Copyright is history, says artist Roberto Voorbij

Copyright is history, says artist Roberto Voorbij

May 10, 2012 |  by  |  Art
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A chance meeting proved to be very inspirational, when I was invited at the artists’ residence of Roberto Voorbij on one of the canals of Amsterdam. I was struck by his presence and his great conceptual imagery, and immediately felt that his name will prove to become of prominence in the art world.

What was the first time you thought: ‘I guess I’m an artist’?
“An exact time and place I can unfortunately not point out to you, it’s more a slowly growing awareness that apparently I’m an artist. Just as well that I have slowly come to find out what kind of artist I am.”

Consumerism in art

“Consumerism, passivity and emptiness highly fascinate me, and in parallel the opposite: socially engagement and activism. It’s incredible that marketeers go so far as to analyse what products someone buys when she’s pregnant, because then is the greatest sensitivity for switching brands is a very disturbing finding. It makes you look different at bonus cards and security cameras. But anyway, perhaps they can also analyse the products someone buys if this person tends to become an artist…”

Without realizing it, we are constantly being disciplined further.

I feel your work seems very commercial at first sight but carries a hidden message on today’s society.
“What I am mostly fascinated by is how everything is increasingly designed to be used in a certain way, and subsequently the politics that lay behind this. My last series concerns the public space. Seemingly friendly designs appear to serve for either economic productivity or political obedience, to use Foucault’s terminology. Lamp-posts prove on closer inspection to serve as a controller, as preventive security. Inviting benches are too short to lie on: that’s how you can be sure no tramps will go and sleep on them. Classical music serves the same purpose, it’s a way of keeping everyone calm. Without realizing it, we are continuously being disciplined further.”

In a way being a consumer means being passive. Is it any different when buying art?
“Coincidentally, I am now reading Talking Prices by Olav Velthuis, a sociological study on the formation of prices on the art market and the different meanings that can be derived from a price, which go beyond just the monetary. Every art buyer would be well advised to read this book, thus to interpret the price in the right way. As an art buyer you’re of course, located more downstream and you’re de facto already in a more passive role than the artist. But these roles are easily swapped, you give an artist an assignment, or you become a collector who buys something and then sells one again, just to be able to afford another artwork.”

Copyright is history

Roberto is really outspoken when it comes to the subject of copyright: “Originality has always been a questionable phenomenon. What differs inspiration from plagiarism? Especially in the digital age where everything is essentially already a representation, a copy without an original. Whether it’s samples in music or the digital readymades used by game designers; open-source is the trend now. Defining everything as property only leads to more laws and security. Which in turn generate more laws and security as a self-reinforcing mechanism. With finally a minimized freedom, whether expressive or physical. Copyright is history.”

Roberto’s works are now part of an international exhibition taking place in Croatia. He says: “The theme of this international exhibition ‘FREEDOM? PRIVACY?’ is a response to the impending ACTA treaty. PRIVATE SPACE is my personal contribution to this exhibition.”

What’ll change, or needs to change, in the art world in the future?
“It’s strange that in the case of films people accept it to watch a copy but for artworks it’s or a limited edition or a single original. Scarcity seems to be deliberately maintained in order to maintain control. Price reduction is a real no-go in the art. Artists need to experiment more with editions and point of sales. It should all begin with an uplifting of the art buyer, enabling him to operate more autonomous on the art market.”

This is already happening: “More participation in the museums and gallery owners who organize lectures and courses for their customers. Making art itself more understandable, but that’s something different than making understandable art.”

Check out more on Roberto Voorbij here.

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