Art and Ethics
February 10, 2005 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Art Theory Question: If somebody electronically adds an artwork into another virtual canvas (ex: a Moleskine page scan ), can he rightfully call it "Moleskine Art"?. Same goes for Photoshopped art on a quilt, graffiti on a blank wall, et c. Is it unethical for an artist to suggest that a work was done manually when it has been manipulated electronically? Your opinions or links to pertinent discussions elsewhere is much appreciated.
posted by azul to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
i'd say no. most people are honest about it tho, i think--Unless that's their point in making the art, and part of what they're saying--an artist making a comment on "sketchbook art", for instance, or something, or inserting their work into a pre-existing space as an essential part of the work.
posted by amberglow at 9:19 AM on February 10, 2005

i'm no art theorist, but i would guess that:
  • you can call things pretty much what you like
  • your question only seems to apply to photographic records (eg on a web page) of works, since once you display the quilt (say) in a gallery it will be obvious what the process was and/or it won't look like the photo
  • people trust the little descriptions of materials used in musuem/gallery labels - i'd be annoyed if that was wrong (and if you're selling you might get into legal hot water)
  • you can imagine someone purposefully doing this and then claiming that the act of providing misleading information was an important aspect of the work itself

posted by andrew cooke at 9:23 AM on February 10, 2005

Calling something "Moleskine Art" to begin with is fairly bogus to begin with, as "Moleskine" is neither a medium nor a technique. It's just paper.
posted by kindall at 10:53 AM on February 10, 2005

The clearer you are on your media, the more we museum/gallery/etc. staff will appreciate it. Generally, a citation on an art work looks like this: Artist, title, date, media, dimensions, ownership/contact info (i.e., Courtesy of XX Gallery or Private Collection or Courtesy of the Artist.) The wall label will look more or less the same but have more information: sometimes for space reasons I'll trim media down in a publication, but never on the wall or in the database. So, do something like this: Azul, Untitled #3, electronic image and pencil drawing, 2005, xx by xx, courtesy of the artist. Or, "electronic image and photograph "- something like that. I've seen "computer image", "photoshopped image" and then, there is the eeevil "giclee print" but I think I would tend to go with electronic over those.

Since this is a pretty new medium there isn't a clear cut way of addressing it and your question is interesting - so I'm going to asked other museum staff - and will let you know what they say.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:10 AM on February 10, 2005

Curator says: Digital Image is the way to go. Or Digital Image and whatever. The Curator has spoken, all hail!
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:33 AM on February 10, 2005

you can imagine someone purposefully doing this and then claiming that the act of providing misleading information was an important aspect of the work itself

Yeah, it really depends on if you are being conceptual-arty about this dimension of your work. I'd say if you really want it to be Moleskine art (or paper bag art or drawing on walls art or whatever) then if you step away from that with digital editing you're cheating - more yourself than your audience, probably. Because those kind of restrictions are more of a self-discipline thing. But if you are being clever about it and ignoring those restrictions, then it becomes more of a comment on the term "Moleskine art." Does that make sense?
posted by furiousthought at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2005

I'm a complete and utter layman when it comes to art, but I agree intuitively with mygothlaundry's curator. If you're categorizing or cataloging the work, a description of the medium should be separate from the work's image of a medium. You wouldn't call a photograph of (or drawing of, or prose description of) a painting "a painting."

(Also, mygothlaundry wins the cutest name award.)
posted by majick at 12:26 PM on February 10, 2005

What goes in my molesinke via physical means is moleskine, everything else is not. I'm certainly not a BA, or anyway close to the paragods in art theory, however I'd say medium is medium. Lying is trying to gain recognition where you do not deserve it.

I do have to admit, most of the images published from my Canon 20D are not 'as they hit the CMOS sensor.' Is this malfeasance if I'm published? I don't think so. Which, of course, leads into some regression. However, a digital camera seems -digital.- A moleskine is my hand, the paper. I don't touch a transistor or a capacitor. It's in the could-be-1200ad realm still...
posted by sled at 1:42 PM on February 10, 2005

Thanks everyone for your insights so far. You've been most helpful. I asked these questions to deal with works submitted to a site I'm associated with.
posted by azul at 2:38 PM on February 10, 2005

Slight derail: is there a particular reason you want your work to be "moleskine art"? Is this some kind of prestige thing that I'm missing?
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:49 PM on February 10, 2005

heh. search for moleskine on this site. it's the number one consumer fetish of "artistic" americans - something similar to those messenger bags made of recycled tarps in europe. a handy little signpost in case you otherwised missed their visionary creativity.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:05 PM on February 10, 2005

I'm currently dealing with this issue. I used to draw with pen and paper. Now I draw everything in Illustrator. I was happy to call it a Digital Image. However, when I first attempted to have them printed professionally, there were a myriad of options from metallic lamda print to giclee (with even more paper options). So what then? Digital image no longer encompasses everything. It is necessary to know if it is archival and what type of printer and paper was used. So I guess my question is for mygothlaundry and anyone else who cares to answer, why are giclee prints "eeevil"? Is there a better terminology that covers all the bases? Archival Digital Inkjet Print on PET-G Glossy Film? Or is that info not necessary? Just curious. I never came up with a satisfactory answer.
posted by snez at 3:16 PM on February 10, 2005

Giclee prints are eeevil because they're being unscrupulously marketed to fool people who think they are getting something else entirely: in fact, original artwork, not mass produced reproductions. That's not to say anything about the people who actually are producing original artwork with them - that's great - it's the marketing scam that's the problem. The people who usually do this go into a whole song and dance about Giclee, the wonderful new medium, and the ads are illustrated with faux watercolors of large colorful bouquets or Thomas Kinkades or something. It's unfortunate, but it's kind of tarred the whole medium.

I think that when you submit your work to a gallery, you might as well include all the information that you can - ink jet print of digital image on archival paper would work - or the example you used. Like I said, sometimes we will trim the information down for space reasons on a printed piece or in a press release (although who am I kidding? The newspaper will just print the image, all blurry, and maybe, maybe if we're lucky, the name of the museum) but almost everyone is pretty clear about printing the media on the wall label just the way the artist wants it, and, in fact, knowing what s/he wants is helpful. Although, for the love of the gods, please don't list every single thing in a complex mixed media piece, as in "Crayon, corrugated cardboard, watercolor, dead fly, cigarette butt, ring from coffee cup, oil paint, latex paint, latex gloves, playdough, ballpoint and notebook paper". Mixed media will do just fine.

*thank you majick! My laundry thanks you!*
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:22 PM on February 10, 2005

Thank you mygothlaundry. I suspected that is what you meant by eeevil but was unsure. It is unfortunate how the term has been abused and I don't really know how to offset that. Perhaps just call it an inkjet print and leave it at that. Thanks again!
(and sorry for the derail)
posted by snez at 4:49 PM on February 10, 2005

The artist should say exactly what it is and how it was created or they should say nothing at all.
posted by J-Garr at 10:32 PM on February 10, 2005

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