Monday Night Lecture Series - Wesleyan University

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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


The Aesthetics of the 'Common': A Challenge to the Notion of Intellectual Property?

The Aesthetics of the "Common": A Challenge to the Notion of Intellectual Property?


May 8 @ 6 P.M. | Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center

The notion of intellectual property presupposes that an artwork, as a creation of the mind or the intellect, can be owned and thus legally protected through the establishment of intellectual property rights. At least since the 1960s (with precedents in the historical avant-garde), contemporary artists have not so much contested than stretched the applicability of these rights in their use of mass-reproduced materials and appropriationist methods, as well as in their creation of ephemeral actions and in-situ installations. More recently, however, artists have not simply expanded the concept of intellectual property: they have substantially questioned it. This is especially true for artistic practices invested in the aesthetics of the "common"—practices that materialize through the sharing of sources and the collaboration between human and nonhuman participants, in physical, online or mixed environments, whose materialization never takes a definitive form insofar as it partakes of evolving environments continuously changing in time. This paper asks: are notions of intellectual property and intellectual piracy applicable to artistic undertakings of the common?; and how do these artistic undertakings challenge intellectual property to the point of making that notion just about defunct, useless or invalid?

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