Shortly after an exhibition opening, an irate member of the public contacts the art space alleging unauthorized use of his image by the artist. A condensed version of the email chain generated is presented on a series of (mostly) hanging metal plates.
As with several of my other works, Email Chain in my Brain, Public Domain is my Name crystallizes an interest in the fault lines between art, law and ethics. From street photography to collage, artists have long navigated the legal and ethical dilemmas posed by using other people’s images–whether by others or of others. For example, despite art historical validation for Walker Evans’ images of rural poverty, interviews with the families revealed they felt cheated and used by him–their faces and homes turned into enduring symbols of poverty. The internet has only intensified the situation, making it easier for artists to download material from online and rework it into their own creative expressions but it has also made it easier for people to track, trace and come after artists for allegedly misused their images. Artists continue to be at the forefront of discussing the ethics of representation directly or indirectly in their work and the internet has given it a new twist, turning questions of representation into questions of control over one’s own data.
Email Chain in my Brain, Public Domain is my Name (2021)