M.Z.: Does the performativity need a multiple authorship to work?
C.S.: I would go so far as to say that performativity is the expression of multiple authorship, but this does not necessarily mean that different people have to be involved. Multiple authorship can very well be a concept being performed by a single person.
M.Z.: Does multiple authorship work inevitably compose contradictory strategies?
C.S.: I would say no. Whether or not the layer of contradiction comes into play depends on the context. In a case, for example, where a number of people create a product together, let’s say a computer program or a game–these are commonly used examples for new models of authorship in the realm of digital media–the only purpose is to create a functional product.
The interesting implications here are not the ones of authorship, but the ones of economy. Within the art world this might be different because the subject is still the major reference, maybe not necessarily for production, but certainly for the perception of the work.
M.Z.: Is it possible to say that only multiple authorship creates political aesthetics?
C.S.: Are we talking about political issues as a motif of artworks? Are we following the idea that art is political per se? Probably not, as both these approaches easily allow the co-option of the works by the mainstream art market and thus neutralize all radical or resistant qualities. The slogan of the Old Boys Network — the first international cyberfeminist network which I co-founded in 1997 [www.obn.org]–was ” The mode is the message, the code is the collective.” This slogan expressed our idea that all radicality originates in the way HOW you do things and along with it, the idea that political resistance starts with HOW you get organised, and I always considered our FORM of organisation as a kind of aesthetics. From here we can build a link back to your question.
Political aesthetics are probably not something an individual is able to create within one work or art but are a system of references; a context which resists the possibilty of co-option–from whomever for whatever purpose.
M.Z.: You talk about the mainstream art market. Was this mainstream art market the one that pushed you into legal arena?
C.S.: The starting point for my engagment with copyright issues was when an exhibiton which I had planned to carry out in Switzerland was cancelled because of alleged copyright infringement. That was in 2004. Since then I have been investigating copyright and ‘intellectual property’ issues and their relationship to art. And it is important for me to state that I am doing that work not as a victim of the system; on the contrary, I am using the law, legal experts and the whole logic of the legal system as material for my artistic work.
Actually this area has many problems, and the way it is developing is very alarming and partly absurd. All I am doing is to use the methods of my discipline (art) to illuminate some of those problems. If this strategy will not just create aesthetic results, but also have a political impact that would be most desireable.
M.Z.: Could you please describe one of your actual projects that is moving in this direction?
C.S.: Starting with that case where my exhibition was shut down in Switzerland, I began to build an artistic “case study”. It uses what has been the bone of contention–the famous Andy Warhol flowers–as a precendent to act out all possible aspects of one artist using the work of another artist as part of his or her new work. First, I did my own legal research, which resulted in a video. Then I consulted four specialised lawyers to receive their professional advice (another video installation), and finally I constructed a fictitious conversation with the artist (Warhol) to discuss the case with him (again a video). Additionally, I created some more variations of the flower images in different formats (digital prints, painting, animation)–in order to create more examples of reworkings. Again, what I am targeting here are the philosophical aspects of authorship and originality which, of course, are directly linked to copyright. At the moment, I am about to finish the study with a request for written permission from to the Warhol Foundation to use the flowers for artistic reworking. The result of that will be displayed in an exhibition about art and copyright this summer at Media Art association HMKV in Dortmund, Germany.
M.Z.: Is this exhibition an exercise ot put your theoretical concepts of multiple authorship into practice? What will be the next step in your political-aesthetic strategy?
C.S.: I never work step by step but do different things and follow different strategies parallel. The biggest part of my work at the moment is doing research for a PhD at the University of Dundee in Scotland. I am writing about questions of art, copyright and knowledge economy, and trying to analyse, but also synthesize, aesthetic and artisitic strategies in the field.
Another ongoing project is the internet platform THE THING Hamburg. This is a platform for art and critique, mainly for the local community in Hamburg. I am co-founder of the platform and co-editor of the magazine-part. Although there is not much discussion any more about it, the role of small and tactical media is very important, and it has not yet been made much use of in the art world. For some reason, people are staring as if they were hypnotised at the not just glossy, but also totally reactionary art magazines.