cedric C

2/08/2010 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric, "instigating a police state" ?? how silly can you get?

I don't think Tino Seghal is being pretentious by asking that photographs aren't taken. I agree with Cathy, it keeps the focus on what's there in front of you. For starters, the viewer won't be thinking he can refer back to the photograph later.

While I doubt many would be taking photographs anyway, it does serve to frame the artwork by guiding the viewer into paying attention to the piece, rather than the image in the viewfinder.

A camera creates a mental safe zone which persists after the shutter is clicked. There is a psychological distancing which occurs when one takes the photograph.
In this case the camera makes one a spy rather than a voyeur. There is something uncomfortable about watching two people closely interact in the context of the museum, it's not like it's happening in Central Park and you can pretend you aren't looking.

In the end, the 'no photography request' will just serve to prevent a paparazzi type circus and doesn't need to be 100% effective to serve the intended purpose.

2/08/2010 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Cedric: Maybe, as a performance, it's not good enough for the stage - for a ticket-buying audience? But a museum context can validate anything?

2/08/2010 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric, isn't the museum already like a police state with all those surveillance cameras and motion detectors and guards? (Sorry, I'm hardly up on current trends in surveillance.) Then we have the viewers recording every minutia of their experience (including the strangers around them)so that we can't fool ourselves for even a moment that privacy, outside of our thoughts, exists. But I see your point, maybe rather than a rule, the artist could make a strong suggestion for viewers to hopefully follow. It would be so beautiful if they did.


2/08/2010 06:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

What was I saying in the last thread? Oh yes.

Academia fosters an extremely specific narrative for contemporary art history, with Duchamp as Jesus...

The contemporary museums have for the most part become the enforcement arm for that narrative.

[The museums] are no longer content to lie at the end of the process, and thus are showing ever-younger talent (I use the word with reservations)...

And here we are.

2/08/2010 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Lady Xoc said...

I think this kind of work (Seghal) is boring and the ban on photography is dishonest in the age of "viral marketing" for many of the reasons stated above. I've had people steal my own carefully produced jpegs off Flickr and then make comments like,"hey this makes great wallpaper". Who cares? If you don't go see the thing itself, you haven't really seen it anyway. How much notoriety does a person need? And as for the tourists, I say, let'em. The MoMA may as well be Disneyland these days. I got a great snapshot of someone with a really fancy camera snapping a Diane Arbus print at MoMA. What the heck was she going to do with that?

2/08/2010 06:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Julian Lorber said...

Hmm, I like the Ernesto Neto reference. I once read an interview with him in which the writer asked "What are we going to talk about today? Are we going to talk about sex?" Which I believe Ernesto explained that much of his work is about, then proceeded to clap his hands together once, very loudly, imitating the big to speak.. It's about touch and sensuality and of course, a bit of sex.
I suppose on the topic of sex, we should talk about cheap sensationalistic qualities of youtube, though I don't think facebook is really; and outcomes of the viewers responses to art and if photographing, documenting and posting it (perhaps on a blog?) is relevant to the experience? Much of the dialog that happens in regards to the art experience I believe, happens after the viewer has walked away or even left the building. Most people are more comfortable reacting from the comfort of ---wherever---.
On the question of what is out of the artists control?, I think most artists take into consideration the cultural behaviors and the technologies at work outside the space and should think about the collaborative relationship between themselves, their work, the institution and the viewer. I don't mean that the space is a laboratory that acts as the stage of discussion, while the guards stand by and bite their lip but this reminds me of the music ripping scene on some small scale and how everyone wanted the music but the industries were desperately trying to regulate it.

2/08/2010 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This is a really weird conversation. People who will never visit the exhibition and/or have no interest in the work, are all up in arms about something which is a relatively minor issue. It's really silly.

Roughly the same group will want to use Tino Seghal's exhibition as an example of why art is going to the dogs. The VA's (Vinegar Academics) will spin the exhibition as more (horrors!) Duchamp inspired conceptual art. Academics are academics, they forget that Greenbergian formalism was as silly and as oppressive as October's views on conceptual art.

In the 21st century art world, conceptualism is in play, all the time. This is really becoming a Second Millennium issue. Our modern society is inherently more conceptual and artists or critics who cannot encompass the broader viewpoint of the new millennium are going to be relegated to the background.

2/08/2010 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

if he truly didn't want the performers to be photographed he should have hired Vampires

2/09/2010 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous c-mon said...

i think there's a psychology to the ban. Ben Davis covered it quite well on ArtNet prior to the opening of the show...

2/09/2010 12:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The increasing conflation of performance art and visual art really bothers me. Somehow the historical precedents like Rauschenberg, Yoko Ono, or Vito Acconci acknowledge the difference between viewing a painting or sculpture and the spectatorship of performance.

I think Time is experienced in a different way in front of inert, objects. Does this track with anyone else? I go to museums and galleries to get away from the meat sacks of America.

2/09/2010 05:19:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

How can one control an image when it is in the eye of the beholder ?

2/09/2010 05:33:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George: So no one can say anything about conceptual pieces that most people can't appreciate because they can't be documented? Nice arrangement! How can we non-conceptual types get a deal like that?

2/09/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Canadada said...

When witnessing a rather unusual 'rite' in Costa Rica many years ago, I was going to take a few photos of a couple of kids colourfully dressed standing in a doorway. The taller of the two put out his hand and said, 'Pagar, por favor' - "PAY PLEASE." I was very startled, not by the request, but by the FACT that suddenly this aforementioned 'great shot' that I was about to TAKE had suddenly materialized into a Real, Living, Breathing Person who had a sense of his own identity and his own RIGHTS way beyond my former mindless 'objectification' of him. It was a lesson I've never forgotten.

Photography is, at best, consuming. It TAKES.

If someone does not want you to take THEIR picture of them or THEIR things, that is their Right. If YOU don't want someone to take a photograph of YOU or what is yours, like your kids, you have that Right too. If an artist, a maker, creator, requests 'no photography' then WE should respect that. To not respect that request turns the act of photography into a form of theft. You are TAKING 'without permission'. Period.

It has nothing to do with some obscure draconian authoritarian political dynamic. In fact, the CONTRARY is true. Why should PHOTOGRAPHERS believe they have the Right to TAKE whatever they want - without consequence or consideration of OTHER people's wants & desires? This kind of 'photography' is reflective only of hubris, selfishness, arrogance and presumption. Frankly, to my mind, it is an insidious moral plague manifesting throughout our modern 'consumptive' culture.

2/09/2010 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++"instigating a police state" ?? ++how silly can you get?

I kind of mean: in the same way that in China you aren't able to use Youtube or I don't know what websites. As Cathy said, there is already much security in museums. Than an artist push their work toward a enforcement of already existing security is not interesting for me (unless they are Santiago Sierra), and I don't think it's pertinent to Sehgal's work either. I don't think it changes enough of the experience if people take a picture or not, because it's the same as if you go to a theater, and you take one photograph out of a 2 hours show (which you might not feel like taking because that would disturb the audience, but it doesn't change anything if you do).

As far as a complete documentation: some people in the future will like to know what happened so that the Guggenheim emptied the museum for 2 months to let a performance occur. Sehgal is getting away with it if people from the future aren't able to judge what occured. This is not his private apartment. It's the Guggenheim, darling. Not everybody gets to show there, and to some degree history needs to argument why things have been put up there. Documentation is natural in this context, and if the artist is not happy, he should present things in more discrete places than a worldwide known museum. The Guggenheim should have a mandate to document all that is going on there, and I'd be surprised if they don't already (or maybe the Moma has) documented the work to some degree.

++Maybe, as a performance, it's ++not good enough for the stage

Tom, forget the stage. There's theater like this: in a specific place, with people dragging you along a story. That's been happening since people were reworking the Passion Of Christ
in the streets in the middle ages, but even today they are plenty works that ressemble Sehgal's proposition (I'm thinking of Momentum theater troup in Montreal, and I've worked myself with similar "experimental" troups). I'm only concerned by the way the PR, the artist's statement, push the work as belonging to a discourse of visual arts. That's a lot of hype. Maybe Maurizio Kagel had lots more to do with visual arts.

I find offensive that we speak of Sehgal as the continuation of something that started with Duchamps, when we should be talking of a continuation of something that started with Beckett. This should be the point of "out of our leagues". Quote: "I'm not convinced that the art world is qualified to criticize Sehgal". Experts in literature, scenography, and who have knowledge and experience with theater should raise their hands.

Note that I'm not saying that Sehgal's work is good or bad: I haven't read the script.

Cedric C

(oh but, of course, the script is NOT the work... blabla... send me a photocopy....what?... It's 100 000$ for a copy??? WTF???)

2/09/2010 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++If someone does not want you to ++take THEIR picture of them or +++THEIR things, that is their Right.

Be real. You can only enforce this right for as long as you live. In 120 years, if Sehgal is popular, you'll find copies of scripts everywhere and people will be re-enacting his pieces.

The control you want to have is temporary. And while I understand people wanting to protect their privacy as human beings, the protection of "things", of objects, is rather silly. I think it could lead to severe anxiety problems, as another fact. If things start swirling when you walk the street, as yourself how much you are protective of objects. OCD leads to panic attacks.

To me, "Permission" is granted, or
should be granted, about any object that you put in a public space. As long as I'm not intruding in your house, it should be ok. The reverse scenario is the police state I mentioned above, or, how much you are willing to sue, invent more crimes, having more people in court, and what that cost to you or society.

Cedric C

PS: its not the first time that the Guggeinhem rotunda is empty in recent years. Methinks it's a sign of the economical crisis. Visual art is costly to install.

2/09/2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Anon 5:19 The increasing conflation of performance art and visual art really bothers me. New media forms (performance, installation, film, photography etc) have existed in an ancillary way for at least a century, including performance by artists as street theatre.

The increase in number of artists over the last fifty years has allowed new media to flourish and find both critical and curatorial support. It seems somewhat arbitrary to expect that artists should work in only one or two historical mediums, or styles within them.

Moreover, in spite of the proliferation of the various new forms, there are more exhibitions of painting than all the other media combined. I also don't believe that the new media are limiting anyones ability to go stare at a paint covered object if that's what you want.

Really there are a gazillion paintings in the museums and galleries here in NYC. Maybe the real issue is that Performance, or the other new media, are just make you uncomfortable by disrupting a tidy definition of what art should be.

2/09/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The museum could turn the table by making still photographs of everyone the surveillance cameras catch and make a 'wanted' poster to stick on the front door.


2/09/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, I'm going up to see Tino Sehgal's piece later in the week and I'd rather not directly write about it until I've actually experienced it.

I spent about 25 hours, over a several visits, looking at the Guggenheim Kandinsky exhibition. One day I had an interesting conversation about the paintings with a couple who had flown in from Carmel CA just to view the exhibition. Direct experience, as opposed to documented experience, is always better.

I suspect that at some point there will be documentation of Tino Sehgal piece and we'll have that. Until then, you either go see it or you don't. I doubt seeing a photograph will increase the 'appreciation' factor all that much.

2/09/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Art Trip said...

>Those fricking tourists who insist on having their picture taken in front of the Monet, the Picasso, the whatever famous

Amen. It was funny to see people posing in front of Starry Night and truly weird for everyone else who just wanted to look at the painting. Could be a pretty good piece of satire on the value of art in modern culture.

2/09/2010 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric, You are being silly, there is no correlation with the censorship going on in China.

I think that Tino Sehgal should be able to say 'no photography.' I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he has valid reasons. This decision becomes part of the piece, as defined by the artist. Describing this as a 'police state' action is not only incorrect but stupid.

I am sure that everyone involved knows that some photographs will be taken anyway. I'm sure that there will eventually be some type of documentation, but documentation is like reading about sex.

2/09/2010 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric, Methinks it's a sign of the economical crisis.

Please! you are spouting off about something you know nothing about. The Guggenheim is celebrating it's 50th anniversary with a year long series of events and exhibitions

2/09/2010 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Nina Ulana said...

All very intriguing and complex. My mind goes back and forth, up and down, and in circles. Past occurrences have shown that the “no photography” rule did (and does) work as a marketing tool, works as reverse psychology (the psychology of “no”), does invite candid snapshots. Does Sehgal believe the rule is possible, or does he hope it is possible? Considering the idea of actual experience, it is obvious that the “no photography” rule is important and essential, but is a rule that cannot be enforced in this day and age. Is the actual experience possible? (for some? for all? for how many?) What is actual experience in this day and age? What is Sehgal’s opinion of the poorly taken iphone snapshots? Is Sehgal concerned with documentation at all? Why does Sehgal create art? As I said, circles......I would love to see the exhibit. Thank you very much for the interesting post.

2/09/2010 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Ed hit on the one point that lept out at me the sec I heard about the photo ban

Or, what he's creating has the unfortunate side effect of also requiring a draconian overtone

It was in the title I found the clues to the most interesting epiphany I would have about it, and that is Art vs. Information.

Much of my own work is transient, much of it has been lost or discarded and the images of some of it seems like a photo on a mass card, a sweet and sorrowful reminder of someone who passed, dressed in their Sunday best and always at their best, some images can take on creative qualities of their own but they are not the art, not the thing, they are a document of the thing, and what documents essentially are is information, to be stored, and retrieved upon request.

The whole notion of recording information and copyrighting it, then fiercely fighting to protect the copyright seems an awfully wasted expenditure of the currency of the human experience, I for one learned a great deal from the Grateful Dead who instead of wasting resources harassing fans trying to stop the recording of their shows, didn't bother trying to stop their concerts from being recorded and instead opened up an area of the audience to fans letting them record the concert, it proved that a fan, because they have a bootleg recording of a concert, wouldn't go to a show or buy the next studio album, instead it created a small group of fans obsessed with going to and recording as many shows as possible because the bootleg recordings of the concert is just information about the concert, and you still have to go to the source for the experience, and now some fifteen years after the Grateful Dead dissolved, they most likely are the most documented band of their era and it could only be imagined what would be able to be done at one of their concerts with todays tecnology, hook a good mike up to a cellphone and conference call friends who couldn't get tickets, friends in other states, other countries, people could throw parties with their cell phone hooked up to a sound system, with the 3 and 4g network the sound could be digitally compressed and streamed to thousands, another phone streaming video, all the videos could be networked and 20 30 50 100 different points of views instantly sorted, searchable, selectable, a custom experience from a tsunami of information reaching millions and with the word spreading the Grateful Dead would still sellout the largest venues world wide, because experiencing a Grateful Dead show and experiencing the documents of a Grateful Dead show are vastly different experiences, being at a concert can provide vastly greater amounts of information than can be disseminated by all the possible means of documenting it.

So all those tourist standing in front of paintings (or next to Mickey Mouse) taking pictures are collecting information for purposes known and unknown, to ourselves and to our prosperity, and for them the experience is the collecting of information, like an anthropologist they travel here to our city and objectively observe, quietly document our ways, then report back to their little villages across the globe.

2/09/2010 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

My second thought and reaction to this or any Draconian directive is it must be challenged, we must revolt (although I hesitate to use the word revolt now that Sarah Palin and the Tea Baggers have some how soiled it) a group must form, meet at the Guggenheim, cameras and flash in hand, storm the rotunda clicking and flashing away, cellphone cameras capturing video of the mayhem that pursues, for in the information age our recording devices are our torches and pitchforks, and they need to be ignited to a inferno and illuminate the data pipeline, they must be sharpened, finely honed and vigilantly wielded, lest the Draconians prevail.

2/09/2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Canadada said...

@Cedric C.
When a photographer, amateur or professional, TAKES a shot during a ‘performance piece’, it is objectifying that art form and making it a static ‘thing’, ie. ‘a photograph’. If the original artist/creator does not want HIS fluid work ostensibly ‘stolen’ piecemeal from him in this way, it is his Right to ‘lay down some ground rules’ as he sees fit for those to ‘experience’ the performance in its entirety. His work was not presented as static ‘imagery’, it was presented as a living performance.

Likewise, whether that ‘performance’ is in a public space or not is immaterial. As the creator of this piece, it is his Right as the Creator to ‘define’ the parameters of its delivery. To deny him that, to TAKE that away from him, (as is increasingly the way of most voyeuristic free-loaders on the web), you are ultimately insulting him and his chosen art form. He is a living being, not a dead ‘thing’.

Personally, I believe that to be much the point of his work.

2/09/2010 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Joseph Giannasio

wow, a slave-owner ...

Your rallying cry makes me cringe.

I have no desire, as an artist, to produce ON DEMAND for YOU to CONSUME for 'FREE'.

Take away MY Rights, and you'll get what you deserve. Crap.

2/09/2010 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++Describing this as a 'police ++state' action is not only +++incorrect but stupid.

It's exaggerated, but it' not stupid. In fact, this whole story is exaggerated because I don't recall when photography was tolerated at The Gugg. Maybe now it's extended to the ground floor, but I don't remember people being allowed to photograph Abramovic.

But yes, having guards all around making people respect certain codes of conduct is the microcosm of a policed state. It's an exaggerated view but I stand by it.
It is art, right? We're talking about an artistic context and what it represents. Sehgal didn't invent museum security. I question why he is enforcing it. Or is he really? I don't know. I haven't experienced the difference between the Gugg of now from the Gugg of before.

All I'm saying here, is that the artist defends his "enforcing"
of "no photography" because ultimately he thinks that it's augmenting the quality of the experience. I'm saying "No" because of the annoyment that security enforcement leads to.

If he argued about copyrights reasons, we would be having another discussion. But it's
really the pretense to the "betterment" of an
experience that bugs me.

Cedric C

PS: There is an artist who had guards (hired people) bark at people (like dogs) in a museum, as a work of art. I know it's not Sehgal but it's similar (yet sending a different message).
Oh I remember, Matthieu Beauséjour. Now that's a politically-inclined artist
who would probably agree with me.

2/09/2010 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++ it is his Right as the Creator ++to ‘define’ the parameters of +++its delivery

ME, MYSELF, I, MY RIGHT, MY THING, MY CREATION. Maybe... try to view a world when it is not so YOU and maybe a little more of US?

Oh but, you think you're about US,


2/09/2010 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

I think you've hit on something, Cedric. At what point does the artist stop controlling the experience of his work and allow it to be whatever it will be for other people? Perhaps the control reveals a fear that the work can't make it on its own.

2/09/2010 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric. As I recall, at the Guggenheim, photography was permitted in the atrium but not on the ramps.

Your 'police state' exaggeration is both factually incorrect and misleading. First it makes an analogy which potentially reduces the apparent onerousness of the activities in an actual police state.

Second, the Guggenheim is a private museum. You pay to enter, and by paying you agree to their terms and conditions. Your rights are not being violated in any sense, you maintain the freedom to not enter the museum, no one is going to arrest you for that.

Third the 'guards' provide security by making it less likely that artworks will be damaged either intentionally or by accident. Obviously this doesn't always work. In the late 1970's Toni Shafrazi (that one) spray painted on Picasso's Guernica at MOMA. It was a senseless stupid act where one person decides to have what they want without taking into account the rights and wishes of everyone else.

If you want to make an issue out of something like this go after ASCAP which has exhibited appalling behavior against the public.

2/09/2010 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, um I'm not sure but I don't think there is very much to photograph.

2/09/2010 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, wouldn't that make the ban on photos even sillier?

2/09/2010 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, As I said, I haven't seen the exhibition yet and I'd rather not comment on specifics.

2/09/2010 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Canadada said...

@Cedric C. ...

If you TAKE what is MINE, without asking my permission, that's 'theft'. Taking - what does not belong to you - makes you an overbearing 'bully' and a 'thief'.

If I CHOOSE to 'share' with you, that's a different experience for us both. I may want to share ALL or half or even a quarter of what I've got or made. That's MY choice, not YOURS.

Under NO cirumstances, am I obligated to GIVE to you what I've created or made or am, just because you 'demand it' NOW.

To FORCE me to GIVE to you, is coersive at worst, and slavery at best.

2/09/2010 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...


I have no desire, to consume anything of a coward who hides behind anonymity to make ad hominem attacks as what you make most likely isn't art and at best probably IS crap.

so sad you are a slave to your resentments, and being you used the same @(username) convention as Canadada.. well let's just say not too bright.

TAKES a shot during a ‘performance piece’...
... making it a static ‘thing’

hence my point, why waste effort defending a dead thing when you can go on creating living things.

besides. by time tourists want a photo with something it's long dead.

as for the control issues, let's just say the more you try to control things the more chaos you create.

welcome to an open society.

2/09/2010 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++If you TAKE what is MINE, +++without asking my permission, +++that's 'theft'.

Well, I think Edward's original point was that this type of absolutism will be easily deceived when confronted with reality and general people. I mean, if you really intend on having a big art career, there is a point where you become too big to be able to control everything.

I won't even begin to explain how I feel different as an artist from this statement about the limits of what I consider MINE and what isn't or shouldn't be.

All I can say is we are not eternal, and everything returns to dust.

Cedric C

2/10/2010 04:09:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

Wow, great thread. A few observations:

Photography - snapshots- is a form of speech and is protected as such under the 1st amendment. You don't have to ask permission to shoot snaps of people etc in a public space. Free speech trumps privacy. This extends, in NYS anyway, to art photography btw.

If the viewer completes the work as Duchamp said, then whatever the viewer does to experience or filter the experience of the work factors into its completion.

In the 21st c, photography is the new writing, is epistolary; all, or nearly all experience is shared through a mix (remix?) Of text and photo.

Privacy is a myth.

Artists don't control their work once they release it into the world. nor shoukld they think that's a good idea. I'm sure this 34 year old has thought of all this stuff.

2/10/2010 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Canadada said...

@Joseph Giannasio
When you are prepared to let me live my life as I so choose and not swarm in and belligerently dictate - as is YOUR style - then maybe we’ll have a real conversation in what you so loudly broadcast as an ‘open’ society. Otherwise, yup, I be just a cowardly nobody producing ‘anonymous’ crap … don’t mind me … carry on … pass by …

@Cedric C
Defining, and defending, one’s art work is not ‘absolutism’, it’s called a ‘point of view’.
Naturally the parameters of that point of view may shift with ‘engagement’. But to alternatively suggest a ‘free-for-all’ with ‘no boundaries’ is just, well, la-la-land. Big Art careerists ARE ‘control freaks’. It’s part & parcel of what makes them iconoclasts, provocateurs, visionaries and ‘leading lights’. And yes, everything does return to dust, but that’s no reason to DENY an artist’s Right to pursue their career as they so choose DURING their lifetime. That pursuit includes defining and defending ‘their way’, which ultimately makes their ‘vision’ most particularly ‘their own’. Ultimately, it DOES separate a ‘no-name’ from a ‘name’ artist.

Just because something is ‘the norm’ now, doesn’t mean it will remain so, or is even ‘right’. Was it ‘right’, for example, that graphic artist Shepard Fairey used AP photographer Mannie Garcia’s photograph of Obama - without Mannie’s knowledge or consent - to create his famed propaganda poster of HOPE that went on to sell millions? Equally, and pertinent to this thread, is it ‘right’ that no-name photogs shoot a name performance artist’s work – especially after said artist has expressly requested ‘no photography’ - then distribute or SELL those photos under their own name? Shouldn’t they - at the very least – ask permission from the artist before they do so?

To hi-jack someone else’s work under the fluttering legal banner of ‘fair use’ - especially when that derivative is intended for sale – is currently a very ambiguous area in our evolving perception, interpretation and understanding of what constitutes ‘the personal’ and ‘the private’. It is precisely this ‘myth’ that is being challenged by rightful ‘owners’ of their own work. In other words, ‘privacy is NOT a myth’. Ask Seghal.

2/10/2010 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...



2/10/2010 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++You don't have to ask permission ++to shoot snaps of people etc in ++a public space.

To complete what you said, Joy: in fact museums use the notion of architecture privacy to try to stop people from taking pictures. When someone takes a picture in a museum (in USA and other countries, I know in UK it is a bit different), the snapshot is considered THEIRS (you hear, Canadada? THEIRS, not YOURS).
What the museum is trying to prevent, are people using photographs to broadcast, diffuse, or selling "copies" of the art photographed, which is copyrighted. But a court judge wouldn't exactly use the terms: "your photography isn't YOURS, it belongs to Canadada".

Once you take a snapshot in a museum, I think the only legal thing a museum or an artist can do until your broadcast or sell this snapshot (which can be detrimentful to an artist's copyrights), is throw you out because you didn't follow rules of conducts required within a "private" space (The Frick Museum).

++Art careerists ARE ‘control +++freaks’.

The way you describe them I'd change the word for "vain".

++UltimatArt careerists ++ARE ‘control feaks’.ely, it DOES +++separate a ‘no-name’ from a ‘name’ artist.

Well, you missed the no-name Yoko Ono retrospective.

Mevermind, I personally know
art careeriests who don't share your view at all. You are being presomptuous.

++Just because something is ‘the +++norm’ now, doesn’t mean it will +++remain so, or is even ‘right’.

Err, we live in a society and what's "right" is not defined by your own self-righteous opinions, I'm afraid. And the laws of tomorrow with be defined by the Youtube kids of today, and I don't think they're moving in your direction.

I certainly don't.

Cedric C

2/10/2010 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedr said...

Ask Nevermind Will, etc, spot the typos, It's been a mess as usual.


2/10/2010 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

Okay, up on my soapbox now that I've had lunch. Here are a few useful facts:

- free speech, last I checked, is a right, not a norm. Fair use = free speech (it's actually in the Constitution).

- free speech means not having to ask permission to communicate and express your opinion. In the visual arts, that means being able to tinker, adapt, experiment, devise -- to create -- without having to first bow to an authority (arbitrary or otherwise).

- mannie garcia is self-described as not an artist. At all. By any stretch. He, like all news photographers, works for The Man. In any case, fairey needing to ask him or any other news photographer for permission to use/trash/re-do/up/reverse engineer a source image is a lot like dan flavin having to ask the fluorescent tube manufacturer permission to make his work.

- Fairey didn't. Make. Money. From. The HOPE poster. It was all donated to the campaign.

Happily for me, I'm teaching this course on open source and the arts to undergraduates on thursdays and they all seem to totally get that permission culture is a scam foisted on us by a combo of corporations and lawyers. We haven't gotten into artists' egos yet, but I'm sure we'll get there. ;)

Tino is no innocent about marketing, as so many have pointed out above. Just the fact that he has staged an object-free, happening-like work in a major museum is a feat of strategic maneuvering. He is doing that thing of being both complicit with and critical of the institution and its workings. Which seems to be what he's all about.

2/10/2010 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

Cedric you are mistaken about museums and photography. Cameras w/out flash are allowed in most US museums and even encouraged (cf: moma and the met's respective flickr crowd-sourcing experiments). When it's prohibited it usually has to do with a loan exhibition and the copyright conditions of the collaborating institution, or else contemporary art where the default copyright permissions thing invariably kicks in.

2/10/2010 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also heard a rave review of the Tino Seghal show from a friend, and was glad of Holland Cotter's description of the piece in the NYTimes. Blending Tino's performance background with visual art is intriguing, and disallowing photos or video really bring home the importance of the actual experience to the work. However, I wonder if Tino Seghal realizes that disallowing documentation also serves to rarefy his work, making the number of people that have access to it even smaller that the smallness that the art world already is? If making the most rarefied art possible were the intent of the artist, the no photo provision wouldn't bother me. But from what I've read of Tino Seghal, it seems he has more egalitarian aspirations for his work than that.
Also, doesn't Holland Cotter's review serve as a documentation of the piece that is an even better substitute than a photo would have been for this particular work of art?

2/10/2010 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

Wow, Anonymous: your comment really sums it up nicely. Also seems like Martha Schwendener at the Voice is on the same page:

2/10/2010 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous canadada said...

If two children are playing in a sandbox and one meticulously and painstakingly builds a majestic fantasy construct complete with exquisite architectural embellishments, is it 'ok', in your opinion, for the other kid - who hasn't done much of anything except suck his fat thumb and watch - to 'take over' this brilliant construct? Would his 'take-over'- without permission - be ALLOWED in your world?

Just curious.

@Cedric, Youtube is owned by Google, not by any 'users', young or old.

2/10/2010 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...


Your error lies in your singular incapacity to actually discern what constitutes hard work. My condolences.

2/10/2010 08:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

+++is it 'ok', in your opinion, +++for the other kid - who hasn't +++done much of anything except +++suck his fat thumb and watch - +++to 'take over' this brilliant +++construct?

In the context where there is only one sandbox and you took all the sand, I think the retard kid should do something about it.

God helps him,

Cedric C

2/10/2010 11:52:00 PM  
Anonymous canadada said...

On the contrary. I just don't subscribe to the apparently fadish anarchistic notion of 'honor amongst thieves'.

Good day to you too.

2/11/2010 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

hmmmm...getting testy in here.

Might I add a few opinions that might span the gulf a bit?

Cedric has a point in noting that the sand belongs to both kids. If one kid assembles it in some fashion, there is nothing (except perhaps fear of being punched) that stops him from trampling through the castle if he chooses...the sand is also his to do with as he wishes, even if what he wishes displeases the castle builder.

But, to bring this full circle, if the only thing the other kid does to the castle is photograph it in a way that makes it look like a giant structure or makes it look like a microscopic structure or makes it look like the most gorgeous thing in the work or makes it look positively hideous, or realistic, or whatever, then surely everyone can agree the photograph required work/talent as well, no? Where I think you're not giving credit where it's due, canadada, is in the work involved in such endeavors. It's not thievery to create out of the resources around you that are yours. The sand belongs to both children. Anything done with the sand, anything, belongs to both children.

2/11/2010 08:22:00 AM  
Anonymous canadada said...

Taking a photograph of the ‘thing’ - regardless of the camera, the angle, the crop, or the software machinations – is not anywhere near the same ‘thing’ as the hand-skill of the kid who created the piece in the first place. If that construct hadn’t been made by the first kid, the second kid wouldn’t have it to shoot. See my point?

Likewise, if this mini castle builder has his creation kicked to bits by the other – (on the grounds that the sand ‘belongs’ to them both) – I think you’ll discover that the castle builder will either hurl his wee self in a mad fury at the destroyer, or, he’ll burst out crying in tears of frustration, or, he’ll just up and leave the sandbox. He’ll likely go find other some other arena to quietly amuse his ever-constructing Self. Wanna bet that second kid who kicked in his creation soon tags along and wants to find out what he’s building next?

Anyway, thanks all for this most engaging thread.
I’m moving off now.
Happy trails.

2/11/2010 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Canadada, to take the moral lesson you learned in Costa Rica (comment 25) and try to force it on the whole world is quixotic (Merriam-Webster: "foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals"). It's also ironic in view of the display name you've chosen, Cana-dada. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-)

2/11/2010 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I think Canadada's whole reaction about this is, indeed, childish (sorry).

You know, Canadada, if you ever get one of your best work stolen, as in physically deprived from you or your dealer while it's being exhibited, if you could experience the true hurting of that
experience, you wouldn't throw such word as "thievery" so indulgently. Consider yourself
happy with what you have, and learn more about the current law system, and when heavy words like
"thievery" apply and when they don't. Because when they don't, it is also considered an infraction of justice to accuse people of crimes that they aren't committing.

Cedric C

2/11/2010 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Happy to have you stay if you like Canadada (I too thought your name was ironic, but...), but I won't agree that the building of the castle is in anyway superior to the making of a photo. I can think of many photographs that make their subject look much more beautiful and/or interesting than the object's creator made them.

2/11/2010 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Yes, if the other kid is photographing the castle, it's
not exactly "taking hold" of it and even less ruining it.

Canadada, a real top prima donna, would crave photographs (especially the ones with heavy flashes).

Cedric C

2/11/2010 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous canadada said...

@Tom Hering. I guess I just don't see why I must succumb to other 'moral relativists' ...:) ... I also don't see why my 'name' ought to have anything to do with the price of eggs in Northern Mongolia ...

@Cedric. When something IS stolen from YOU, perhaps you may come to have a greater appreciation of what is an on-going 'territorial issue'.

@Edward, I respectfully submit that you missed my point. If there was no "subject" to shoot, the photographer couldn't shoot it.

That's it fellas.
Outta here.
Work to do.
Very best.

2/11/2010 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I actually didn't miss that point, Canadada. It simply isn't relevant to whether or not the other kid is doing something equally interesting or simply "suck[ing] his fat thumb and watch[ing]."

I do wish you'd address the point that the sand belongs to both kids, though.

2/11/2010 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous canadada said...

If the kid is watching, and/or 'doing his own thing' (like messing with a camera), no problem. But when he interfers or destroys the other's creation just cuz he wants to, that is fundamentally a 'territorial invasion'.

Given that the sand 'belongs' to them both, I suppose the best solution might be that they alternatively 'build' then 'destroy' the other's hand-work, leaving the camera outside of the sandbox ...

What joy. Hours of fun.

2/11/2010 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

There is no obligation on the second kid's part to pay deference to the castle built out of the sand if he's not moved to do so. He's not obligated to just watch or do his own thing. The sand belongs to him as well.

You're suggesting he's acting out of spite if he destroys it, but perhaps he simply wants the sand the first kid horded for his own selfish glorification to be equally distributed throughout the sand box again.

This is a critical part of the argument...what is or isn't public property.

As for leaving the camera outside the sandbox, that strikes me as the least constructive option. If they agree to alternate playing with the sand, the best possible outcome would be to document each one's creations, no?

2/11/2010 11:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another analogy, however flawed: A public figure dies, a president or a celebrity, for example. A lot of effort is put into making them look good, even artfully so, in the casket. If the family wishes that photos not be taken of the deceased during the funeral, should that wish be respected even if the greatest living artist wishes to take that shot and the whole wide world misses the opportunity to see the beautiful dead body?


2/11/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger HMNA said...

what if I had a photographic memory and the incredible ability to great a Richard Estes-esque painting of the sand castle?

I understand both side of the story but ultimately I fall back on to the act of making something and putting it out into the public sphere it is experienced by viewers who forever hold that image in their psyche. A photograph of that is an expression of that persons experience of that moment,no? So through the complex layered system of the experience filter the picture is mine because...well I made and experienced it.

Just a thought....not an argument.

2/11/2010 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Canadada, I guess I just don't see how accepting the fact that others will take photos of your work, even though you don't want them to, equates to "succumbing to moral relativists." As with the lesson you learned in Costa Rica, you're making a mountain out of a molehill.

2/11/2010 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous canadada said...

@Edward … fascinating.

So the kid who doesn’t care about the castle and just wants the sand to do his own thing gets to ACCUSE the Other of “hording” materials for “selfish glorification” as he, then, in turn, ‘equally’ distributes the sand around the sandbox again? What happens when he begins to build his OWN castle or whatever? Does the other who has already had his castle ‘demolished’ then have the same ‘Right’ to accuse the ‘demolisher’ of “hording” materials for his own “selfish glorification”? Will this not just go round and round ad infinitum? Clearly, the sand will not REMAIN ‘static’ and ‘equally' distributed. Someone WILL ‘claim’ it. Just as they do with ‘public property’.

Public property is, first and foremost, DISIGNATED ‘public’ by city councilors and politicians, THEN it is allocated with ‘rules of engagement’ and ‘governed’ by a ‘code of conduct’ etc. (… We don’t want anyone pissing in the ‘public’ sandbox, do we? There are kids in there for pete’s sake …). The next question of WHO gets to ‘use it’ is quickly followed by when, and how. Meaning, it would make no sense to build a ‘public’ subway station in a ‘public park’ that has no subway in the middle of nowhere where no-one lives. Similarly, a public art gallery (the sandbox) MUST adhere to certain ‘rules/procedures/code of conduct’ to PROTECT the occupants from harm and/or abuse. To not establish some enforceable ‘operating rules’ we are collectively leaving ourselves WIDE OPEN for truancy, bad behaviour, property damage and, let's face it, pissing.

So, in context, if one artist has been ‘allowed/permitted’ to exhibit in a ‘public space’ for a fixed duration of time, surely it is ‘ok’ to ALLOW/PERMIT said artist to present his work as he is MOST COMFORTABLE doing during that specific time frame in a way that adheres most closely to his own ‘vision’. This may well include the prohibition of photography, (whether that is gallery ‘policy’ or not). His request that others (who are NOT exhibiting (ie. building the castle)) - NOT photograph his live work-in-progress is just that, a ‘request’. It is up to the public gallery to ‘enforce’ or ‘ignore’. What seems of issue is that others, who are present and/or attending but NOT EXHIBITING, seem to feel no compunction to ‘respect’ this artist’s ‘request’. They just want to photograph his stuff - while he is in the midst of CREATION and PERFORMANCE - when they want, how they want. Well, that’s mighty disrespectful, ain’t it?

As adults governing the use of the public space, ‘we’, in a democracy, have to determine the best use and benefit of said space for ALL. Are exceptions allowed? Of course. Will conflict arise? Most definitely. Is EVERYONE going to be ‘happy’? No. We must muddle on.

Going back to the sandbox scenario with our two budding builders, I do agree that using the camera to DOCUMENT each other’s CREATIONS makes sense IF they BOTH so choose to have their hand-made works documented in this way. The important point is that it is their choice decided between them as they go along. If they simply can’t figure it out, and/or if they persist in childish ‘territorial’ squabbling, it’s high time that we, as ‘adults’, intervened before one of them kills the other … .

@Tom Hearing. I’m not making a mountain out of a molehill. Consider the thread title. ‘Anachronistic Desires: The Impossibility of Controlling the Image in the Information Age’. What I am objecting to is the implicit premise, that it is somehow a ‘done deal’, that it’s all ‘fair use’ now, that everything is fair game to TAKE, that it IS the ‘norm’ now so just TAKE what you WANT. … It seems a highly unsocial behaviour to advocate. If ‘boundaries’ are NOT established and Respected, there WILL BE continued ‘invasions’ by (photog) bullies who virtuously toot 'fair use'/fair game/it's all 'ok', yet haven't the faintest idea what really constitutes 'fair play' ... imho.

2/11/2010 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


You might generate a bit less hostility in response to your ideas if you didn't preface them with sarcastic declarations, such as "fascinating."

As for the rest of your comment, I can't actually follow it. You're bouncing in an out of your own metaphor, setting up and striking down all suggests you're being argumentative for it's own sake. Perhaps you can summarize.

2/11/2010 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Canadada, so how are you going stop the violations? The problem with widespread, openly available technologies is that laws and rules enacted to counter them are impotent - whether we're talking cell-phone photography, texting while driving, or developing a nuclear weapons program. The only way you can stop or limit a technology is with a counter-technology. (Bullets stopped knights in armor, then machine guns stopped soldiers with rifles, then aerial drones took out machine gun nests, etc.) So, maybe, develop an EMP generator you can embed in your artworks - to fry the circuitry in cameras. Short of that, I don't know what else you can do but complain.

2/11/2010 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Well, Cathy, it's not the best example, because I strongly switch my sense of ethics between
a situation concerning objects (including photographs) and situations concerning people.

To attempt equate the value of objects with the value of people is wrong to me, hence why in the sandbox example I prioritize the well-being of people over the well-being of any object (well-being including the freedom to build a castle or indeed take a picture of it).

But you are talking about a public figure? Why a public figure? You have to learn to compromise with the media when you are a public figure. You have to expect the unflattering shot and be ready to defend it.

They are probably many things we are embarassed about as people that we shouldn't really be. Maybe an humiliating experience in life can teach us a lesson or two. It depends if we're talking of a situation where the bullies and the abused are always on the same side. They are rights against defamation or calumny, but usually that will only take care of the source of a scandal. If you are a celebrity and an embarassing nude pic circulates about you, the only thing you can do is stand up about it, and trust the compassion of you peers. People "know" when you really fell victim to something. They "know". You will hear about it once it happens. People will support you, unless evil is truly

++Will this not just go round and round ad infinitum?

Yes, Ying and Yang, that's a good philosophy.

+++respect this artist’s ‘request’

Some requests are not politically fair, but sound like one person taking the center stage with a gigantic megaphone, telling
everyone that they should be living the way THEY want it.

Are people your little sheeps?

There is a level where you become disrespectful of your audience to a degree where you don't deserve one. When you are only about yourself, your results, your talent and your brilliancy, that doesn't tell me that you have a love and respect of your audience, but only a love and respect of yourself.

Cedric C

(Is this the Ars Collegia guy?)

2/11/2010 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

There seems to me more than one set of issues being addressed here.

Regarding Seghal's piece. As part of the scope of his artwork he may ban photography. It becomes a condition of the artwork which defines what it is.
This is different than saying photographs of the sculptures are not permitted.

By entering the museum the viewers agree to abide by the terms and conditions of the museum which may include the conditions of the artist.

The sandbox question is different. If the sand is a metaphor for a shared object/commodity then the two parties have to negotiate how the resource is divided or shared. If they cannot find an agreement then you have a war, winner take all.

If the sand is a metaphor for an intangible object or idea which may exist in more than one place at once then a different set of questions are raised.

2/11/2010 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Addressing Tom's points.

I don't think there is a need to carry this to an extreme. If we assume that the no photography ban is part of the performance then the viewers which interact with the performance can be reasonably be expected to comply. On the other hand it becomes Seghal's problem to decide how strictly he wishes to enforce the ban.

In all likelihood he won't resort to draconian measures BUT it is potentially within the scope of the performance that he might. This would create a different sort of confrontation between the audience and the performers and change the nature of the performance.

Overall, I don't think it matters. Polite viewers will acquiesce to the artists request. Others will surreptitiously attempt to take photographs, being either successful ot told to desist. And finally, there will be some jerks who are out to prove a point, resulting in their ejection from the museum.

2/11/2010 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, no, there's no need. But a little absurdity makes for livelier fun. ;-)

2/11/2010 04:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"but I won't agree that the building of the castle is in anyway superior to the making of a photo. I can think of many photographs that make their subject look much more beautiful and/or interesting than the object's creator made them."

Image archives, museums, and copyright holders would agree with you, Ed. It's in their interests. A photograph of an artwork (painting, sculpture, etc) is considered an original work whether it's merely a documentation of the original or an expression that's more profound; therefore, it is protected by copyright, and it may not be reproduced without the photographer's permission. (And fees are usually involved in that process.)

That's full circle.

2/11/2010 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous canadada said...

I didn't use quotation marks around - fascinating. I did around your choice of words of 'hording' and 'selfish glorification'. I was quoting you. I actually do find this discussion interesting ... seriously.

Summarize? ok, how about it would grand and CIVIL if 'the public' would 'RESPECT' the artist's 'request' that his live performance not be photographed.

@Tom - I don't know. I was at a function recently when the photog wanted to take my picture and I just told him I didn't want him to. At least he had the courtesy to ask. By the way Cedric, I have NEVER liked having my picture taken so there goes your 'hugger of bright lights' theory ... :)

Anyway, one point I did raise back there was the idea that the gallery is ultimately responsible to either 'enforce' or 'ignore' his 'request'. I agree with George that there are all sorts of different degrees of how people will and won't comply. That the PUBLIC gallery seems to be taking a 'back seat' and letting the storm swirl around the artist seems kind of um, opportunistic, ie. 'publicity/attendance generating'. The 'photo issue' is really with the gallery and their 'sloppy' policy/user code of conduct, not the artist, per se.

Ah well, life will go on either way. Later fellas.

2/11/2010 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric, a corpse, for me, is an object. It's an important object because it used to house a person. It doesn't care what's done with it. And no, for the sake of argument,it doesn't have to be a public figure, let it be instead someone's child.

The parents didn't and don't own the child and the child, as a person, no longer exists on earth. But the parents, who had some small part in bringing this child into existence, request that no photos of this child be taken at the funeral by anyone for any circumstance. Should that request be considered a basic human right? If someone went up to the casket, took out a cell phone and snapped a shot during the service because they wanted to use it for an art project or they wanted to make sure the rest of the world knew just how lovely this child was in death, who would be the greedy, selfish one?

Of course, not everyone would feel as these parents do, some might welcome the photo op, some might want a death mask made.

Art, like the dead child, is also an object that doesn't care what's done with it and is the product of creation. I'm rather tired of hearing it said that the only motives an artist could have for restricting access to his or her are greed, power, and selfishness. Other, more noble feelings come into play here as well. They may not be rational but they are real and they ought to matter.


2/11/2010 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

+++It doesn't care what's done ++with it

You don't believe in ghosts. Ultimately what the parents think about the child still might not be at all what the child would have wanted. I'd worry more about ghosts (and I do give spirits the benefit of doubt).

++more noble feelings come into +++play here as well.

I don't think the motive is important. The fact that one person wish to control the behavorial attitudes of many is politically unfair. We are talking about the public sphere. Anyone who doesn't want to deal with society should remove themselves from the public sphere. Any artist stressing about the power of their audience to manipulate their output (to come back to the example above about photographic memory and photo-realist reproduction) should simply stop attempting to reach an audience.

Art is communication, it's not unidirectional, not once you put it out. It's not about "I'm going to control your interpretation or whatever you do with my work". No.
It is communication, and people sometimes respond by taking a snapshot (usually that means "I like the art and I want to have a souvenir of it").

If Sehgal can't be there to ban photography of his work in 150 years, what good does it do that he does now?? It's a delusion of control. It's only hurting the people who are living around him. People in 150 years are perhaps reading this thread right now, while probably looking at the whole performance in a click of the mouse to apprehend what the whole fuss was about. They might not be looking at the original Gugg's version, but if the work has any quality, it won't remain there. His only chance is to destroy all traces of the work fast before any other people attempt to transcribe more of the experience.

If you want a cool human experience that doesn't live a trace, try improvisional theater. When you practice, you are usually in a small local with other players, and no one is there to document. I've experienced this myself. It's a powerful humanistic experience from which you'll likely leave with only your memory of it (until you present a live show that may be recorded).

I mean, they are just ways to get around the problem of living experiences that retain a quality of obvliousness. Designing a work on paper that can be sold by your dealer is not such a way. Sehgal is not pertinent, his work doesn't fully aim to be ephemeral. It's a theater play with a script.

Cedric C

2/11/2010 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

this is actually a wonderful thread -- I am reminded of a profound statement that the artist David Clarkson left on my Facebook wall duing a similar discussion some time back. I've actually incorporated it into my talks/classes on open source and art. Here goes:

“Culture is made of objects, expressions, stories, gestures, etc. that MUST be repeatable (and repeated) in various situations - precisely to create an identity to be held in common. It is through this process of repetition that a group's consensus of history and identity is created. Culture is composed of copies that we as a society share and subsequently hold in common - and that fundamentally bind us together. (We ALL copy without authorization all the time - that is called memory. Technology extends its perception and there is no 'self' without it.)”

Love you David Clarkson.

2/12/2010 01:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

A photograph of an artwork (painting, sculpture, etc) is considered an original work whether it's merely a documentation of the original or an expression that's more profound; therefore, it is protected by copyright, and it may not be reproduced without the photographer's permission. (And fees are usually involved in that process.)

Ah, but that's changing too I suspect...gonna be very tough to control intellectual property moving forward. Not sure it wasn't always a losing battle from the start.

2/12/2010 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

I like George's more relaxed assessment on the issue. It seems reasonable that this would be the attitude of the artist as well. As a viewer, I want to respect the wishes of the artist as best I can to help realize that particular vision or idea. But as an artist, I also understand that I relinquish control at some point to the viewer. Implicit in showing or performing a work is a "request" that the viewer consider it aesthetically, intellectually etc., the viewer having final say in how that request is completed or respected.

Although I have never experienced the work, I find the descriptions of the Sehgal pieces very interesting. If I were the artist, however, I would be concerned if the the dominating discussion around the work became this issue of third party documentation, no matter how interesting or relevant that topic may be.

I reject as cynical that the main motivation for his no-picture taking or recording request is some reverse psychology promotional ploy. At most, that would only be a side benefit or result. Commodity concerns also seem to be put into the background by the fact that these works are not attempting to be non-commodities, these can and have been bought and sold. At the forefront I think that the artist understands the nature of how an experiential work becomes iconic through documentation. Carolee Schneemann's Meat Joy is known mostly by the images of the performance which enter the sea of images contemporary society is subjected. The meaning of the work then can become informed more by analogous images (ie pornography) than by the original intention of the artist.

In Schneemann's case that may or may not concern her, but it is a reality. So I can see the logic in trying to keep the dominant document a written or vocal description. Even though I cannot smell the fish and sausages or hear the squishy, writhing bodies, my imagination is informed by a written document more so than by the visual one(although both can work in tandem). But yes this is only an attempt, the artist can really only fully control the 'official" documentation process, to control how others document becomes as difficult as controlling the reception of the work itself. Its a gamble really.

2/12/2010 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous canadada said...

Google knows how to control intellectual property.

As the world's greatest distributor of 'information' aka 'content', with servers increasingly designed to HOLD 'data' in Google 'clouds', they have an ambitious 300 year Master Plan ...

Worth remembering is that Google is a highly proprietary 'trade-marked' business registered in the state of California, U.S.A, not an 'open source' charity.


What of the 5/6ths of the world population who aren't plugged in? who aren't 'techno-dependent'? What does Google PLAN to DO with them - ? One SHOULD wonder.

Just a side bar thought ...

2/12/2010 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

The challenge to protecting intellectual property - which involves the integrity of the artist's vision - isn't just from means of reproduction (like photography) but from works pretending to be originals. It's estimated that about 20% of the worldwide art market is composed of forgeries. (Tip of the hat to Franklin's blog.)

Sehgal's documentation ban will make it even easier to forge his art a century from now - to "discover" works unknown in our time. Irony indeed.

2/12/2010 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

Not sure I follow... Certainly, a conceptual work can be copied or emulated (just ask Marina Abramovic) but a forgery implies a desire to sell a fake. The thing that would be needed to be forged would be any legal documents that the artists' estate (or any original document by the artist) would provide as authentication. Perhaps that is possible, but not sure how a photo ban contributes, but maybe i am slow (not unheard of :)

2/12/2010 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As document, a photograph is not a copy of an experience, it is an attempt at an copy. My memory of an experience is not a copy either as it is dependent on my interpretation and cannot be commodified. Besides, how can you prove that the red I see is the same as the red you see? I'm not an expert on perception (is anyone really?) but I do know that my memories are not copies.

And that's the crux of this conversation and perhaps of Seghal's work - memory, how things should be memorialized. No, as individuals or as a society we shouldn't force our beliefs on anyone but thoughtfulness towards the beliefs of others, including a belief in the sanctity of memory obtained through direct experience, seems a worthy effort. Expecting individuals with such a belief to leave the public sphere is pretty cold blooded.


2/12/2010 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Markcreegan, I'd be reluctant to invest in an artist who isn't doing everything possible to assure the integrity of his ouevre - including allowing the viewers of his own time to document it. Never underestimate the cleverness of forgers and their turn-a-blind-eye enablers. If there's money to made off Sehgal's work after his death, a convincing way to forge it will be found.

2/12/2010 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous canadada said...

.. yes ... 'E-memory' versus 'living memory'. There are many tendricals - pro & con - to consider.

Might want to contrast Gordon Bell's 'Total Recall' book with his minute-by-minute self-recording endeavour - (


Vicktor Mayer-Schonberger's 'Delete:The Virtue of Forgetting' - (

Either way, it's 'cyborgville', writ large, encroaching ...

2/12/2010 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, You aren't responsible for archiving another artists work. The obvious exceptions are cases where the artist asks for your assistence.

There are exceptions to almost eveything but I think this thread is drifting off into the realm of special cases.

2/12/2010 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, I didn't mean viewers engaging in official documentation. I meant something random and (hopefully) widespread - the public freely snapping photos and posting them to various sites. I would think this would be a boon to those who authenticate artists' works in the future. Nothing "special case" about that.

2/13/2010 09:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...


+++Tom, You aren't responsible for archiving another artists work.

I don't agree. They are people whose role, wrether defined or undefined by society, is archiving.

The undefined archivist is the one who has taken great care in amassing information that is bypassing everyone else. That is how we have collections of early cinema, for example. Films forgotten by their authors, or distributors, people who were only interested in making a quick
buck at the nickelodeon.

No, it is fantastic for culture that people archive what artists or people only interested in
the business aspect of any work, don't archive.

Often, the artists don't know what they want. Sarah Bernhardt, long reluctant about cinema, played more films late in her life because she realized that she wanted to leave a legacy,
and regretted to have dismissed cinema so much. The artist is not responsible for society's will and wanton in archiving culture. He can feel like a victim, but it won't change anything. The past
is too strong in proving that people love and develop values around what has been saved as culture. It's the whole reason for the existence of the Guggenheim exist. And Sehgal wants to say "piss on that"?? WTF??

Cedric Caspishoune

2/13/2010 10:24:00 AM  

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