2001, Anti-copyright actions: Art, trasgression and subsistence

Cilleruelo, L. (2001). Anti-copyright actions: Art, trasgression and subsistence. In Viaje al País de los Vascos. Bilbao: MEDIAZ, Asociación de artistas visuales. pp.46-48

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“I contractually bind to not keeping a copy of the site or duplicate if somewhere else”

With these words and contractually, Válery Grancher, who the Cartier Pour làrt Contemporain foundation had put in charge of developing the Internet piece “Self” (1), renounced the right to keep a copy of his site or clone it in another web page. The artist joked saying that he would be the only person who would not have a copy of his own work. Grancher referred to the fact that every time we access a web page, an exact copy of it is temporarily recorded in the memory of our navigator.

Since the appereance of means of technical reproduction, art has lost its quality of uniqueness and has therefore been derpived of its “aura of authenticity” of Walter Benjamin, which it loses in teh act of reproduction. With respect to other means, in the work of net.art this loss is expressed not only in its facility to be copied but also in its capacity to be distributed: “to be on-line means to be distributed” (3). Contrary to Benjamin, labels like “willingness to be copied” (4), established by the jury at Ars Electronica 1996 to evaluate WWWArt, value its capacity for reproduction: The success of a work of art is directly proportional to its dissemination and extension on the net. The Internet work is capable of expanding itself through this means, sending its virtual clones: teletransporting them. A year later the jury of the same festival expressid it like this:
“Survival” on the net is often about being copied: loading a copy of a webpage in your browser’s cache, giving out freeware or shareware (that is, copies of one’s program), offering people the possibility to copy, save, cut, paste and use information, pictures, programs, or other chunks of distilled ideas and creativity. Being copied on the net is indeed a measure of success: the more one’s page is linked to, the more one’s program or interface is used by others, the more people subscribe to one’s memes by replicating it, and the more viable and vivid the meme becomes, the better adapted it is.

This concept originally finds its explication in Richard Dawkins book titled “The Selfish Gene” where the autor puts forward the idea that we are nothing but machines whose job is the perpetual existence of the selfish genes of our cells. By analogy with genes, Dawkins builds the notion of “memes”: cultural information units, cognitive, behavioural patterns that propagate themselves and replicate through communication, a paradigm of a culture-based history of development. These units of cultural information are structured to survive on the web: copied, linked.

So therefore, the concep of “memes” goes against that of copyright. “to be copied” is synoymous with sucess on the net. The net.art can and should be downloaded and saved on our hard disk. With respect to thist subject, one of the most interesting cases is regarding the duplication of the website of Documenta X, by the artist Vuk Cosic. Before disappearance from the web, Cosic made an exact copy of it and put it on his website, an action that according to the author, the idea of ready-made was implicit. Reaffirming this theory Rachel Baker thinks that one of the most interesting processes of the net.artist is to redirect, reframe the information: “turning shit into gold”. Like, for example, the work “WWWArt Award” by Shulgin mentions, which recompiles works which where not made in the art senseand, following the tradition of Duchamp’s ready-makers, turns them into art.