Rest in peace God… but why?

Across the street from the cathedral in Göteborg someone has sprayed the words “Vila i frid Gud” which translates to “Rest in Peace God”. At first I just ignored it. Then I decided to photograph it, but still I didn’t think it was worth much. But the words stuck in my mind. Maybe even more so as an unbeliever.

from my flickr site

The natural connection for me was to link the sentiments that God should rest in peace was that God was dead. This idea has it’s origins in Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science”

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Nietzsche used his idea of God’s death to present the important idea that theology was no longer able to provide a source of morality for modern society.

But still the grafitti on the wall did not ring true. It took some time before I got what was wrong. If god was dead and unable to provide us with a moral solace what was the point of wishing that he was to rest in peace? The real reason we tend to wish RIP is to act as a comfort to those who are alive, not to the deceased.

But those who do not believe do not need comfort – so what if god is dead? Those who do believe don’t need comfort – they don’t believe the sign! So why bother writing the words on the wall? Just plain vandalism, irony or a fact that the writer does not “get” his Nietzche?

Or maybe I should just stop reading the writing on the wall?

Copyright in Strange Arts

There is a wonderful argument between photographers being conducted over at Shutterstock. The argument is over whether or not photographers need release permission from graffiti artists to make sure they have the right to reproduce their copyrighted material.

The basic argument is well represented by comments such as:

I don’t think that graffiti need an “artist” (LOL) agreement for a reproduction. By definition it’s a public domain like piece of used gum on a sidewalk 🙂

I didn’t need a release for the grafitti photo’s I uploaded here. And I agree about it’s illegal to paint the walls, so the artists have no rights on their art.

A lone brave photographer Hilary Quinn is facing a barrage of angry photographers and trying to teach them the ins and outs of copyright law. But I couldn’t resist joining in. Unfortunately I needed to log into Shutterstock to be allowed to participate so I decided to fill in my arguments here since the log in procedure took too long.

Some of the arguments may have appeared here earlier in other versions.

First let me just get the artist debate out of the way. Some people feel annoyed by the term graffiti “artist”. I am not bothered. The way in which you choose to express yourself artistically is your own problem. There are artists who dabble in oils who do not deserve the term. It is not an honor to be termed artist – it is a designation of intent. By the way not too long ago it was considered unimaginable to call a photographer an artist.

1. Illegal activity and copyright

It does not matter whether or not you break into a building to paint a work of art. It does not matter if you steal the oils or other materials to create a work of art. It does not matter if you steal a camera to take a photograph. In each case copyright resides with the creator. Naturally in all cases the person may be prosecuted for his/her actions. But even if he/she is found guilty he/she still retains copyright in the work.

2. Who owns the work?

I would risk theory that the owner of property (wall) should have the copyright 🙂

The owner of the wall owns the original work. He/she has the right to destroy or sell it. A recent wall painted on by grafitti artist Banksy was sold on ebay for over 200 000 GBP. But the owner of the wall does not have the right to make reproductions of the work without permission from the artist.

3. Tattoos

I have written earlier about tattoos and copyright and highly recommend Hatcher’s article (2007). But the short version is that their is copyright in tattoos. The question is who the owner is? The artist? the person sporting the tattoo? the tattoo parlour? or the original artist if the tattoo is a copy of someone elses work? In addition to this there is an interesting question as to whether a collection of tattoos on the body can be seen as a work of art – like a collage.

What a great Friday afternoon argument!

Banksy unmasked

It was only a matter of time before his growing fame led to his unmasking. The Mail on Sunday reveals the evidence they present to his identity. But… Banksy’s publicist would neither confirm nor deny whether the artist was Robin Gunningham.

The future of street art

A Banksy murial on Portobello road was sold on ebay for £208,100 (approx. $400,000) the price did not include removal costs. The wall belonged to Luti Fagbenle who felt that he could not “really justify owning a piece of art worth as much as it is.”

The Banksy mural on Portobello road

(Photo by Cactusbones) (CC by-nc-sa)

Street art has been growing for a long time and Banksy must be seen as one of the most widely known artists in the genre. But he is not alone. As Art Threat reports the world’s first Urban Art auction at Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers will be held on February 5th.

What does this mean for the future of Street Art? Art Threat has written an interesting comment on street arts ephemeral nature as an important feature and Banksy has added a comment on the his webpage:

“Aren’t street art auctions a bit lame?
I don’t agree with auction houses selling street art – its undemocratic, it glorifies greed and I never see any of the money.”

So the artists don’t get paid and the artwork is ripped, literally sometimes, out of their context – how will this effect the art? Previously the most exploitative use of graffiti has been street art photo books. These products raise exciting questions about copyright and graffiti (blogged about this issue earlier here and here) but selling the works raises other exciting questions.

The person buying the work will most probably remove it to display it elsewhere. This de-contextualizes of the art but it also adds a disincentive to the artist. Now it is not enough to know that your work will be painted over but it may also be removed and sold to enrich someone else. Your work may become a commodity to be regularly bought and sold without the artists control or permission. Should the artists be concerned?

(Story on BBC & Observer)