Open Call For Idiots
It does not happen all the time but it should not happen at all. It is despicable. It is called plagiarism and should be considered a prisonable offence.
I know that almost everything that we can imagine has been done before in one way or another and that it is very difficult to do something completely new but I am not referring to that. Nor am I referring to the remakes, or interpretations with other mediums, or techniques of iconic artworks, which homages to talent, and a channel of inspiration for some artists who acknowledge the debt, somehow. Neither I am referring to the logical and healthy influence between peers working at the same studio or sharing the same experiences – as the masters did – no, that is “peccata minuta”.
I am referring to the worst form of plagiarism that sometimes occurs out of competitions to be part of an exhibition or open calls for artistic ideas. The “iter criminis” flows as easily as this: First, you, innocent hopeful victim send your design, your artwork or your proposal for a contest or an open call which demands a particular idea or type of work. The reasons to do so are multiple; some do it for the prize money they desperately need; others are looking for publicity, promotion or future commissions to kick-start their careers; for leisure, for ego, but I am sure everybody puts their heart into it. Whatever the reasons, participants deserve, at the least, professional respect. Second, you might receive a formal laconic statement saying either that unfortunately your proposal was not selected or that the contest was dropped because, according to the jury, no entrant reached the desired quality. With this excuse they don´t spend any money on prizes and they dishearten artists at the same time. Cool. Sometimes they will wish you success in your career and not invite you to the private or public view of the winners. Cruel.
We could dismiss this as the way natural selection works in the art world, or to accept this is just life was not for the cat that, out of serendipity, one day, shortly after, you discover that your rejected and disregarded work, that was supposed to be confidential, has been plagiarized and camouflaged and used for commercial purposes. You recognize it as a mother would recognize her child and alike in the Bible’s story of “The Judgment of Solomon” you discover yourself proud of the recognition that lies underneath the criminal action rather than furious for the appropriation of your ideas without receiving so much as a pat on the back. It is always the Shakespearian dilemma “to be – even plagiarized – or not to be”. But this should never be.
The professional protection and confidence expected of these highly organized, and sometimes renown, private or public calls, is broken, and an orphan feeling of injustice emerges, forcing the artist into surrender. It should never happen, but to denounce these practices legally is brutal, evidentially difficult to prove, long, and most of the time not worth the effort – and they know it. So most artists are silent, as many are who have been abused. Nevertheless, from time to time, some bold chosen few hit the nail in the head. A contemporary art icon or two admit to the plagiarism that places their talent in serious doubt, and renews the controversy of the complex plagiarism debate. To mention some recent ones, the sentence of Jeff Koons for the work “Naked” and the suspicion on Damien Hirst and his diamond skulls. And you cannot entrust the law to establish what is right and what is criminal taking into consideration the particular facts of each case because they are not art experts.
It is imperative to organize a symposium to establish the thin red line between inspiration and plagiarism and to outline the structure for an international, regularly updated ruling on this important question.
In passing I need to mention nepotism, cronyism, of all colors in commissioning public art.
I would like this article to be a warning to all. Come to your own conclusions. Take your own precautions. Having faith is not always enough.
Susana Gómez Laín, Madrid
Volume 32 no 4 March/April 2018 p 31
5 thoughts on “Open Call For Idiots”
I was taught that copying any more than 2 or 3 words from somebody else without quoting it was plagiarism; the same goes for art which is visual and the copying even more evident. It’s a question of honesty and moral integrity, something missing from our society today.
In some countries plagiarism is punishable by law, in the US, for example – that is, if you can prove it. A similar problem is when a well known artist is copied by another lesser known artist and sold at the higher price of the well-known artist. This seems to happen more after the artist has died when he can no longer say that the work isn’t his – that it’s a fake or a copy. It’s a problem with underlying dishonesty in the core of the person or institution, but a problem in every field, from the art world to the literary field, in scientific research and so on. It’s due to a lack of moral responsibility and a sense of honesty instilled in the person or culture of the country from childhood.
This is big: it’s “estimated that at least 20 per cent of the paintings held by major galleries are fake.” There is a lack of morality on the part of many art dealers who are only interested in the financial aspects of the art market and not in being honest towards the galleries, museums and public who are tricked and lied to. I suppose they see who paints the artwork as unimportant, just as long as the signature and price is right.
The article below is worth reading, as it gets worse than 20% fake in some cases:
People find it easier to just use someone else’s work; it takes less effort to steal someone else’s ideas than to be creative and find innovative solutions. There is a shortage of creative people in all fields due to the dumbing down of educational systems in most western countries and also due to a global problem of internet addiction. Just think how life was thirty years ago when we didn’t have internet, when we depended largely on television or libraries for our information. Now with so many images bombarding us online, we no longer realize what is fruit of our imagination or what has been implanted in our minds through our searches.
Of course this doesn’t justify using an artist’s work from a competition inappropriately, but it only further goes to show how we are losing the battle of integrity and of honesty, once important values in life.
It would have been helpful had the writer given more specific details on what took place, but evidently it was not possible to do so.
Seriously, television? Even 30 years ago only idiots watched it.