After Plesner, Vuitton sues Warner Bros.

Luxury bagmaker Louis Vuitton is at it again. After unsuccessfully suing Danish artist Nadia Plesner for copyright infringement for depicting an Audra bag in her large-scale painting Darfurnica, the  company is suing Warner Brothers for trademark infringement for a joke in the movie The Hangover II about a knock-off Vuitton bag. The Wall Street Journal describes the scene:
...the drug-addled doofus played by Zach Galifianakis fancies himself fancy because he is carrying what appears to be one of the company's bags. "Careful," he cautions in the movie, "that is a Louis Vuitton." The line is said to have become something of a pop-culture catchphrase, which has Louis Vuitton bent out of shape—specially since, according to its court filing claiming trademark infringement, the bag in question is a fake. The company wants the knock-off and the catchphrase excised from all copies of the film, and some compensation culled from the movie's profits for good measure.
TMZ has a clip of the offending 6-second scene.

Vuitton, which posted profits of $28.26 billion in 2010, doesn't have much of a chance in court, WSJ's Eric Felten writes, citing a dismissed suit by Wham-O over a scene in the film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star that showed a dangerously misused Slip'n'Slide. He continues:
If "Careful, that is a Louis Vuitton" has really become a catchphrase, the filmmakers ought to trademark it. Then they can sue Louis Vuitton for using that trademark in its litigation against the "Hangover" crowd.
The film has every right, as I see it, to satirize the company's products, even if the gag is used in a movie with an aim of making a profit. That wasn't the case with Plesner: Her painting, a riff on Picasso's Guernica, was created for (nonprofit) artistic and activist reasons. The cause: Raising awareness of the plight of people, especially children, dying in Darfur -- and the apparent indifference of many, including ultra-wealth celebrities, to their suffering. Louis Vuitton sought to collect 5,000 euros for each day the painting stayed on Plesner's website.


Bits: 12.27.11

Stress (Monumental), Yoan Capote

• Via @dansinker, a 1995 news report on how the CIA "used American modern art--including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko--as a weapon in the Cold War."
• Regine Debatty reviews Art & Activism in the Age of Globalization: Reflect No. 9 (NAi Publishers).

"Street journalism": Three USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellows, including design writer Alissa Walker, are exploring “a new context for covering arts and culture”—hyperlocal, personal, and accessed by bike, foot or public transit.

• Photographer Larissa Sansour on being removed from the Lacoste Prize shortlist, allegedly for work the luxury goods company deemed too “pro-Palestinian”: “This kind of situation is exactly what I fear. Money ranking over artistic freedom.” Lacoste ended up yanking sponsorship, effectively cancelling the 25,000 euro prize, which was administered by the Elysee Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

• Ever since reading about the arts boom in rural Minnesota, I can't stop looking at the evocative relief works of LeSueur, Minnesota-based artist Gregory Euclide. (You might recognize his work from the cover of the new Bon Iver album.)

• Speaking of art being made outside major metropolitan areas, here's a piece on how Eau Claire, Wisconsin, tops all global cities for the number of pop-music hits per capita (according to Pitchfork's top 100 tracks of 2011): Thanks to Bon Iver's base there, the city has 1.2 hits per 100,000 people. Copenhagen, at number two, is at .517 per 100,000.

• From MOMA, an interactive guide to prints: woodcut, etching, lithography and screenprinting.

• Rest in peace, Helen Frankenthaler.

The Tent Centipede: A  modular tent system by Japan's Logos design.


See Something, Say Something: Abu Ghraib edition

Subway Art Blog:
I caught this piece at Fountain Miami referencing the MTA’s infamous fear campaign.
With Bradley Manning's pre-trial hearing continuing for a seventh day, it's a good time to revisit such campaigns. The government wants us to alert them to suspicious goings-on, unless, of course, it's within their ranks.

Trailer: "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry TEASER from Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry on Vimeo.


Ghost Birds: "Oil on Canvas" prints made using birds killed in NZ oil spill

Osocio points out the New Zealand Oil on Canvas exhibition/campaign:
The oil prints featured in this exhibition were made with birds killed by the Rena oil spill. They are just two of an estimated 20,000 birds killed after the shipwrecked Rena spilled 350 tonnes of oil into the Bay of Plenty. These works were created in a collaboration between Greenpeace and Publicis Mojo. 

Bits: 12.19.11

"No Man's Land" (2004) from Zander Olsen's Tree, Line

• "Pick your targets well," writes Jonathan Jones in The Guardian of activists' efforts to get the Tate to drop BP's sponsorship. "Museums are beacons of culture. They are not the running dogs of capitalism – and if they can get BP to hand over its filthy lucre for the cause of art, well, it is going to good use."

• BP, meanwhile, has committed £10M (around $15.5 million) to four British arts organizations, the Tate, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Royal Opera House.

• Good luck finding political art at Art Basel, writes Art Threat, although it's there if you know where to look.

• Nice: Murals made by pressure washing a moss wall with water.

• Urban intervention du jour: Four Czech artists turn a billboard into a merry-go-round swing.

• The art world is bloated and gross, the art overpriced and shallow, yet it's not entirely devoid of substance, Roberta Smith contends.

• From the work files, here's me discussing the new Walker website with METRO magazine.

• Occupy: A gallery of poster art, and n+1's Occupy Gazette, featuring writings by filmmaker Astra Taylor and others.

Video: Inflatable Kim Jong-Il

The death of Kim Jong-il immediately brought to mind this piece installed at the Franconia Sculpture Park north of Minneapolis: Korean-born, New York-based artist Chang-Jin Lee's Dear Leader, an inflatable "Supreme Leader" accompanied by North Korean propaganda songs extolling Kim's god-like virtues. The artist writes:

Many in Western society see Kim Jung Il as an inexplicable anomaly, but from the traditional and isolated point of view of rural North Koreans the values of Confucianism directly support a kind of caste system and rigid traditional hierarchy with the King as demigod figure at the top - the father and the protector of the Nation. “Dear Leader” is intended to pique interest and to provoke curiosity and exploration of this complex and multidimensional phenomenon, and at the same time to isolate it and to put into physical form, elements of its social, political, and religious origin.


JoAnn Verburg launches iPad app

Over at the Walker's Visual Arts blog, I interviewed photographer JoAnn Verburg, subject of a MoMA solo show in 2007, about her new (free) iPad app, AS IT IS AGAIN, which is likely the first book conceived and created by an artist to be experienced on an iPad. Big ups to Minneapolis' Location Books for a great project.


Pepperspray cop graffiti

Spotted in the Bowery, New York, by Justseeds.

It's here: The new Walker Art Center website

This is what I've been working on since mid-September, when the Walker Art Center hired me back, after four years away, to be web editor for its new, totally revamped website. The format and functionality are more like a new site than an art museum home page. And that's the biggest philosophical change it represents: As a contemporary art museum, the Walker is engaged each day with the collection, curation and presentation of work largely by living artists, not to mention the contextualization of such work by a team of educators and curators. So the new site acknowledges such work and creates a place to host some of this thinking. As web editor, I'm overseeing the site, which means both generating content myself and corralling writing and videos from others at the art center. In her welcome to the site, the Walker's Olga Viso calls the site an "idea hub," which I like: all kinds of thinking in all kinds of formats (videos, blog posts, news articles, tweets, and scholarly essays) will come together here.

I'm excited by the early reception: Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes called it a "game-changer, the website that every art museum will have to consider from this point forward," while the anonymous museum tweeter @museumnerd picked up that kind of language, dubbing it "a forward-thinking, best-practices #gamechanger." I hope, and believe, they're right. I may write more about the site here, time permitting, but for now, please take a look and let me know what you think.


World AIDS Day: Jim Hodges on 9/11, HIV and politics

Jim Hodges Photo: Gene Pittman, Walker Art Center

It's World AIDS Day, and there's room for cautious optimism on the AIDS front: HIV infection rates are down 21 percent worldwide since a high 14 years ago. But there's more to be done, and that's one of the messages of artist Jim Hodges' film Untitled, which is screening today at at some 60 U.S. art and community organizations, including my workplace, the Walker Art Center.

His film is a 60-minute mashup of cultural references from the culture wars of the 1980s, when his late friend, artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, was working, and from around history. But while Hodges and collaborators Carlos Marques da Cruz and video Encke King include ample mention of the struggle for justice by HIV/AIDS activists -- there's some great footage of ACT UP actions -- he also jumps around in history, from 9/11 to the death camps of World War II, Gitmo to the Rodney King beatings. The structure gives a nod to Gonzalez-Torres' "dateline" pieces, which present historical events out of sequence, while also placing the activism around AIDS within the context of other social justice fights around racial inequality, poverty and war.

Hodges says the film isn't really done, nor will it likely ever be. It's a "fragment of a continuum," he told me in an interview at the Walker late last month. That is, it can be re-edited and added to as new events -- Occupy Wall Street? The Arab Spring? -- merit.

In a memorable part of our conversation, Hodges recalls his experiences following the 9/11 attacks in his home city of New York:
I would never want this to happen to anyone else. This is so horrible. This should never happen to anyone, to have this kind of horror imposed on you from you-don’t-know-what.

I felt: Wow, I know what this feels like. This feels like what it felt like in 1988, when Scott was diagnosed with HIV. This is what it felt like when he died in 1993 of AIDS. It was like, “Oh my god, that’s the same feeling.” I thought: “Okay, now the circle just expanded. It’s not just me and my friends and a small percentage of the population who are suffering from this phenomenon. Actually, all of us have been brought into this reality of horror.”

So now, we’re all vibrating from that same place. We’re all on the same ground. So now is the time to actually have a dialogue: What’s going on in this world? How could this happen to us? Why would we never want to do this to someone else?

What’s the politicians’ answer? This is a time to, boom-boom-boom, beat those drums and, boom-boom-boom, make some money and blow somebody up and expand ourselves and take advantage of someone in this weakness.
Read more from the interview, which will be published in its entirety on the redesigned Walker home page, which launches later today.