December 11, 2010
The Henry Art Gallery in Seattle explores art appropriation this winter with its new exhibit, “Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture” The exhibition is curated in association with the Independent Curators International.
“Artists, as both producers and consumers in today’s vast image economy, freely adopt and adapt materials from myriad sources. Images culled from the Internet, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, television, films, personal and public archives, studio walls, and from other works of art are all fair game.”
Lawyers ask not whether these alterations are “fair game” but whether they are “fair use.”
At the heart of the fair use question is whether or not these recycled images actually say anything new. Regina Hackett supports the idea that there is no single meaning in any work of art, and recognizes that different contexts shift our understanding of works. The gallery exhibit does provide a new context, and guides viewers to deliberate over certain issues pertinent to our culture. However, Jen Graves finds flaws in the exhibit’s approach, and alludes to the hypocritical attitudes that galleries have regarding remix culture. For example, “The “no photo” signs in the galleries of Image Transfer tell one of many understories beneath the marketing-speak of “our digital age of fair use and open source.””