Hi, I’m Rick Dolphin
It’s all cherry 7-UP from here
Holding wrists in Cortland County
In an Escalade
I’m Rick Dolphin.
Photo of deflated Christmas decorations baking in the L.A. sun posted to a social media website.
Write down a prayer.
Dear L.A., give me the strength to walk among your rubbish strewn, car choked streets and not be perturbed by the fact that I find more in common with the drunk old toothless misanthropes grinding on each other on the bench or wrapped in sleeping bags at the buildings turn or sitting Indian-style on the sidewalk with old newspapers and toothless grins than those my age with well combed hair, good healthy bodies and stylistically bifurcated clothing.
These cloths are not mine but of a dumb death mute. Pick up the phone, it’s you I’m talking too.
Ya’ll getting these sick texts from firstname.lastname@example.org?
If you live/love in LA you can get RBS 2 at the arts annex of Skylight Books. If you don’t want to buy it at least say hello to this rad cat in the main bookstore!
You are on equal standing with Jon Rafman in terms of your ownership/authorship of the content. I understand that you spent a considerable amount of time and labor gathering this content and I as well as Jon are fully aware and appreciative of…
Very interesting dialogue revealing the gray areas of art ownership and the struggle for the social capital resultant from it and how communities try to deal with it.
FM Towns Marty is claiming to be acting as an anthropologist where as Rafman is acting as an artist.
Rafman appropriated work from the FM Towns Marty catalog without citation or accreditation.
- FM Towns Marty claims this is abuse of their Work Done in terms of collection, cataloging, sourcing, archiving, curating and otherwise Doing the Work of exploring and presenting the work of a certain group of early computer game creators.
- Rafman acolytes/peers/supporters claim that Rafman had A) good intentions in regards to citation but more so B) FM Towns Marty has no claim to the work in that it was presented within the framework of a network (tumblr) designed for sharing and that he is simply transitioning work created by others from one space to another.
Struggles between artistic parties in relation to right of ownership of content is nothing new at this point, but this struggle takes my interest because of it’s occurrence in the digital space, the closeness I have to the issue as an artist using Tumblr as a disseminating structure and community and almost most of all, the derisive mode in which Rafman’s supporters are treating FM Towns Marty.
I will avoid the argument that there is a necessary transformation of the appropriated content needed for new work to be considered an original work operating within fair use, an argument which has been used before to settle previous disputes of this type as in Cariou V. Prince settled by the United States District Court of Appeals, because not only do I think that this argument is not important here but also because what’s necessarily transformative is subjective and can be argued either way, to a point where you could say FM Towns Marty’s work was artwork via transformation and Rafman’s was not or the opposite or they were both transformative or both not based on any number of factors you take into consideration.
I will also set aside the argument of “Doing the Work”, and whether FM Towns Marty’s task of actually navigating the digital spaces of the games and the processes he uses to catalog, curate and present the stills and gifs of those games and the time and effort that takes somehow provides him with more “ownership” of the work than Rafman’s maybe less time consuming act of saving stills from FM Towns Marty’s blog, as I am not privy to their artistic processes and cannot quantify them nor do I believe that time/effort can be used as a tool to determine ownership.
What I would argue is that there is a necessary moral structure in the relationship between any curator/presenter/artist and the culture/people/work/content that they present, how that work is obtained and how the cultural capital/fiscal capital reaped from that representation is distributed (I.E. to the presenter/or to those presented) and within that context Rafman and FM Towns Marty are operating in two distinct modes. Rafman in a capitalistic, possibly self-serving, exploitative mode and FM Towns Marty is operating within (as Lewis Hyde would say) The Spirit of the Gift, or in a community serving, open and giving mode. It is the differences between these two modes of operation which makes the appropriation of these images by Rafman seem so sour.
In the past, works of cultural representation have been the first/most easily accesible portals certain majorities have had to repressed and minority communities (Early Paintings of Native Americans for example, which were created to both falsely/truthfully represent their subjects depending on the artist) but now in digital space the actual locations of these communities are easily accessible via hyperlinks. If Rafman “truly cares for internet subcultures” depicted in his work, he could have easily provided links to the actual communities creating these works instead of eliminating all access to them.
He has in the act of asserting authorial claim over these works presented in the video, separated them from their cultural spaces of origin and in regards specifically to the work of FM Towns Marty, turned what was originally a gift, into his own personal commodity by removing it from the cultural exchange of the net culture. It is a very capitalistic maneuver. In this way all cultural capital (and fiscal capital if he is being paid) is being collected by himself instead of continuing to flow through and to the community/cultures he is exploiting and depicting.
Let’s take a look at how the “Authors” of these works are operating. FM Towns Marty is anonymous, working for free, is posting work into a structure designed for easy sharing and dissemination, (a structure where other users can appropriate the work into their own online identities) and is providing citation and credit to the original creators of the work and is on the whole providing this work within the framework of mostly honoring the originators of the content.
Rafman is naming himself as the authorial source, is at least receiving cultural capital via his associations with the social/artistic institutions which commissioned the work, if not actual capital from them, is exhibiting the work on pages which are self contained portals of ownership, within galleries even further devoid of context, has no citation to the communities he is exploiting for the work and is displaying the work within a framework that renders the cultures depicted as horrifying, shocking and perverse.
If Rafman was presenting a cultural item like the Marlboro Man (Which Prince has previously used in a work) or Mickey Mouse (which thousands of artists use in their work) there is a different feeling because that is an appropriation of a thoroughly commodified icon, which then becomes a subversive work as opposed to an exploitative one. This is not only because the icon itself is an icon of comidification but because the artist in their subversive act is “freeing” the icon from the capitalistic constraints of the institution which controls how the icon can be used or even thought of to act and allowing it to be an object controlled by the community until the institutions with legal rights to control the icon in question crack down on the work and destroy it.
It is surprising that there are those who defend Rafman by claiming that FM Towns Marty should have expected this to occur and not be offended by it as it is so very easy to take images from Tumblr and present them in a new context which separates the works from their origins. I would argue just because something is possible or even easy does not make it morally right or even acceptable. Tumblr has a growing community of artist’s and curators who have been trying to deal with how to spread the message that when work is being presented, ownership should be retained by the originating author of the artwork and not those who post it to their digital space. I think this relates again to the accumulation of social capital. A blog page which has no sources becomes in a sense, the author of the content as it becomes the end receiver of the social capital and attention that would possibly have been diverted to the artist in question where as blog which cites works and artists continues the flow of community and uses the work of the artist’s work as a gift instead of an owned commodity to be exploited.
FM Towns Marty’s presentation of the work in a mode of openness and availability asks all viewers that they oblige by a social contract that this gift not be violated and become owned or commodified. FM Towns Marty could have printed these works in a book, put them in a gallery or any other format that makes them more rare and less available to the world but instead he took on the project as a service or again, a gift to the digital world, of taking this unknown and un-explored area of digital paraphernalia and allowing the average man/woman to delve deep into it. He is presenting something for a community, in the way in an actual physical community we may leave sleds at a local sledding hills for use by others, a library will lend books or even the way a communal bong may be stuffed behind a tree for the local potheads. To take these objects, claim they are your own or even commodify them and receive monetary gains from them is against the spirit of their origin within the community.
It is maybe hard to conceive of this particular community since it exists in a digital space where our knowledge of its members is more ephemeral and intuitive than actual but as we move forward deeper and deeper into the internet as a space where our communities blossom and take place understanding how a healthy community can exist openly and honestly within that space is incredibly important and incredibly real. I believe FM Towns Marty is working for that sort of community. I think Jon Rafman has done great work in the past (Cool-Aid Man in Second Life) but I think in this case he has made a mistake in his mode of operation which serves to poison a community that his supporters claim he truly cares for.
I do not mean this to be a indictment of Rafman but more so a column of support for FM Towns Marty, who has been open and honest about his confusion and pain surrounding what has occurred between him and Rafman and his struggle to name the source of the actual wrongdoing. I believe that this is not a one-off occurrence that FM Towns Marty has to deal with but instead a single interaction of the oft-invisible borderlines of community interaction and rule making in digital spaces made visible. To not investigate and learn from it would be a mistake.
Phillip glass on a stop sign
Sketching on discarded label paper has its advantages