Re: Respect for the artist vs respect for education

From: Robert Schaller (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Nov 19 2008 - 12:01:20 PST

This reminds me of something that happened to me years ago in High School,
that has always bothered me since: I had some friends who had a band, led by
a very talented guy, who played at my house, and I recorded it. One piece
they played in particular was really good, and I treasured the recording of
it. The band's leader, however, on hearing it, didn't like it at all, and
insisted that I erase it, which I did; his "improved version" came out on
vinyl sometime thereafter, and all of the wonderfulness that had been there
in my impromtu recording was now buried underneath angry lyrics that hadn't
been there before. The version I loved was gone, and I have always
regretted it, even though it was what the band leader wanted. I can still
hear it in my head, but no where else -- it's gone forever, and that makes
me sad.

Adam asks a profound question: Should the artist actually be the only one to
have final say about their films? which I would broaden to include any
artform, and it's a difficult question. Legality is one thing, but the
deeper question that it raises for me is, who owns what we, as artists, do?
I create things, and they reflect my aesthetic decisions, but I am also
aware that I am also following something other than my conscious mind. We
could say that that, too, is me, rejecting the idea of an external Muse or
collective unconscious as poetic hyperboles, and yet my conscious mind in
fact stands in the same relation to these forces as if they were external:
they are external to my awareness.

This idea has to be kept separate from questions about legal ownership,
because it would open a slippery slope there indeed, but I know from my own
experience that it has happened to me, at least once: someone else created
something that I loved and they did not, and in deference to them, I
destroyed it and regretted it. I honestly wish I hadn't: I wish I still had
that recording. I'll bet that whatever the reasons given for destroying it
were motivated by a desire to exert control, and not with regard to the
artistic or (dare I say it?) spiritual value of the work. Or maybe he had
other ideas about what it meant. I bet that if I approached him now with
that old recording, he wouldn't even remember that he wanted it destroyed
(that's a guess, of course -- he might feel the same way).

The point being, that our making is a gift, and even though we have a hand
in it, I doubt that there are very many creators who would claim that their
conscious intention was the sole author of a work. Surely everything is
contingent, that we create out of what happens to be around us, out of what
we have been thinking and feeling, out of the specific path that led us to
this particular moment, out of all the things within and without us over
which we have no control but to try to see and make sense of, out of which
our talent is to constellate meaning, form, message, beauty. So, the
difficult question: is it ours? not just legally, but -- and words fail me
here -- really? If someone sees in a version of what I have done the
perfect crystalization of a truth that I did not see, and maybe don't see
even when it is pointed out to me, even though I am well within my rights to
change my version and tell them to destroy theirs, is that the right thing
to do? Is it not selfish of me to say simply "It's Mine! Don't touch it!
Go Away!", and to disregard what may be a genuine thought or feeling on
their part?

I don't have an answer to this question. I know that I don't want to open
the doors and say that anything I do is as much a property of the viewer as
it is of mine: I am annoyed by the modern fad for playing music with the
films of others playing -- I find it disrespectful, think that they're lazy
not to make their own films or collaborate with someone who does -- but I
have to wonder: is it right that all power accrue to the maker, and none to
the viewer? I know I want the final edit on my films, and yet, I wish I
still had that recording.

On 11/19/08 11:57 AM, "Adam Hyman" <email suppressed> wrote:

> I actually think the underlying issue is more interesting at this point than
> the complexities of legalities.
> Should people screen work if the artist doesn't want it screened?
> What if the work is part of the essential experimental canon (for lack of a
> better term), can be seen as essential to any student's education in it, and
> yet is not available for screening (as is currently the case with Conner's
> films)?
> If I am putting together a show of an artist's work, and am consulting with
> the artist about what they want to show, and he or she says "No, I don't want
> to screen this piece," then I won't screen it. This is fair.
> I would not use the DVD of Conner's work that I obtained from the Michael Kohn
> Gallery for a screening. I think Conner's films should be screened as films.
> But any student learning about American experimental film needs to see some of
> Conner's work (in my opinion). But these films are not currently in
> distribution, Conner didn't allow schools to buy those unlimited public
> performance rights (as I understand it). Should we just allow those films to
> be forgotten? (or made more legendary?)
> Anyway, the Conner films might be the only example of this, so a policy might
> not need to be established. We hope that his family will eventually get the
> films (as prints) back into circulation.
> A variant on this is something that Mark Toscano and I have talked a bit about
> in regards to Robert Nelson. Nelson keeps working on his films, re-editing,
> etc. Should we screen the earlier versions of his films if we think they were
> great as they were? Should the artist actually be the only one to have final
> say about their films? I think we would all instinctively say yes. But from
> a preservation & exhibition angle, I think it can be more complicated.
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Fred Camper <email suppressed>
>> Sent: Nov 19, 2008 9:47 AM
>> To: email suppressed
>> Subject: Re: Fair Use and unfair use
>> Instead of the legal doctrine of "fair use," is no one on this list
>> interested in the question of *actual* fairness, to anyone who cares
>> about moving image art?
>> Why not, instead of looking into what you can "get away with" under some
>> univeristy lawyer's interpretation of copyright law, do what the film or
>> video artist, or their estate, asks you to do? Why not avoid showing
>> videos of films whose filmmakers have *never* authorized their works'
>> transfer to film based on their own aesthetic principles? Why not pay
>> rentals to the Coops, which provide money to filmmakers and keep films
>> in distribution?
>> Yes, whine whine, the school will not provide money for rentals, whine
>> whine. Why not try pushing harder? Why not use some of your perhaps
>> meager or perhaps ample salary to rent things yourself if necessary?
>> I know this is an issue that has been raised here before, and I'm not
>> trying to start a huge thread, but I thought this needed to be said.
>> Does no one think of the artist, unless that artist is you yourself?
>> Fred Camper
>> Chicago
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.