As m1thr0s and I head into the scary world of self publishing even further, I set out to figure out the best place to get photobooks done, since those wonderful people over at Imagekind don’t make them.
We’ve both officially decided the Book of Mirrors needs a hard copy in a big way, with lots of pictures.
I also wouldn’t mind a coffee table sized book of my weird-ass occult photo memento collection.
In my journies I found a shit ton of self publishers, and no advice on who did the best work. I did find a guide, finally. (Google: “photo book review, best photo book?, wedding forum” yielded the results) Check out this amazing, first of its kind, inclusive, thorough and well written post by Jason Dunn, over at Digital Home Thoughts forum.
I love watching HBO. Earned every one of their 99 Emmies a dozen times over.They are totally on my wavelength when it comes to freedom in art and are constantly pushing the envelope. A few weeks ago, the HBO comedy news brief Last Week with John Oliver pushed that envelope even further by depicting a creepy Kentucky politician as an old wrinkled penis which was actually a real penis. Surprisingly, as popular as sex and violence are on television, there seems to be this unspoken aversion to nudity in arts. Surprisingly, it’s not fundamentalist Christianity that is doing it either – I remember my family were complete prudes and they were hardly religious. Gentle Christian Mothers responded to a query from a mom about whether or not the rest of the community allowed their children to view nudity in art, and it’s clear this horror attached to nudity is not a Christian phenomenon, as the responses to the question were all positively affirmative about nudity.
“My kids have viewed nude art as long as they were small . :shrug It’s not something that bothers me. ”
“We don’t avoid it at all. M who is 7.5 knows the statue of David and calls him, “Naked David”. :giggle We also went to Body Worlds and she saw naked stuff. We teach her that the human body is beautiful and sacred…it is God’s wonderful creation.”
“I let my kids look at nude art too. Big guy and I were browsing a new art History book at the Library He turned the page and in a VERY loud voice said “Hey there’s a naked lady in a shell” and in the next breath “She has really pretty hair” I think half the library stiffled a laugh”
“I was raised viewing nude art and never thought anything of it. My parents, especially my dad, taught us that the artists painted nude bodies because they saw how beautiful God had made them. To this day I don’t see nude art as sexual or awkward (though i definitely remember friends of mine in high school being all weird about a book of art paintings/art photos that contained nudity that i had thought nothing of – it didn’t phase me, it was normal, but to them it was very taboo and a ‘big deal’). Anyway, i plan to raise our kids the same way – remember that children don’t attach sexual connotations to nudity and such like adults do, they accept it at face value as they are taught.”
“As to the family that covers the nudity with stickers…I can understand that…but at the same time I think that is installing in the children a fear of naturalness. That somehow it’s dirty or inappropriate. I have talked to too many adults who were taught that as children , and they all have horrible s*x lives. Scared to death that they are doing something wrong and filthy. Just seeing their partner’s privates brings them to blush and say “that’s not right”. When they should be able to see the beauty in how God designed their partners. I know it has a direct correlation to how they were brought up. (because they’ve told me) granted that’s anecdotal.”
So where the hell is this attitude about nudity coming from amongst artists? It’s a massive epidemic of Gymnophobia. (Fear of nudity. You’re welcome) I’ve never actually met a customer who recoils from nude art the way other artists do. I have no answer for it except for a hunch that the industry is saturated in so much Disneyfication and FCC regulations that artists instinctively conform to this unspoken rule of so-called art. Or maybe it’s just about the fact that artists have constantly bit their own tongue and have never given themselves a chance to express their true inner vision. Fear is a massive demon in the arts. Entertainment industry crap can sometimes be art, but it’s usually just craft and illustration.
Over the last couple of years I’ve watched the trend of other successful artists in the entertainment industry attempt to pull poorer artists up by their bootstraps by offering encouragement and a “you can do it” rally cry, through articles and online conversations on forums. These articles are always beneficial to the morale of artists, but for some others, it offers a false hope that things will somehow get better for everyone in the arts if you just follow a formula. This doesn’t always work. Part of the unspoken formula is to never do nude art. Ever.
It’s certainly okay to paint anorexic, anatomically impossible and scantily clothed women – just make sure they have a fig leave on all the naughty bits – please. The system is so broken down to the core, that an artist can’t just be an artist. They think have to survive by whoring themselves out to one or another mega company. They sign away the rights to their work. The lucky ones get on board with a company they love, but this takes more determination than earning a PhD in the medical field, and luck.
I’ve heard artists proclaiming that freelance was dead, and that fine arts was dead, but I scoff, and imagine how wrong they’ll be in another 50 years, when the public tires of formula vision – the only kind allowed by these art factories. (Probably won’t happen until all movie posters are 100% teal and orange)
Sir Ridley Scott is a good example of an ethical Hollywood businessperson who understands the importance of an artist’s freedom of vision in the concept art process . When H.R. Giger (Baphomet rest his soul) created the Alien concept art, he benefitted directly from Alien’s huge success through attention to his art which allowed Giger to use those proceeds to build a museum and make more art. This kind of working relationship where a single artist provides the arcing vision for an entire film and an entire opus of film work is rare, but it contributed to both the success of Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise and helped the artist. Most films are such a mish mash of different design ideas that they fail at the level of visual effects. At this point in time, little option is left for many artists to make a reliable living right out of school.
Still others eschew the norm, reject the corporatocracy that has attached itself to the arts, and go their own way. One interesting example is Jason Manley, who started Massive Black, a major force in the concept art field. He turned down many lucrative deals in order to maintain the integrity and sanity of his stable of artists. (Read more about the horror stories at The Escapist: Assholes and Non-Assholes, The Story of Massive Black)
Most artists who won’t sell out tend to suffer – alot. Things havn’t gotten much better since the days of Modigliani, the poor Italian Jewish Artist who died in Paris from disease exacerbated by poverty.
He’ll never see the millions of dollars his paintings now fetch. The times where you had to be bankrolled by the rich or court galleries to become well known are over. Banksy made an interesting commentary on the new paradigm in fine art that many artists are still just sort of waking up to:
“There’s a whole new audience out there, and it’s never been easier to sell. You don’t have to go to college, drag ’round a portfolio, mail off transparencies to snooty galleries or sleep with someone powerful, all you need now is a few ideas and a broadband connection. This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count.”
This exploitation has to stop, and the way we stop it is by rejecting scenarios where the artist is exploited. If an artist does go into a design or art firm to work under an art director, it will eat them alive. I’ve seen it happen to many otherwise gutsy edgy artists who kept making little compromises until their work was consumed by the Mammonic force that is shallow false-morality consumerism in game and film endeavors. Your art will be censored, artist.
I wouldn’t be happy as being anything but myself – an artist. It took me about ten years to discover I didn’t want to just be an artist – I wanted to be an visual occult artist making art just for art’s sake. I wanted it to be original work unbiased by money, fame or opinion, the kind of art I would do if I was living alone on a desert island with nothing but a pair of pants, a fishing pole, and a dildo. (the pants are for the sand when I sit on the beach – also a neverending assortment of Gamblin paints and Windsor Newton brushes would be nice. Also rockface. Lots of rockface.)
For a decade I didn’t understand why some people – even other artists, seemed to be so obsessed with money. I had everything I could ever need building and creating my universe. I’m fortunate enough to have been born into one of the wealthiest and most freedom-loving nations on earth.
It wasn’t until I met m1thr0s and started studying with the group at Abrahadabra.com that I came to realize what a complete line of bullshit people have fallen for in the arts, in the metaphysics community – everywhere really.
In the entertainment industry art sectors, artists are terrified of being shunned by major corporations like Disney for freely expressing sexuality or being ignored for drawing or painting what they love. The atmosphere in concept art has changed alot, and I personally do not feel like one has to worry about it like you did in the 1980′s or earlier. Risque has always had its place in the art world, but a period of nude fear rippled through the world of illustration and concept art from about 2000 to the present.
I attribute it mostly to the Bush Administration’s reign of terror, which paralyzed kids coming up in that era. Gen X’ers already had been nursed on Giger’s erotic contributions to Alien and Species, so they knew it wasn’t all about Disney in the concept art fields. Personally I find The Little Mermaid and the rest of the Disney princesses far more apalling and offensive than any dick and vagina landscape Giger made. Every princess looking like an wasp-waisted insect with boobs and a hairy Alien Grey head. I mean, you could fit a tube sock around Ariel’s waist, it’s thinner than an infant girl’s waist. So are we really saying to girls that society – specifically male dominated Western society, owns you from the time you’re born?
It seems like consumers, including would-be artists, only want to be part of an event – a spectacle. They can’t imagine themselves as apart from society, even though this is a reality we’ll all have to face someday at the moment of death. They want to be lead, even though in our final act – death -we’re not lead. There is no wisely accepted guidemap to the great beyond, and the only certainty is that we all have to go there eventually.
I don’t think people are used to embracing freedom and being their own masters. I’ve often heard non-artists including my ex-husband that artists have to make sacrifices to earn their way in the world. This is true to some extent, one can take a day job or paint something they like that also sells somehow, but the purity of the art must never be the sacrifice. This takes self mastery, but people don’t want to master themselves. Worse, sometimes (often) they want to be the master to other people.
Worst of all for the planet, and their fellow creatures, they don’t want to be responsible for their choices – even when they hold the title of master. They want to maintain the illusion that somebody is responsible for them.
The Christians are always saying “only through the grace of god”. There’s this idea that man is fundamentally useless and pointless, and the only good comes through god. They don’t want to give up that. This concept is an illusion. People do ultimately die and go somewhere. I don’t know where the hell they go. When they do that they have generally created very little for themselves and done very little for the world except stuff their pads and pad their pockets.
With this whole Mutational Alchemy thing, we are playing to a very small niche of occultists. It’s nearly impossible today for people to understand magick, especially very advanced magick based in mathematical proofs.
Ultimately it’s not people’s natural inclination to be this way. They’ve become victims of their own slavery, oppression and restrictions.
What they ultimately want from religion and art is someone to console them, to care for them and that is not what we’re about at The Abrahadabra Institute. We’re the antithesis to what alot of people are looking for.
But younger people are coming along and they don’t need god to come along and hold their hand and tell them its okay. Part of it is a different kind of spirit – they’re being born into a better time and a better collective consciousness. Being born into a society that pretends to believe in science is much better than being born into an oppressive tyrannical regime where people are not even encouraged to lift up their heads and look at others, as it is in much of the Middle East and Asia. Alot of the way people behave is just imprinting and programming.
We’re still dealing with the fact that the majority of people don’t enjoy what they’ve got. Rich, powerful, famous…who cares when you’re poisoning the ground you cover and everything you have could be snatched away by economic downturns or angry mob ruling.
This may seem like a fantasy but it happened in post Imperial China. Wealthy citizens, many of them good people, were literally dragged from their homes, beaten, tortured and killed. Their complacency killed them really. We’re not here to sit around and be glorified hoarders.
No matter what cute little phrase they are “DIY30″ “YAY50″ “FUN20″ they are still evil little parasitic gimmicks.
Imagekind nearly lost me as a customer today. Oh I’ll be back of course, but I have been trolling for a good Imagekind coupon to use on a large order for about a month now with no luck. I just hate checkout coupons. I feel like I’m being cheated if I don’t have one, and if it’s not a big fat 50% off coupon and instead a measly 15%-30% off coupon, I feel like I’m somehow paying for someone else’s great deal tomorrow when they can use that future 50% off coupon. I am immediately accosted with feelings of dissapointment, envy and frustration when I am presented with the huge list of expired coupons on those massive coupon cult sites that I could have used if I had just been insanely dedicated enough to log in last week. It foments hatred. It does.
It’s not like I can’t afford to pay full price – that’s not the point. Any savvy business person knows that to survive you need to avoid unnecessary spending. And for prints that I don’t need for an art show next week, you bet I’m going to wait for that sweet sale. I just wish they’d lower their prices 5%-10% and do away with coupons altogether. Give bulk discounts like the wonderful couponless and sales-less Trader Joes. SOMETHING. Everyone in this printing industry from Zazzle to Shutterfly seems to think these coupons are a good idea for business. Why? Because everyone else is doing it? I don’t know, man I don’t know.
What I don’t understand is how these companies don’t see that sales really hurt their image and customer loyalty on so many levels. I don’t go to Imagekind for their prices, I go there because they’re the only ones in the industry with Epson Ultragiclee capability. When you’re working in clean, precise geometry at extremely large sizes there is no other choice really. So even with the horrible feeling coupons bring me, I’m still willing to do business with them, even at full price.
The problem with coupons of course, is once you start offering them, you can never get rid of them. Customers are addicted to them. When JCPenney tried to eliminate sales and coupons, they went into an epic landslide of financial loss.
Today, I was willing to give Mpix.com a go. I happened upon a blog that complained about Imagekind, during a search for, you guessed it, Imagekind coupons. The complaints were nothing that affected me – the writer had been put off by the small prints being tube rolled, and the fancy artsy paper they had paid extra for being too muddy. I already knew about the problems with that paper since the staffers at Imagekind had explained which papers to use, and why, and had warned me away from using that particular paper. I also like the tubes, since they are crush proof, and I frame everything, so it goes flat and stays flat. The writer said they used mpix.com, because they always ship flat, which is not true. The larger images, which is what we usually get printed at The Abrahadabra Institute, ship rolled, even at mpix. And mpix.com’s “large” is really what Imagekind calls “medium”. Photographers don’t seem to like to go very big.
I decided to click on through to mpix.com. They cater to amateur and professional photographers, but they use a weird separate site to handle pros which was extremely awkward to use. They have amazingly responsive customer service/tech support though. They offer cropping service, so you don’t have to trim excess yourself, and I liked the metallic photo paper that Imagekind doesn’t have. Also, they offer aluminum printing!
When I landed on their homepage, my dream coupon landed in front of my eyes! 50% off large prints through July 9th (today)! Like, wow! I had to try it. I went through their papers and found that they were lacking an inch off the size I needed. I visited mpixpro.com on a whim just to see if they had a bigger selection. Oddly enough, they did offer the paper size I needed there. It was a very confusing setup, and even though they fast tracked my membership at the pro site, the software wouldn’t work with me. I decided to pass on the big prints, but get some of my medium prints done that I needed on the main site, and take advantage of the awesome coupon.
I spent a few hours getting my images ready, took a nap and ordered a pizza. Then I woke up to get the order in before the midnight deadline. I checked the code before uploading the rest of my beefy order and guess what…”You’re not eligible to use this coupon” popped up.
mpix.com, you just lost a customer. Forever. Because you wasted nearly half a day in my time on a coupon that you pulled before July 9th was over.
And, because I have tremendous brand loyalty to Imagekind. I’m not going to wait for your next sale, I’m going to order the prints tonight and pay them their asking price. Not only does their customer service rock, they’ve corrected errors for me with no questions asked. Plus they have a much wider range of sizes, frames, matting materials, paper and I know the name and model of the printers they use. I already know the quality I am going to get with an Epson Ultragiclee, which you don’t offer. I am willing to pay full price to them because I already know I am getting a good value.
I really wish they would ALL finally kill the coupon sales though. Nothing like alienating a customer who just paid full price the day before the coupon was released to build business. Right?
That’s why I have a shopping cart full of stuff that has been at Imagekind for over two weeks now. If you’re going to be noncommittal with your prices, I’m going to be noncommittal with my decision to buy.
Occult Art is a term I had to use to describe what a small group of artists have been doing for some time. H.R. Giger, Aleister Crowley, Eliphas Levi, and many other occultists and occult conspirators have all produced this genre of art.
Occult Art talks about Mystery. Not only this, it does so in visceral and scientific ways – talismania and the magickal schools go hand in hand with the Occult Artist.
It is said that at the heart of everything is mystery, and art is a window that allows us to peep into that mystery. One could argue all art is occult and they would be right. For the purposes of categorization, it’s more useful to refer to art that is intentionally occult, that is something that is intending to pierce the veils. The images that follow are a light selection of the vast amount of variation in the genre of Occult Art.
To be apprehended appropriately, it requires the viewer to have some knowledge of what they are viewing – not necessarily an initiate, but someone who knows at least a bit of mythology, religious iconography or so forth.
Here are some examples of Occult Art:
Some of the best paintings of the Tarot were created by Lady Frieda Harris under the instruction of Aleister Crowley. The deck combines past ages of alchemical and hermetic art with Crowley and Harris’s view of the New Aeon.
In the past decade or so, occultism has spread throughout the arts, quietly and mostly in the underground. It’s an important response to the materialistic nihilism of the 20th century and represents a modern revival of ancient art methodology which has never been fully accounted for.
The 15th century Rajasthani Tantrikas
Long viewed as the epicenter of almost all major occult schools and practices, Bharat (India) stands today as one of the most phenomenal centers of spiritual activity in the world. Rajasthani has always been an artistic region of India, and devout. The Tantric paintings from there are abstract and seamlessly blend with modern minimalism. There are still a great many Tantric artists active in India using the same shamanistic methodology of the ancients.
The Medieval Alchemists
Not only speaking in cypher and proto-chemistry speak, the alchemists delved into exquisite depictions of their theories and workings, creating some of the most spectacular woodblocks and paintings ever to come out of Europe. This is what most occultists think of when they hear the term occult art.
The Ancient Daoists
China has been involved in the occult and occult art for a very long time, since the beginning of their recorded history in fact. The I Ching came to us from prehistory in China, where magick, called Wu, gave rise to the post-shaministic practices of the Daoists. The art created for their magickal schools of Tantric Buddhism, Feng Shui and others is some of the most exquisite and refined ever to grace the halls of the ancients, and the lively tradition of occult art continues to this day.
There’s this cartoonist in Denmark who was marked for death by Islamics because he offended their prophet with a cartoon depicting Mohammed wearing a bomb. It was all over the news. What wasn’t so well known was the cartoonist’s response that he didn’t really care about offending a religious figure – he was just trying to make a point that there is no image that is so holy you can’t offend it.
I can’t say I understand the part about being offended by art – it’s just so trivial. I mean if your god is really god don’t you think he really doesn’t give a crap what a bunch of monkeys do? I’ll admit god is mostly just a projection of man’s own vanity and pride – god “takes offense” because men are petty, indignant and self absorbed creatures.
Which got me thinking about the holy symbols here at TAI. Yknow? Cuz even if you put a huge pair of melons up next to the Tetractys, it doesn’t seem to diminish it. Actually it kind of elevates anything it comes in contact with, especially human beings.
Could you ever imagine offending the TwinStar and by proxy the Tetractys? I don’t think so. But there are things which it diminishes rather than exalts. It doesn’t appreciate disease, failure, restriction or anything which puts stars out of order. It is the symbol of untoucheable purity, undiminished by anything you put it next to or embellish it with. If you make it tiny, it only underlines its essence as the heart of the monad, the eternal mystery that beckons from realms lost to us.
So I wanted to talk about this and I’m open to anyone’s religious ideas. Christian,Witch, Jewish, whatever….my focus is just my own
I’m a Tantricist so I’m particularily interested in attacking orthodox Brahmanic ideas – the “Fundoos” as Khushwant Singh called them in “The End of India”. I love to attack the status quo in India any chance I can get. I am a very devout Vaishnavite and was raised that way. I think religion is important in many ways because it allows humans to take the edge off our crazy side – tribal rites were bred into our evolution and are poorly understood. So even if you’re an atheist you have a biological need for a strict and rigid ordering of sort of irrational beliefs – even if it doesn’t involve the G word.
Ironically the conversation about the oppressiveness of art in Indian religion was spearheaded by a Muslim man, Maqbool Fida Husain, who championed multi-spirituality and nude Indian goddesses.
Too much emphasis in religious art today is focused on offending the religious iconography rather than redeeming it. I think this is alright – Piss Christ and other intentionally “offensive” images are important to art and religious discussion, but there’s another side to religious iconography that gets missed – that is, returning sexuality to god.
There is actually a movement amongst Indian religion of a return to the primordial principles of Sanatana Dharma instead of the British imposed Victorian morality. This stunted sexuality has stuck like a disease in India long after it has already been mostly shelved by Britain herself. Ravi Varma’s rediculously prim and overclothed goddesses, like White Indian Barbie princesses are particularily loathsome in their intent, if not their oh-so-sincere reverence.
Can artists challenge the bleached morality in religion without intending to be offensive? Are there any emerging artists coming up with an alternative version of religion and its relationship to sexuality?
I will discuss a few images I did with m1thr0s for The Mutational Alchemy Tarot – a pan global effort that reached for the stars when it came to multiculturalism.
This image below is an illustration of the traditional story of Balarama Ananta-deva chastising the river Yamuna. In this story there’s an essential element of BDSM and sexuality. Balarama who is called the “original Krsna” by Sri Prahbupad is the older brother of Krsna in the story. His unextended form is Sesa Ananta, the serpent with the many hoods you see in the most popular images of Vishnu.
In the story this image is about he has taken the River Yamuna and scattered her with his plow because she won’t come to him on command. As the absolute creator and ruler of the universe, it’s akin to you or I smashing a printer or computer because the OS or firmware won’t respond.
ISCKON provides one of the best versions of the story, although there are older folk versions which are a little rapey and connected with the irrigation history of the region.
“While Balarama was in that happy mood, He desired to enjoy the company of the gopis in the water of the Yamuna. Therefore He called the Yamuna to come nearby. But the Yamuna neglected the order of Balaramaji, considering Him intoxicated. Lord Balarama became very much displeased at the Yamuna’s neglecting His order. He immediately wanted to scratch the land near the river with His plowshare. Lord Balarama has two weapons, a plow and a club, from which He takes service when they are required. This time He wanted to bring the Yamuna by force, and He took the help of His plow. He wanted to punish the Yamuna because she did not come in obedience to His order. ”
Taking these sources literally and treating them literally has a profound effect on my view of the world. It somehow allows me to put up with all of the shit that goes on in life. I’m not going to say it’s all psychological because there are elements unknown and unpredictable, even in religion which science has mostly sidelined. (Rightfully…but that’s another topic altogether)
Below is another image from The Mutational Alchemy Tarot – from the Pacific Islands tale of Sina and the Eel, larger than life. I have a great fondness for syncreticism and have always sought after another culture’s point of view on any archetype, from Iktomi and Anansi to Hello Kitty and the wife of Bes. Darkly sexual, this was indeed a tribute to my own personal god, called iṣṭa-deva(tā in Sanskrit, that is, Ananta Sesa, Ningishzidda – essentially Balarama in his unextended form.
Although it seems scary it’s a very personally devout image for me, and the nudity is meant as a sidenote – it isn’t the main attraction, or was not intended to be. The demoniac nature will find their own angle as it will, but this is not the essential effect nudity or sexuality should automatically have. In the lilas of both Krsna and Balarama – sex is glorified, ideal and completely sacred.
India has been under the magnifying glass much closer than a few decades ago because the violence against women has escalated sharply. I believe all of the propaganda about what is proper that goes against the grain of true Indian religion from a thousand years ago is the source of this misogyny. To start with we should begin treating these stories with the human dignity they deserve – acknowledging sexuality and the full gamut of color that was once a part of the culture instead of the white washed and genital-slashed censored version that abounds today.
Anyone involved in the arts or the occult has something in common – that is, being a part of a community that for the most part, has little access to personal wealth within itself, and is exploited a great deal by unscrupulous corporations, business people, and far too often, other artists and occultists. Lobbyists are constantly trying to strip copyright power away from poor and disenfranchised artists. While the community often rallies in powerful ways against predatory “design molesters” as I like to call them, it’s never easy and it can lead to burnout amongst artists who if they achieve even a little success, see it ripped off.
Concept art god Randis Albion wrote a slick article on the subject of crowdsourcing and artist exploitation:
“The way our profession is treated at times is sickening. No one would dare to claim a free meal at a restaurant in exchange for telling friends that it was tasty and yet in our industry some people do not
even bother to ask. Artworks get stolen on a daily basis as if this was a natural thing to do, as if art grows on trees or is generated with a single button click in mysterious apps like Photoshop.”
I would point out that these are not some backwater fleamarkets selling ripped off designs, (which also happens, alot) but big corporations with huge legal departments. RGMagazine wrote in their fashion blog: “cheap teen retailers such as Forever 21 re-sell low quality versions of both high-end and indie designer work to serve the girls who cannot afford the real thing. [...] Forever 21 has a fully staffed legal department, that deals with lawsuits and attacks from designers who Forever 21 steals from. “
One website aptly named “You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice” (http://www.youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com) tackles the issue by publishing every instance of art theft it finds, in order to leverage the tool of social ostracization to stop the practice.
Below is one horrible example. The wonderful occultesque artist Katie Scott created a very intricate and powerful image which was ripped off by a big clothing company called General Pants, who without her permission, sold them online to the global marketplace.
The Original by Katie Scott:
It’s so painful to see an artist’s original design mass marketed – stolen – for some corporation’s bottom line. The artist rarely recovers any of his or her lost income and work. The company makes their buck and moves on to the next idea to steal.
This predatory practice is part of the problem facing third world nations who get their native designs ripped off by mass market nations who give nothing back to the culture except a legacy of enviromental abuse and a generation of kids who can look forward to a short lifetime of severe disability. (I’m talking about the dangerous factory conditions afflicting women and children which lead to nerve damage). One of the hardest hit communities is the Native American tribes of the Southwest. Authentic pieces are purchased by factory buyers from the Pacific Rim who go back to Phillipines or China and reproduce the design enmasse, probably using child labor. For the Zuni, Hopi and Navajo artists who depend on making art for a living, this has a devastating effect and is cultural rape.
The example below is a fake fetish necklace, being illegally advertised as Native American. The seller admits it is made in the Phillipines. While a true fetish necklace is hand carved from genuine local stones and can take an Native American Indian artist months to create and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, the resin copy below is sold on places like Ebay or Etsy for as low as $40.
To be fair, Ebay is much stricter about abusing Native American art. They warn every seller whenever they use the term Native American on a listing. Etsy, once though of as a crafter’s haven, is a horrible and unethical company. It has become the central hub for design theft of all kinds, made out of cheap plastic and factory made items.
Artists are sort of the canary in the mines in any society. When artists are downtrodden, chances are the society is not a very enlightened one. They’re also a reflection of the world at large. An exploited artist is an exploited underdeveloped nation. That is what the United States is becoming.
Crowdsourcing, bad education in a broken college system for artists, copycat mass-market art you can buy off the shelf at Old Navy or Target – this is what is exploiting artists.
Jason Manley, a cultural creative, artist right’s activist and art school reformer behind conceptart.org, wrote that “It just gets worse every day with no end in sight” in response to yet another report on his forums that one of the community artists had their art completely stolen – copied and pasted – for a vulgar car advertisement, by a famous ad designer.
The outrage is still just a tiny voice in a sea of theft and corporate debauch. You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice, an art law and theft blog, keeps the community up to date on recent outrages perpetrated by thieves.:
It’s probably under-pressure corporate artists doing this – ones desperate enough to sell their soul to pay off their college loans – the ones that paid for a diploma with little or no education in actual art creation attached to it.
The question for the emerging artist is how to stop it. A small time artist doesn’t have a lawyer standing behind their catalogue raissonne at all times waiting to go vampire on any corporation stupid enough to steal something from their treasure.
1. For starters, start watermarking your work if you put it online. We had to start doing this at The Abrahadabra Institute because the fucking Freemasons were claiming some of m1thr0s’s proofs – never before published or depicted anywhere in the world – were part of their ancient “legacy”. Bullshit. For this reason I never trust Freemasons. Here’s a couple of different examples of watermarks:
2. Use small resolution images. Anything larger than 800×600 is asking for trouble. If you want to show off your work at a larger size – for xst’s sakes, save it for an opening show and print it off at Imagekind.
3. Put your name on your work. Even if you don’t watermark it, at least put your name and/or website address on the work so if it gets passed around you get the advertising credit. Just remember it can be cropped off by evil people.
4. Don’t put your work on the internet. This, I can’t really recommend unless you’re living in New York City and already have strong gallery representation. First you almost always need the publicity of the internet as an emerging or even intermediate artist. Secondly, in the unlikely case you become famous in this post 1980′s art world, your images are going to end up online anyways. I do advise not showing your work until you really are familiar with how to get stolen art taken down and how to protect it using watermarks and Google search.
5. If your work is stolen for profit, send a bill to the art thief. Be civil and try to explain that you make art for a living. You can always try getting paid by the company. This only works if the company actually has money, reach and legal concerns and isn’t some shack on the beach somewhere in Rio or something.
6. Threaten legal action, and if they don’t respond, follow through with a lawyer and a good cease and desist. A lawyer costs about $50-$100 an hour on average, but only bill based on collective hours spent, so it may not be as expensive as you think. It’s important as your work grows that you start a relationship with a lawyer or legal service. (I recommend Prepaid Legal Services, aka LegalShield)
7. Talk about it. Division is the Tool of Restriction. Find an artist’s community to ally with and talk about tough issues facing the industry such as crowdsourcing and illegal copying. Make people aware of what companies like Forever 21 and Walmart are doing to artists.
8. Report image theft to the ISP. I have successfully had m1thr0s’s art removed from for-profit sites that did not pay for his work by going directly to the ISP. Even ISP’s not bound by hard copyright law such as those based in Israel or South America will often honor the request – they have a reputation to protect and most people who don’t sell art will protect artists. If you don’t know who the host is, do a whois lookup on the domain.
9. Stolen physical works. Have you ever had a framed piece of original work stolen? I have and it sucks! I have never gotten these pieces back, as it’s hard to track stolen art. Report it to the police as soon as possible and save the copy of the police report. You can use it to retrieve stolen artwork. Post local ads on craigslist asking for the crowd to help find the work. Even years later, don’t hesitate to continue the search by posting photos of it online and ALWAYS sign your work so that people know who it came from. Get digital photos of the work as soon as you create a work so you have a record of it.
10. Lastly, don’t encourage art theft of any kind, and don’t engage in such behavior yourself. Torrenting movies and music that have not been released by the artist for such a purpose is also art theft, and one little theft can lead to an attitude of appropriating anything. Go through a service that pays the artists, like Netflix or Pandora.
As always ask questions in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer.
Yay, good news for Olympia. Artspace, the non-profit housing charity that helps homeless and poor artists find affordable living space in their own communities, has announced that the survey to determine if Olympia needed its own Artspace for artists in the Olympia area was highly successful.
“Over 600 individuals completed the survey, with one-third expressing interest in relocating to an affordable artists’ live/work community. Nearly 100 organizations and businesses took the survey, with more than one-half interested in relocating to, expanding into or launching a new enterprise in a new, multiuse arts facility in Olympia. ” – Olympia Artspace Alliance
Olympia, the capitol of Washington State, has long been unable to support a thriving arts community due to unaffordable housing. Most artists are poor and unable to keep pace with rising rent costs in neighborhoods which they gentrify, naturally and without destroying culture, unlike artificial gentrification programs.
I run an artist’s collective myself for poor artists and art students (The Nuit House) in Downtown Olympia and the demand for space is so significant we often have a long waiting list of over 30 people and a seemingly endless demand for viewings of the affordable living space with its basement studio.
Artspace is for all types of artists, including performers, musicians and craftspeople. I’ll keep this page updated with more information, for now please visit the link below to check out The Olympia Artspace Alliance website.