Louis Vuitton sues one copyright infringer, hires another

Anaba writes that Louis Vuitton -- the luxury bag-maker that's suing a designer for copyright infringement for using a likeness of one of its totes in a Darfur benefit piece -- has also collaborated with artist Richard Prince on a bag. Much of Prince's work is overtly about the appropriation of corporate imagery (most famously, Marlboro ads). The Walker Art Center, where Prince now has a show, says the artist has built a career on "recycling, reflecting, and reframing photographs, cartoons, advertisements, and other images already existing in the public sphere." Sounds awfully familiar...

Anaba also links to a New York Times piece on photographer Jim Krantz, who shot many of the Marlboro ads Prince rephotographed. Prince wouldn't comment on Krantz's increasing annoyance at Prince's uncredited use of his work. In an email to the Times' author, he wrote, "I never associated advertisements with having an author." I suspect Vuitton would have a very different view of the "authorship" of its handbags.

Beautiful Losers @ the Walker

Beautiful Losers, the book on DIY punk, surf and art is now a documentary film, and on Friday it's screening at the Walker Art Center here in Minneapolis. It features interviews with Ed Templeton, Barry McGee, Mike Mills, Jo Jackson, Chris Johanson, Stephen Powers and Harmony Korine, plus as Walker designer Vance says, an amazing amount of footage from the late Margaret Kilgallen.

Two screenings: Friday, May 2 at 7 and 9:30 pm

Also: In conjunction with the film, check out a free art talk by Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson at the Walker this Thursday, May 1, and an installation by the husband-and-wife art duo at Art of This gallery, which opens Saturday.

Here's the trailer:

RIFT rises: Twin Cities culture sites to launch newspaper

Print news is in such famously bad shape that Advertising Age is running "The Newspaper Death Watch," which quotes an expert who gives an industry in "terminal decline" 20 to 25 years to live. In this context, it's noteworthy when any publication decides to launch a pulp version: This week the Twin Cities culture magazine Rift, which ditched its print version not long ago for a web-only enterprise, announced that it'll start producing a "newspaper style guide" to goings-on in the area. It'll launch May 17 with a print run of 10,000 copies, which will be available at coffeeshops and stores.

While this is a different kind of animal than resource-intensive daily print news, publisher Rich Horton will still face some challenges: distro, paper costs, marketing, paying writers. Rift is fundraising now for the endeavor, and it's banking, in part at least, on the attention and resources its partners will bring to the table. That list so far includes Culturebully.com, the Walker Art Center/McKnight Foundation's mnartists.org, Howwastheshow.com, Minneapoliscast.com and Perfect Porridge.

In an email this morning, Horton says they're going back to print "because of the responses and impact. Really it will be a move to help promote the website -- which is backwards but exactly the way I like it."

He feels a real need for an independent newspaper in town: "City Pages, Vita.mn and The Onion, great if you want tons of advertisements, fake funny news stories and where to find the best Cocktail in the cities."

Vuitton bullies artist over Darfur image

Nadia Plesner sued for this image
Taylor reports that designer Nadia Plesner is getting sued by Louis Vuitton for showing the likeness of a Vuitton bag in a campaign to encourage divestment from Darfur. As a Vuitton lawyer claims in a February cease-and-desist letter, the bag pictured is the Monogram Multicolore, created by Vuitton art director Marc Jacobs and artist Takashi Murakami. "As an artist yourself, we hope that you recognize the need to respect other artists' rights and Louis Vuitton's Intellectual Property rights," the attorney wrote. Plesner, probably aware that artist's like Murakami have the right to appropriate and satirize the work of others, lawyered up and refused. Now, according to TechDirt, Vuitton is "demanding $7,500 for each day she keeps selling the product, $7,500 for each day she displays its original cease-and-desist letter and (my favorite) $7,500 for each day she mentions the name 'Louis Vuitton' on her website."

"Sometimes recognizable objects are needed to express deeper meanings, and in their new form become more than the objects themselves -- they become art," Plesner wrote in her response to Vuitton's initial letter. Indeed, as Sudanese troops and affiliated militias mow down civilians in Darfur -- as many as 300,000 have died there, according to a new estimate -- the culture of consumption in the west, represented aptly by this particular bag (which retails for $1,580 on the company's website), stands in stark contrast.

Plesner, hopefully boosted in her efforts by the suit, says she'll continue with her "Simple Living" series, which both raises awareness of the genocide in Darfur and generates funds -- 30 percent of sales -- to its victims.

Update: Vuitton has collaborated with artist Richard Prince, whose celebrated work includes Marlboro ads he re-photographs, without crediting the original photographer.

Update 03.13.11: Louis Vuitton sues artist Nadia Plesner -- again -- for using handbag image in Darfur art

Update 05.04.11: EU court rules against Louis Vuitton in Nadia Plesner copyright case


Ku Klux Klad

Mother Jones' runs "Aryan Outfitters," an audio-video slideshow by photojournalist Anthony Karen, on Ms. Ruth, tailor to the Klan.

Heliotrope V: May 15–17, Minneapolis

For its fifth year, the annual Heliotrope festival of underground music returns to the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, but breaks with tradition by bringing a non-Minnesota headliner. Concluding the three-day festival, May 15–17, is Japanese modern psych giants Suishou No Fune. The 24-band roster includes some of my favorites: Skoal Kodiak, White Map, Build My Gallows High, The Pins, Thunderbolt Pagoda, and many others. Here's the full schedule and a few shots from last year:Dallas Orbiter @ Heliotrope 4, 2007
The Pins @ Heliotrope 4, 2007




Homeland Security: Keeping America Safe... from Australians

"I can bet if I were a wealthy Australian with $40,000 in the bank to inject into the economy and my own house, this never would've have happened." So says Daniel, an Australian citizen who came to the U.S. for the first time early this month, and found himself in a detention center in Michigan, suspected as a terrorist. He'd saved up for the trip, did plenty of research, and finally made the journey. But when he arrived, he was pulled aside by Homeland Security officers and interrogated for four hours about miniscule details of his life -- emails long ago when he considered legal ways to work in the U.S., an FBI hat in his bag, and, most importantly, a friend's joke on MySpace about how he shouldn't pack a boxcutter. Ultimately he was handcuffed, questioned, endured invasive bodily searches, was sent to Dearborn and then home; he's now banned from travel to the U.S. Here's his story, in two parts. I haven't verified it, but his presentation seems straightforward, earnest and credible.

Thanks for the tip, Wirro Wort.

Surveillance lamp

Excellent. By Per Emanuelsson and Bastian Bishchoff.

Artist: Eugenio Merino

Western fascinations -- from ubiquitous Bart Simpson to the more insider cult of the art festival -- butt up against more pressing concerns elsewhere in the world in Eugenio Merino's work. See more, like his bin Laden/"Stayin' alive" sculpture, at Rebel Art.

Telephonic sheep

Artist unknown, via Cualquiera.com.


Contemporary art piñatas

Warhol and Jeff Koons art piñatas by Franco Mondini-Ruiz. Nice idea (if you want to smash priceless art but can't afford it), but I'd love to see the Matthew Barney version: a beehive that oozes Vaseline when you hit it, perhaps?

Take Ben Stein's Money: Yoko sues "Expelled" filmmakers

John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and his sons are suing the filmmakers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" for using the song "Imagine" in the documentary without permission...

The documentary, which features Ben Stein, an actor, comedian and former speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, looks at alleged discrimination against scientists and teachers who support so-called intelligent design as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution.


Critical Art Ensemble's Steve Kurtz cleared of federal charges

Wow, this is huge. After four years, remaining charges against artist Steve Kurtz have been dismissed:

For the first time in four years, since his wife died of heart failure in their Allentown home, setting off a government investigation into whether he was a terrorist because of the bacteria he kept for his artwork, Steven J. Kurtz is finally free of federal charges.

Kurtz, 49, the University at Buffalo art professor and co-founder of the Critical Art Ensemble, saw a federal judge dismiss the government charges Monday as “insufficient on its face.”

U. S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara said the government could not support the charges of wire fraud and mail fraud for the way Kurtz obtained bacteria from a fellow academic at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Robert E. Ferrell.

The dismissed indictment came as no surprise to Kurtz’s lawyer, Paul J. Cambria, who has described the government’s prosecution as “an unbelievable overreaction.”

“Kurtz and Ferrell never dreamed that anybody would claim they were violating some law by basically acquiring Level One — which is harmless — bacteria and trying to create an art project,” Cambria said after learning of the dismissal. “They never thought in their wildest dreams that someone would think that was a crime.”

[Story continues]

Justice prevails, it seems, except this guy's life has been turned upside down by what many see as the government's punitive behavior against artists and people outside the mainstream.

Mediation is CP's best

While I'm dismayed that a building beat out my wife for "best use of neon lighting" in City Pages, I'm psyched that Taylor Carik's Mediation got the "best local blog" nod in the new City Pages Best of the Twin Cities issue.

Hard Knox: Ashcroft probed on waterboarding

I hope this woman -- calm, polite, asking the kind of incisive questions often missing in our political discourse -- is studying journalism at Knox College. Check out her question to the ornery former Attorney General on waterboarding (which Ashcroft says is is not prohibited by the Geneva Conventions because it leaves no "lasting scars"):
ME: First off, Mr. Ashcroft, I'd like to apologize for the rudeness of some of my fellow students. It was uncalled for--we can disagree civilly, we don't need that. (round of applause from the audience, and Ashcroft smiles) I have here in my hand two documents. One of them, you know, is the text of the United Nations Convention against Torture, which, point of interest, says nothing about "lasting physical damage"...

ASHCROFT: (interrupting) Do you have the Senate reservations to it?

ME: No, I don't. Do you happen to know what they are?

ASHCROFT: (angrily) I don't have them memorized, no. I don't have time to go around memorizing random legal facts. I just don't want these people in the audience to go away saying, "He was wrong, she had the proof right in her hand!" Because that's not true. It's a lie. If you don't have the reservations, you don't have anything. Now, if you want to bring them another time, we can talk, but...
ME: Actually, Mr. Ashcroft, my question was about this other document. (laughter and applause) This other document is a section from the judgment of the Tokyo War Tribunal. After WWII, the Tokyo Tribunal was basically the Nuremberg Trials for Japan. Many Japanese leaders were put on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture. And among the tortures listed was the "water treatment," which we nowadays call waterboarding...

ASHCROFT: (interrupting) This is a speech, not a question. I don't mind, but it's not a question.

ME: It will be, sir, just give me a moment. The judgment describes this water treatment, and I quote, "the victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach." One man, Yukio Asano, was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor by the allies for waterboarding American troops to obtain information. Since Yukio Asano was trying to get information to help defend his country--exactly what you, Mr. Ashcroft, say is acceptible for Americans to do--do you believe that his sentence was unjust? (boisterous applause and shouts of "Good question!")

ASHCROFT: (angrily) Now, listen here. You're comparing apples and oranges, apples and oranges. We don't do anything like what you described.

ME: I'm sorry, I was under the impression that we still use the method of putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water down their throat...

ASHCROFT: (interrupting, red-faced, shouting) Pouring! Pouring! Did you hear what she said? "Putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water on them." That's not what you said before! Read that again, what you said before!

ME: Sir, other reports of the time say...

ASHCROFT: (shouting) Read what you said before! (cries of "Answer her fucking question!" from the audience) Read it!

ME: (firmly) Mr. Ashcroft, please answer the question.

ASHCROFT: (shouting) Read it back!

ME: "The victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach."

ASHCROFT: (shouting) You hear that? You hear it? "Forced!" If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...does this college have an anatomy class? If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...

ME: (firmly and loudly) Mr. Ashcroft, do you believe that Yukio Asano's sentence was unjust? Answer the question. (pause)

ASHCROFT: (more restrained) It's not a fair question; there's no comparison. Next question! (loud chorus of boos from the audience)

Logo: In the eye of the, ahem, be-holder

It's hard to see anything offensive about this straight-up new logotype for the British Office of Government Commerce. But when presented to the agency's employees, a few of them, upon viewing it with a 90-degree head-tilt laughed at its obscenity. Huh? When I look, I guess I can see someone flipping the bird, but a few pervs in the crowd saw a man holding his, er, willy.

Writes The Register:
“It is true that it caused a few titters among some staff when viewed on its side, but on consideration we concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters ‘OGC’ and is not inappropriate to an organization that’s looking to have a firm grip on government spend.”


Creature Comforts asks: What is art?

Claymation musings on the theme by Aardman's Creature Comforts (creator of Wallace & Grommit).


John McCain is 100% disabled

According to his tax returns, McCain "receives a tax-free, 100-percent disability pension (nearly $60,000 last year) from the US Navy." While he gets it for injuries from his noble service in Vietnam, it does raise question about his fitness -- physically -- for the presidency.

All the news that's fit to print (on a t-shirt)?

CNN has launched a new feature that allows online readers to get t-shirts made from headlines. Just click on the icon beside certain headlines to order. But I noted yesterday that not all heads could be printed off and sold. Was it a matter of taste? Apparently not. While, appropriately, one couldn't make a t-shirt from yesterday's sad headline about the Coast Guard finding the bodies of 20 Haitians floating near the Bahamas, one could make one bearing news of a local tragedy, the Belle Plaines man who accidentally shot and killed his son while hunting. (Shirts can only be purchased as long as headlines are in the front page "latest news" section; these two stories are not any longer.) A more likely reason is that perhaps only CNN's proprietary stories, as opposed to wire pieces, can be made into tees.

The function did, briefly, provide some fun, however. Up until this afternoon, you could hack the system to create your own tees, something WCCO's Jason DeRusha did (his version states that he's "the best reporter ever"). Alas, the shirts couldn't be purchased that way, and it appears that CNN has implemented efforts to prevent such shenanigans.

And while we're on the topic of t-shirts and media, don't miss AngryJournalist.com's t-shirts, which suggest the nearing demise of print news with the old copyeditor's code for "end": --30--.


U.S. stamps to honor Iraq's fallen?

Elizabeth Thomas, the UC-Berkeley curator who sent me a link about artist Steve McQueen's project to honor UK on stamps military personnel killed in Iraq, followed up with an idea: The US Post Office has an online system anyone can use to upload an image and have it custom-printed on actual stamps. "Less distribution (and therefore less emotional power) but it would be possible," she writes. Anyone want to give it a try?

Olympic protest graffiti in Bangkok

Wooster Collective has more.

And then came the parodies...


New Video: Barry McGee

VBS.tv offers a great, if slightly bizarre, two-parter with interview-shy Barry McGee. Here's part one:

Look for part 2 on Tuesday.

Two from the TC: Broken Crow and Mike Davis

Witt and the Walker's teen art council are doing some great videos. Two new ones: local graffiti-influenced artists Mike Davis and Broken Crow:

John Grider aka Broken Crow

Mike Davis of Burlesque of North America


Shepard Fairey designs Orwell covers

Penguin Books' blog reveals new covers for reissues of George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, designed by Shepard Fairey. [via]


The China conundrum

Good point, but I think the answer isn't to ridicule pro-Tibet activists but to minimize the ways we personally fund regimes who don't share our values.


War permeates the everyday: Artist Steve McQueen's soldier stamps

Imagine if a letter from, say, your mom, arrived and there on the stamp, where the profile of a president or the image of a flag should appear, you see a stamp showing the face of a soldier -- like St. Paul's Jacob J. Fairbanks, a 22-year-old Army specialist, husband and father -- who died fighting in Iraq. Then, when you go to pay a utility bill, you send it out affixed with a stamp showing another soldier killed in the war.

Artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen imagines such "intimate and public" interactions in his new project, Queen and Country, which creates Royal Mail postage stamps bearing the faces of British military fatalities. The UK's official "war artist," McQueen came up with the idea after a 2003 trip to Iraq:
An official set of Royal Mail stamps struck me as an intimate but distinguished way of highlighting the sacrifice of individuals in defence of our national ideals. The stamps would focus on individual experience without euphemism. It would form an intimate reflection of national loss that would involve the families of the dead and permeate the everyday – every household and every office.
McQueen is working with 137 military families, who have each selected a photo of their deceased family member to appear on a stamp, and he says the project won't be complete until all families have been offered the oppportunity, until the UK is no longer involved in the conflict, and until the Royal Mail makes the stamps official.

Presented in sheets within a cabinet, the stamps are on view at the Imperial War Museum in London. Roger Bacon, whose 34-year-old son, Maj. James Bacon, was killed in Iraq in 2005, describes his experience with the project.
You see the cabinet and you see the closed panels and you know your son is there with well over a hundred others. Your heart beats and your body tightens and then you pull the panel and there he is: the multiple images of his smiling face, the absolute assuredness in that face that everything is as it should be. Then the full force of loss hits home.

We see and remember Matthew every day and the possibility that all those images could become postage stamps and be seen everywhere on envelopes; that other people as they go about their daily lives could see our wonderful son and all those other wonderful sons and daughters on the stamps and realise that the ultimate sacrifice had been made in the name of their country; that through the stamps they would become a permanent collective memory – all of that for us would provide a fitting memorial to our hero and all the other heroes.
The artists says the work isn't pro- or anti-war. It "helps us reflect upon the many complex feelings we have about war... In the end, it's an art work – a tribute to the deceased and a reflection on the validity of war, the structure of power and notions of national identity."

McQueen and more than 11,000 supporters are petitioning the Royal Mail to create official stamps from the project.

Update: Jacob Fairbanks, according to local press reports, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound; he was six months into his second tour of duty in Iraq.

(Thanks, Elizabeth.)

"Support" Hillary?

Apparently, someone thinks Hillary's a bit of a boob.


The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has named its 2008 Muzzle award winners. Among those recognized were the Texas Democratic Party (for leaving Dennis Kucinich off the primary ballot because he refused to sign a pledge that he would “fully support” the eventual Democratic nominee), the FCC (for its "inconsistent regulation of 'indecency' on the nation’s airwaves," which, in one example, prompted 150 stations to not air "Saving Private Ryan" for fear of getting slapped with fines), and the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, which sent out but later recalled (without explaining why) the license plate above.


"Sacred Flame Protection Unit"

That's what China calls the track-suit-clad bodyguards for the Olympic torch. Sebastian Coe, chairman of the Olympic organizing committee, calls them "thugs" after he was pushed around by them in London. While many have sounded the alarm for their aggressive (and apparently unsactioned, at times) actions, the details on these guards are fuzzy: China says they're trained student volunteers, but won't say what school they attend; Parisian officials said they didn't know who they were; and event organizers said they didn't identify themselves on one route. One torchbearer called them "aggressive and robotic." China says they were selected to protect the torch because of their large stature and training.

Images via Cryptome.


GeoGreeting up for a Webby

A University of Minnesota grad student is up for a Webby Award for Best NetArt site for a project that creates typography from letter-shaped buildings found on Google Maps. Jesse Vig, who's studying computer science, says his site GeoGreeting.com now has around 1.2 million users, some of whom find and alert him to satellite images that look like letter forms. Vig's site was also nominated last year, but this year it was designated an "honoree," a distinction conferred on only 15 percent of the nearly 10,000 annual entries. Voting for a people's choice award is open through May 1; winners will be announced May 6.


Call her "Scoop"

My run-in with the Star Tribune's gossip columnist, who says she's publishing our recent personal email exchange tomorrow.

Good times....

Found on Flickr: Indian Street Graphics

A nice collection of handpainted signs and street art from India, via Coudal.


Free Tibet banner on the Golden Gate Bridge

Tibet: This is just the beginning

With huge protests in Paris, London and San Francisco, what's going to happen when the Olympic torch passes through Tibet? More info at Students for a Free Tibet. Shots via Cryptome.


An absurdist match made in heaven: LOLcats meets contemporary art. (Thanks, Cameron!)

Majority of Americans say IOC was wrong to give China the '08 Games

As thousands of pro-Tibet protesters cut short the Olympic torch relay Monday in Paris, a new Zogby Interactive poll finds 70% of likely voters believe the International Olympic Committee was wrong to award this year’s summer Olympic Games to China because of its poor record on human rights. Dissatisfaction with the IOC’s choice is strong across the political spectrum, with 70% of Democrats and Republicans, and 68% of political independents who said they disagree with the decision to have China host the summer games. A Zogby Interactive poll conducted in May 2007 found 44% had a favorable opinion of the IOC’s decision to award the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to China, while 39% viewed the decision unfavorably.

KNOW HOPE hits the West Bank barrier

Guerrilla installation by KNOW HOPE on the Bethlehem partition wall. Via Tel Aviv Graffiti & Street Art.


Emergence of Infinity: Namashita + Kobayashi

Berlin-based artists Mai Namashita and Naoto Kobayashi play with the notion of "desire paths," walking trails that are created through use rather than by design, in a project now on view at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. In Infinity, the pair spent five days running the pattern of an infinity loop. They took one digital photo every second and sped it up in playback as a Quicktime movie.

For more on desire paths see the dedicated Flickr pool (via BLYGAD2.0).

Quote: Frank Rich on Iraq

The difference between the Democrats and Mr. McCain going forward is clear enough: They want to find a way out of the morass, however provisional and imperfect, and he equates staying the disastrous course with patriotism. Mr. McCain’s doomed promise of military “victory” in Iraq is akin to Wile E. Coyote’s perpetual pursuit of the Road Runner, with much higher carnage. This isn’t patriotism. As the old saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again and hoping you’ll get a different result is the definition of insanity.


Enviro Stencil: "But it was good for the economy..."

There's got to be a better (i.e. less didactic) way to convey it -- say, spraying "But it was good for the economy" on smokestacks? -- but I like the message. Via Flickr user cam βizzy.


Stencil: Plant one here

One of the many excellent projects of the public artist/designer Candy Chang, in solidarity with the Great Chinatown Tree-Planting Movement in NYC.