15 February 2010

Drenched days, starry nights

Given the recent downpours in Canberra, the only starry nights around are Van Gogh’s at the Masterpieces from Paris exhibition at the National Gallery. I went with Megan and Mum and we enjoyed it immensely. It’s a lovely little exhibition which runs you through six rooms and a pretty logical and evident series of styles, from pointillism through impressionism to blocked colours and hard lines then into what seemed a very different style hinting at the Arts & Crafts movement. Suffice to say there were some very big names and a string of recognisable paintings. It’s had a massive attendance (200K to date) but we just walked in on Friday around 3pm. The advice is to avoid weekends for the tourist hoards and arrive mid-afternoon. You’re still not alone, but it’s perfectly acceptable and it’s more fun milling around with a few others, anyway.

I’d provide a pic as I usually do, but I hit another copyright or licence limitation. No pics. Private spaces are becoming increasingly controlling. I wholeheartedly support bans on flash, which is damaging to pigments and paintings, but this is just thorough-going ban. I’m told it’s demanded by the originating institution, but I was recently in Paris, and I was happily photographing (incident light) in several museums I attended, including in the Louvre building, in open view of the guards. I can’t imagine pics of some of these paintings will do much to affect the awareness or perceived value of these painting. Or even more that there would be any influence on the industry, or that copyright claim that the creator deserves recognition and value from the creation. These creators are dead, so they won’t be affected. It’s argued that the artist’s descendents deserve to gain from the creations, but these are owned by institutions, not families. The recent extension of copyright to 70 years after death of the creator seems doubly excessive, but that’s the current law. Even if no pics, there's at least a great website for the exhibition:

  • NGA's Masterpieces from Paris website

  • In a related vein, copyright has been in the news recently in Australia. Excuse any legal or other misunderstandings by me (as a librarian, I discussed copyright with many people and the understandings often diverged, even amongst professionals with awareness and interest, so this is not easy stuff). There was the iiNet decision which found that ISPs are not responsible for the use their services are put to. That sounds reasonable, although I note that ISPs have benefited from the heavy downloads, so they may not be totally uninterested parties. But the other decision was really strange, and has caused much dismay and even anger in the music community. This is the one that found copyright of “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” was infringed in the song “Land Down Under”, by Men at Work. It will be interesting to see what compensation is claimed for this found infringement. The press mentioned 40-60% of the profit from 5 years of sales. I find this figure quite staggering, especially given the obscurity of the infringing snippet, but this is a commercial and legal, not artistic matter. I ponder the decision for various reasons (although decision it is, and I have to accept the judgement). Firstly, no-one mentioned the similarity for 26 years until it was discovered on a rock quiz show. I heard the offending snippet on the radio 10 or more times before I heard the similarity, and even then it seemed to me to be obscure and only a short quote. I wonder how many times that string of intervals and that rhythmic pattern has appeared in the history of music - it’s a very simple line from a kindergarten sing-along ditty. I thought copyright allowed some limited quoting (for printed works, it’s usually understood to be to 10% of a work or one chapter) but this quote was obviously not allowed here. And in addition, the offending section is not in the composition, but in the performance, and not part of the tune’s written melody. Again on radio, I heard another kids’ tune (they say there are several: from South Africa and Wales, perhaps others) that was almost identical to Kookaburra, in tune and even in lyrical theme. For justice to work, we have to accept the independent judgement of our judiciary, but also we need decisions that aren’t ridiculed or questioned widely in society. I must say that this is one judgement I really find hard to fathom.


    Eric Pozza said...

    I've been thinking about this. If I had to choose my favourites, they would be - 1/ Paul CÉZANNE - Kitchen table (Still-life with basket) 1888-90, 2/ Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC - Redhead (Bathing) 1889, 3/ Maurice DENIS - The Muses 1893. Eric

    Eric Pozza said...

    More on the Kookaburra isse. I just heard a representative of the copyright owners speaking on Radio National. He stated he thought a fair claim would be 25% of the income (does he mean pre-tax income rather than profit?) from Land Down Under over the period for which they can claim rights (he said 6 years) and the claimed the infringement was 2 bars repeated 3 times in the song. I refrain from further comment.

    Eric Pozza said...

    Are some quotes in order? Not sure what this means: "Bad artists copy; great artists steal" / Pablo Picasso, but this is pretty obvious: "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants" / Isaac Newton.