Report of Assembly of Practice #2: Whose artwork?
In a second Assembly of Practice, we considered ownership at the level of the artwork. How do artists claim ownership over an artwork, when copyright assumptions about individual ownership, exclusivity and originality are questioned and contested in the creation process? In what ways do these ownership claims impact the ecology of a practice?
During a preparatory Reading Room #22: How do we relate to authorship?, we read 'The author stripped bare by its employees' by Lisa Rosendahl, who seeks a solution to the issue in shifting the focus from artwork to practice.
If the focus of the discourse would shift from the production of definable 'works' towards the ongoing and immeasurable acts of 'practice' that precede them, the game might change. ...
We look for leads in heritage management and in Marie-Sophie de Clippele's plea, ‘Protéger le patrimoine culturel : à qui incombe la charge?’ for shared ownership with a special role for collectives. A plea in which use and access are put forward as values, and the importance of transmission is weighed against conservation and protection. The questions seem to crystallise around notions of access and use, extending from ownership of a work of art to ways of organising the creative process. We reflect back on the discussions around access and management of Warmbed in AOP1 and settle into BUDA's Orangerie for the follow-up.
How do artists claim ownership over an artwork, when copyright assumptions about individual ownership, exclusivity and originality are questioned and contested in the creation process?
Twee-eiige Drieling (TWIIID) opens the day and outlines ways in which they organise access to legal reflections. We are introduced to What's in a library?, their library of legal questions, for which they actively search for authors, providing commentaries on existing books and texts: a way to critically engage with standard works and connect them to contemporary practices in an interdisciplinary and collective way.
Such a drive to continue connecting works to creators and their ecology is also the undertone for their ‘foster care’ agreement. This agreement, in collaboration with Kunsthal Gent, is an experiment in redefining ownership of an artwork. Working with a legal tool from family law, TWIIID makes an attempt in shifting the focus from the individual (artist) to the collective (artists, institutions, and other actors in an ecology) and emphasises care for the artwork's survival rather than conservation and exploitation.
These initiatives set the tone for discussion of ownership as a possibility of organising access to practices and shared care, rather than exclusion and extraction. In our conversations, the question remains how access can be rhymed with care (see also the discussions we had about Warmbed, wood gathering, and mapping the commons during AOP1) and concerns arise about the potential of the (paternalistic) notion of 'guardianship'.
The temperature in the Orangerie is rising. Luckily, we have Clémentine Vaultier with us. Her long-term research into heat A Research on Rising Warmth with a Few Detours continues now in the creation of an Atlas of Ovens, an investigation into how ovens and other sources of heat or cold not only transform matter but also affect our relationships with each other and the environment. Clémentine invites us to leave the human oven for a while and continue our conversation in the garden.
We are introduced to her workbook A Research on Rising Warmth with a Few Detours. A dynamic methodology, which visually documents the research process and which the artist uses to engage in dialogue about her practice. (In our discussion, comparisons are made with Jacqueline De Jong's The Situationist Times (1962-1967).) A methodology that also recurs in her educational trajectory Cuire Ensemble Ici? at Jolimont Castle in Brussels with her students from the La Cambre art school. A motley collection of sources of inspiration, quotes, photos and notes take us through the making process.
Today, the continued urge to collect, research, classify and document translates into the Atlas of ovens' project, pieces of which are spread out on the floor of the Orangerie. An invitation to think along, add to and engage in conversation.
This way of sharing her practice is reminiscent of open source practices. Not coincidentally something Clémentine also refers to in her work Piscine Plaisirs and her subsequent research on blue glaze, the chemical composition of which she makes publicly available.
In our conversation, questions arise about the status of the Rising Warmth workbook and the Atlas as works of art. The artist herself regards them rather as a key to further collaborations, which translate into on-site work (Jolimont), bus & bike tours (Atlas of Ovens), experiments (waffles baked on Warmbed in AOP1 in collaboration with Marion Aeby)..., in which the artist assumes a role of catalyst in social processes (heritage management, relations between a site and a community).
How the, often voluntary, contributions of people in the field to this practice (read: those who operate kilns, manage a museum collection, have a conversation in response to a reading of the workbook) lead to any return or recompense is not always clear. Yet it is always based on a dialogue, a shared interest or concern in an atmosphere that is independent of the 'quid pro quo' logic. In this way, Clémentine remains consistent in her open-source idea, believing in abundance rather than scarcity, and sharing instead of exploiting.
In what ways do these ownership claims impact the ecology of a practice?
How can an artist take on the role of catalyst while respecting one’s own and surrounding ecologies? There is no clear answer but this role often translates into collaboration. In the course of 2022, Maximiliaan Royakkers and Ciel Grommen became part of the Atlas of Ovens practice. And while we talk about this, Marion Aeby lights the fire for baking brioches in an oven borrowed from the Bakery Museum in Veurne.
Such collaborations constantly seek a balance between give and take. Long-term, human relationships are paramount but cannot always be understood within established frameworks. It seems we are moving towards what Lisa Rosendahl described as 'changing the game', a change in what we think of as art, not the final product but the process, the work in progress.
While copyright in this kind of practice seems like an afterthought, something to be dealt with at the moment of questions due to concerned institutions, Sarah Mekdjian & Marie Moreau (Bureau des dépositions) bring us back to law’s potential as a creative tool in 'Bureau des depositions’, something that they consider an 'oeuvre processuel'.
Marie and Sarah initiated 'Bureau des dépositions' in Grenoble in 2018. It is a milieu of creation and study, where ten co-authors create performances, immaterial works, activated in public. By actively articulating their practice as 'oeuvre environment' rather than 'oeuvre object', they work on a new interpretation of property.
By actively weaving the contradictions between immigration law and copyright into the work, they question, politicise and reactivate the authorial function, not as an economic right, but as a right to human ecologies.
Bureau des dépositions' practice is interdisciplinary and collective on several levels. Marie is an artist and filmmaker, Sarah a social geographer and professor at the University of Grenoble. The other eight co-authors have the formal status of asylum seekers. With 10, they come together and create, tell stories, share concerns, among themselves and with the audience in their performances.
The status of co-authors allows them to formally invoke fundamental rights to creation at the time of deportation. Indeed, without the presence of the 10, the ‘oeuvre processuel’ cannot be shown. Thus, the collective reformulates copyright as a right to human ecology, a right to maintain accumulated relationships and networks, regardless of national borders.
Marie and Sarah expressed their weariness, result of relentless decisions to prioritize eviction policies over the fundamental right to creation, a lack of understanding, and precarity, experienced in their trajectory.
Discussions centre on the question of strategies to create a collectivity, an environment of creation. We return to the trajectories addressed in AOP1, and the concerns about loca l ecologies that were also addressed there. Perhaps the pressing climate issues can help raise awareness about ecologies and revive the importance of fundamental rights?
Agency’s quest for a cooperative mode of management, in which producers, public and creators become shareholders with the objective of sustaining practices, also captured the imagination. With renewed inspiration on how to appeal to and emancipate an audience in its role as part of the issues, we round off the morning.
During lunch, a group of mothers join us. They are here at the invitation of Katya Ev. As part of her work Lactating bodies, the artist is working on a new participatory performance, which focuses on questions of invisible work, ownership and transparency.
Ev takes us through her research into the representation of lactating in art and public space and invites us to join the mothers in a conversation around breastfeeding, mother’s milk, ownership and the ecology of the arts.
Two groups spread out across BUDA’s courtyard garden for an intimate conversation about what it means to use breast milk in an artistic creation. All the clichés about mothers in the arts pass by, and here and there ideas arise about creative forms of co-ownership.
Remarkably, although the mothers present fully appreciate Ev’s gesture to involve them in the creation process from the start, no claims or explicit preferences regarding formal co-ownership are expressed.
The brioches begin to cook and guests arrive for the public moment ACCESS.
They visit the Orangerie and curiously discover the work in progress: draft assemblies for the Atlas of Ovens, a breast pump and a book rack by TWIIID with books contributed by the participants, which served them as inspirations in their preparation for this AOP.
Afterwards, we move together to BUDA’s cinema, where we watch Porosité by Clémentine Vaultier and Ne rien faire contre remuneration about Visitors of an Exhibition Space are Suggested to 'Do Nothing' by Katya Ev. The films give an insight into how these artists completed previous work and used audiovisual forms to create access to their practice.
Upon returning to the garden, the brioches are ready and a number of males are venturing out for a breast pump.
‘Oeuvre environments’ will haunt us for a while.