A Surreal Complaint

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Slashdot is reporting
that the estate of painter Joan Miró and the Artists Rights Society are miffed at Google. The king of the search engines recently changed its logo, as it often does in honor of various special dates, to commemorate the birthday of the Catalan surrealist—but the ARS regards their appropriation of Miró's style as a violation of the author's "moral rights."

I'd call this intellectual property overreach under any circumstances, but it's especially ironic in that Kerry Howley and I recently stopped by the current Dada art exhibition at the National Gallery. Dada, the style from which surrealism emerged, relied heavily on cutting and pasting other artworks or commercial images to make their points—so much so that the poster for the exhibition is Duchamp's famous version of the Mona Lisa, which simply adds a goatee, moustache, and caption to DaVinci's original. Without the kind of cultural borrowing Miró's heirs now protest, the art movement from which he emerged might not have existed.

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  1. The “moral rights” theory of I.P. law is a couple of hundred years old.

  2. Everyone wants to close the gate behind ’em.

  3. Without the kind of cultural borrowing Mir?’s heirs now protest, the art movement from which he emerged might not have existed.

    Well, obviously that invitation doesn’t apply to evil, for-profit corporations. Duh.

  4. I always thought Google was ripping off Barney Google, with the googly, googly eyes.

  5. Seems to me that an absurdly overbroad interpretation of intellectual property law would be very much in the spirit of Dada. Miro’s estate is just keepin’ the faith.

  6. Wrong girly name. It’s Joan Miro.

  7. So if I make one with Joan Mir?-esque lettering and then I add “Joan is Stupid” after it, it’s parody, and I’m protected. But if I say “Joan is Great!” after, it’s violating his moral rights.

    Even though he’s dead, and no amount of euros will coax new works out of him.

    Guess that family better get crackin’ on the procreatin’ to make another master, because this attempt at surrealism was merely lame irony.

  8. Can laws be art?

  9. Wait. Someone is complaining because Google posted a temporary tribute to an artist in that artist’s own style? An artist that 99.9% of Google’s users would otherwise have never heard of?

    Seriously?

  10. Did the Campbell soup people ever sue Andy Warhol?

  11. You mutter such objects of equine delight that the mind’s ability to sew slices of mordant ivory becomes tamed with visions of Tamils in Constantinople.

  12. Wheals and boils come forth as testament to your fine sense of haut couture.

  13. the a-rt world is full of a-holes. Thanks to whiny “artist rightsers”, here in California, you can’t remove a piece of public art without the artist’s permission. The rationale is that it’d be damaging to the artist’s reputation. My answer is: “if you want to maintain your reputation as an artist, don’t produce crappy art that will look stupid in five years”

  14. dada is cool but the surealists have always been dicks…at least that is what they taught me in collage. 🙂

  15. BTW, Julian, excellent Photoshopping there.

  16. You’ll be hearing from my estate shortly, Senor.

  17. I’d call this intellectual property overreach under any circumstances, but it’s especially ironic in that Kerry Howley and I recently stopped by the current Dada art exhibition at the National Gallery.

    Soooo, was this a date?

  18. ARS is being aburd. I think that their real problem is that Goog nailed Joan Mir? a little too well. At least some of the surrealist artists among them probably feel insecure at the Goog rendering. I’m guessing that more realistic artists aren’t so bothered. Not that there’s anything wrong with surrealist art. Dali is one of my faves.

  19. I saw that Google thing the other day and thought to myself “Oh, neat, Google has done a stylized logo in the style of that supremely over-rated Spanish artist who’s name I can’t recall at the moment.”

  20. Those Google bastards had better not try that with me.

  21. To paraphrase Ian MacKaye… they (Google) are artists, too, it’s just: their art is guiding people ever more quickly to porn

  22. I should do a Dada-ist version of the Mona Lisa, only I’ll give her a goatse.

  23. I should do a Dada-ist version of the Mona Lisa, only I’ll give her a goatse.

    If I ever heard an idea guaranteed to get posted on Boing Boing, I think that’s it.

  24. Apparently, this sort of thing is going around, as seen in the recent story about a dispute between Barneys windowdresser and NYO columnist Simon Doonan and “contemporary artist” Jack Pierson regarding Doohan’s use of “found” signage in window displays. Apparently, Pierson believes that his use of such items in his “art” entitles him to some sort of exclusivity. The irony here, of course, is that Doohan has been using discarded items, including lettering and signs, in his window displays for over 20 years, long before anyone had ever heard of Pierson.

    NY Observer article

    On a side note, I suppose I have to draw a distinction between the type of art created by Miro and the type of works created by so-called contemporary artists like Pierson. Essentially, it is my Potter Stewart rule – if a person with absolutely no artistic ability such as myself could faithfully recreate a work, it does not qualify as art. Miro and Lichtenstein get to stay; Duchamp and Pierson are out. Hey, it doesn’t have to make any sense — it’s my rule.

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