This was my favourite part of the project because to me it was the conversations around the books, how they affected the way the people involved thought about concepts like property, authorship, authenticity, consent, fairness, etc. A lot of the questions in my practice are still the same ones that emerged in those conversations: Who gets to own or produce ‘intellectual property’? How do issues of identity and economic power intersect with issues of ownership and authorship? What do we owe to the people that gave us their labour to construct ‘our’ project?
I would add as discursive events all the conversations we had around the books that were carefully and intentional planned but were not ‘public’ in the art institution/funder categorization. The categorisations by art funders were something that we struggled with through the project and it was what culminated in our taking a step back. We were invited to be part of an exhibition around copyright and we wanted to have a small programme or workshops and conversations around the books. The institution behind the commission first agreed but then said that as part of the public programme, our events and workshops would have to engage with much larger numbers of people than the ones we had proposed. Public then became a metric of numbers that fulfilled funding requirements instead of the idea of sharing in any meaningful way. This made no sense to me.
So, I would like to push back in a different direction and add here the time in which we visited a Chinese book pirate and he sent us to a different address so he could check us and approve us beforehand. The days I spent in Peru looking for modified Peruvian books and how the sellers would react as if I had broken a massive taboo. When we met a Chinese curator in Beijing and he mentioned that the piracy framework would be useful to think about the political system in China. The time I ended up at a Creative Commons meeting in Vancouver dragged by someone who saw us a panel and wanted us to raise some of our questions in that context. All the books and essays we read through those years and shared with our different interlocutors. I don’t say this to commensurate the informal but because at a personal level, the pub conversations were so much more interesting and impactful than any of these events.
Annotated by AF