Articles

Artist Avenges a Bad Review, Gets Fined for Copyright Violation #NSFW

by Kyle Chayka on March 28, 2013

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Art critic Camilla Stockmann appears at the center of this controversial collage by Von Hornsleth, which was in a response to a critical review by the writer at Denmark’s Politiken newspaper. (image via sortsonofon.blogspot.com)

What should an artist do when they get a bad review? Taking the criticism into consideration and thinking more about their work is so … difficult. The Danish artist Kristian von Hornsleth incorporated a journalist who wrote a critical article about him in the newspaper Politiken into a pornographic collage, but instead of getting slapped with a harassment suit, he’s getting fined for copyright infringement.

The original Camilla Stockmann image by photographer Lizette Kabré that was used by Von Hornsleth. (image provided by the artist)

The collage in question sticks journalist Camilla Stockmann in the middle of an extremely explicit group sex scene that many way see as sexist, degrading, and offensive. The piece is part of an invitation to a group show that Hornsleth participated this past December. Von Hornsleth said the collage was “his artistic reaction to Stockmann’s article and claimed freedom of expression,” according to The Art Newspaper, and explained that the piece shows “how critics ‘fuck’ others in the sense that they criticize them.”

Photographer Lizette Kabré sued Hornsleth for incorporating her photo into his collage, and the Copenhagen City court ordered him to pay Kabré DKr30,000 (around €4,000 or $5,100), plus DKr20,000 (€2,700 or $3,400) to cover the photograher’s legal costs. Though it’s not on the scale of the infamous copyright case of Prince vs. Cariou, Von Hornsleth is no stranger to getting called into court regarding his photo use. In the past, Hornsleth has appropriated photos by photographer Platon Antoniou without his permission into his work, and he had to withdraw the resulting paintings from his website and reproductions from sale.

Von Hornsleth's works also target other sectors of the art world, including this work, "My Collectors" (2008), that brags about his collectors, which we assume are having an orgy. (image via hornsleth.com) (click to enlarge)

Von Hornsleth’s works have also targeted other sectors of the art world, including this work, “My Collectors” (2008), which brags about his collectors, which we assume are having an orgy. (image via hornsleth.com) (click to enlarge)

Von Hornsleth told the Danish newspaper Politiken that he found the recent ruling troubling. “It is extremely sad. It has major consequences for all those who make collage art. Does that mean that you can not cut a picture on the internet or newspaper and put it into a painting, as has been done for 1,000 years?” he said.

But many people are not siding with Von Hornsleth over the use of the picture, and a Danish blog, Sort Sonofon, has pointed out that many people see the image as a form of “symbolic rape,” wherein the artist was asserting his masculine power over the female critic. Many are also quick to point out that Stockmann is not actually an art critic, but a journalist, who reports on the goings on of the art world. Her original article, which appeared October 3, 2009, documents a Danish company, The Ivy, that professed to have connections to Damien Hirst and other A-list British art stars. Hornsleth was managed by the company and the article claimed those relationships were fabricated and didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Stockmann told the Politiken newspaper that she doesn’t believe the artist can distinguish between journalism and criticism. ” … I see it as a tit for tat and not really a criticism. If this is a joke, it’s a very special sense of humor, and I would have to be inside the head of Hornsleth to see the … humor in the scene,” she says.

We reached out to Von Hornsleth, who responded to our questions of whether the ruling will have a larger impact on artists and whether it will stop him from using other people’s photographs in the future. He responded via email:

This was the portrait image of the Danish journalist Camilla Stockmann,  I used in my collage painting making a comment on power abuse of critics.

In my recent case I convicted by the court to pay 10.000 € for violation of photo rights

The case was absurd, pure Kafka, and the photographer of this portrait is a member of Danish Journalist Federation, and they paid and ran the case on behalf of the photographer.

The portrait photograph was even posted on Facebook!

I will of course NEVER stop the use [of] all photos I want to use in a historical tradition of collage art works.

This case will make it very hard for all collage artists to work in this media, which they have done for centuries.

My point was, that I ONLY used ONE image in ONE single painting, how can that be 10.000 €?

I did NOT produce, let’s say 100,000 plastic bags with the image on them for pr reasons.

We reached out to Stockmann, but she did not respond to our request for comment.

The lesson here? Don’t mess with the critics. Or at least, if you’re going to get your revenge, use original photos.

Kristian von Hornsleth also provided Hyperallergic with a copy of his statement, titled “Description of the artistic intention with the art work: ‘Teach Me Real Love’ and the artist’s view on the case,” which was written in April 2012, and explains his thoughts about the work:

To explain a visual art piece in writing is an ungrateful task, as it would be like describing a fog of infinite intentions and meanings with an overall general controlling idea. I will hereby try in a short format.

Firstly, I wish to point out that I do NOT insinuate that Camilla Stockmann (CS) is a porn star. The art work is a parody of the critical journalistic profession. The critics are dependent on criticising and in many ways harming the art. Secondly, I wish to lament the rude language in the text, but it has been necessary in order to be precise in my points.

THE INTENTION

The intention of the piece ‘Teach me real love’ falls in two sections:

  1. A visual parody of nature of cultural criticism, the image on the painting

  2. A text based commentary of the nature of cultural criticism, the image on the painting

Ad 1. The visual parody

The painting depicts CS as a porn star, and a porn star ’fucks’ people as their job. I use the word ‘fuck’ as a metaphor for ‘criticism’ as criticism is the main objective of the profession of criticism. The intention with the painting is to comment CS’s profession, just as she has commented on my profession. The journalists have their job and I have mine. The intention of my commentary is to point out that the critics ‘fucks’ people for a living.

Ad 2. The text based commentary

The point of the title, ‘Teach Me Real Love’, is that the critics is not in a position to understand and love art because their profession is depending on criticising and in many ways to hurt art and the artists. A central part of my manifest “FYAL”, (Fuck You Art Lovers 1995) is an anger and frustration over that very culture that rather criticises and creates art.

‘Teach Me Real Love’ was for me an expression for the fact that the critics do NOT love as they use their time on criticising and ‘fucking’ the art. ‘Teach Me Real Love’ in this context actually means: ‘Teach me how to love art’

THE CASE

This case is NOT about violation and the art work is NOT about being condescending toward CS personally. It is meant to be an artistic commentary to the cultural criticism generally. The work has so far been perceived by the system of critics and judges, as to NOT contain sufficient artistic merit and NOT to be a new and independent art piece.

Firstly, the system has failed to understand the basic superficial metaphorical meaning of the art piece.

Secondly, the system has failed to understand the deeper meaning with the art piece. My art IS based on creating a reaction, but is NEVER the aim to provoke without purpose. I provoke to show weaknesses in our culture.

It is very important for me to state the following: The painting and the apparent superficial meaning is NOT the ‘art’ in the art work. The TRUE MEANING of the art work is the CULTURAL REACTION that the art work creates.

In the painting I have, on a metaphorical level, claimed that the critics do neither understand nor love art. The proof of this exists in the actual accusation, that my work is not an art piece and in the accusation of me as artist. The cultural reaction IS the actual art piece and the cultural reaction has therefore validated the point that the system does NOT understand and does NOT love art.

The system has not understood the basic metaphor of the art work, and has at the same time therefore failed to grasp the main aim of the piece: To get the critics of culture to display themselves as not-equipped to judge art, and this way show that the work actually is about the critics themselves.

The system has not understood that the art piece in reality

  • does NOT aim to show CS as a porn star
  • does NOT show CS as a woman that ‘fucks’ people for a living
  • is NOT the physical painting on the wall

The art piece is the commentary that hangs in the conscience after you have watched the painting. The critics have exposed themselves with all their weaknesses and have BECOME the art piece themselves.

The final meaning with the project is to expose the weaknesses of the persons that society appoints to judge are not equipped to pass these judgements.

We see lawyers discuss the relevance of my work as art, we see judges judge what is art, we see photographers argue what is condescending, we see TV analysts debate whether the Queen has the right to use collage technique.

All this together IS THE ART PIECE. It demonstrates how little the people which society has appointed to judge really understands art. The art piece has proven that they understand nothing. Without noticing they fall directly into the trap, and has BECOME the art piece. Therefore it supports my very first intention and commentary of the fact, that they do not understand what art is and they art not equipped to perform such a judgment.

With reporting by Hrag Vartanian

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  • John Redmann

    Yikes. I guess that’s one way to deal with a criticism, albeit a poor one.

    It hardly seems to be a collage. It actually looks like a poorly photoshopped image that was subsequently painted/drawn onto. I think the original photographer is entitled to get their fair share as it clearly violates intellectual property laws. It’s easy to point out the original intent of the photograph (porn) wasn’t altered in any meaningful way (it’s still basically porn as the artist indicated).

    Complaining about the fine is lame. The photographer has to run a business, you get fined at a higher rate – it’s a penalty for a reason! The photographer would probably charge a few thousand for using their photo in the first place, this fine makes sense.

    Onto the collage itself, it seems to be lacking in any real substance as the artist describes it because in this instance the female is clearly on the receiving end here being f*cked not clearly doing any of the f*cking. The artists stated intention would’ve been clearer if the critics head was on one of the bodies with a penis and the artist head was on the female body. But something tells me they probably wouldn’t want to put that out there even though it seems a more accurate representation of the course of events.

    Lastly – dude, wtf are you thinking? Not everyone will like your art; lashing out at everyone or every criticism like this is simply poor form. If you don’t like the crit, pay it no mind. If it really bothers you figure out why, read it with a friend, therapist, etc. call up the critic and talk it out. If you’re that committed to your art, there will be as many detractors as there will supporters, sophomoric behavior like this will only cause people to distance themselves.

  • bill evertson

    Looks like a cry for help. All the words he wrote in his defense concerning appropriating imagery for collage doesn’t pass the smell test. He needs to rethink the role of critics and criticism if he wants to continue to exhibit publicly.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

      My gut tells me that he simply wanted publicity. It appears he has achieved that. Plus, the ‘bad boy’ / controversial image will probably result in sold work. Seems like a lot of money… Heck, he could have spent just as much on a few glossy art mag ads… and would have had nowhere near the buzz this story has had for his career. I’m probably giving him more credit than deserved… but who knows — perhaps he masterminded it. Ha.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shawn.chapman.9026 Shawn Chapman

    Remember last year when Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine did the same thing to Fox News contributor S.E.Cupp? No one cared then, so what’s the big deal now?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Balhatain Brian Sherwin

    Where is Encyclopedia Dramatica when you need it? Ha.

  • Junebug

    not sure what he was expecting–praise for stealing and appropriating images that are sexist, insulting and downright stupid? He’s a weak artist looking for attention. He got a little. Now he’s being self-righteous about it. Whatever. By the way dude, your art blows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/larry.gassan Larry Gassan

    Hornsleth wants it both ways at once, a conceptual double-penetration that he’s arguing is not. His MO is to be the proverbial cow-turd in the middle of the trail on a hot day, begging to be kicked.

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