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[title removed for trademark violation] (2014)

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: December 29, 2019

Artist Description:

Despite all appearances to the contrary, the depicted symbol is not one rightly associated with some masquerading champion of law and order in a particular city reeling from runaway crime. I am required to inform you that in spite of any perceived similarity, this is most definitely not the luminous call sign of thatman!

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

What might have motivated Daim Aggott-Hönsch to create [title removed for trademark violation] (2014), a transparent homage to —and/or intellectual property infringement from— DC Comics’ Batman? You’d have to ask the artist. You probably should: The intellectual prompting which spurred [title removed’s creation is probably meatier than anything physically in the frame.

The stark, static piece is a generative design, which either may have come to look like the famous Batman symbol by sheer happenstance, but which nevertheless (and this is directly referenced in the Artist Description, mind you) plays off of the associations we collectively have with the image. Because, as the artist informs us, this is not the Batman symbol, and any passing familiarity to it is the result of an observer’s subjective projection. Ahem, that means you. A few shades of black and white, a jagged shape, and some swirling lines is all we have physically before us, and yet, there’s no doubt: We feel like we’ve seen this picture before. Are we not thus being asked to define the very point at which a symbol ceases to be itself? And are we not forced to wonder who gets to decide: artist, observer, or some third party, larger and more economically powerful than the former two, who, god willing, won’t get wind of this piece’s existence?

What we’re physically looking at is a black landscape upon which wispy white lines have arranged themselves, first in random slicing patterns, like that of shooting stars burning across a black sky, before coalescing in a grand explosion of bright white crystalline light in the center of the piece. Yes, the ultimate collection of these lines, shapes, and lights bears passing resemblance to the Bat Symbol, the bat-shaped light used to summon the Batman to an active crime scene, but upon further examination, there’s no real shape to be discerned. There are small dots of light which look like tiny galaxies, growing in number and intensity the closer to the piece’s center they get, but even these are placed randomly. There doesn’t actually appear to be any overarching logic governing [title removed’s makeup, and so ultimately, the symbol created by AI Generation is less a symbol and more like a large snowflake (complete with ice’s oft-jagged edges), or simply an abstract shape, one without call-sign or analogy or inherent intention.

Which makes it interesting that Aggott-Hönsch would overtly link their piece to something it only vaguely bears resemblance to. The cheeky Artist Description sounds like a statement made under duress, a Copyright Infringer being forced under penalty of a lawsuit to exhume the actual image here as something far away from what it purportedly looks like. The title plays into this too, forcing us to immediately wonder, if it wasn’t obvious from first glance, what exactly this piece resembles, thus priming us to sublimate other symbols onto it, and thus setting it in a context outside of the Knownorigin page it exists on. Not that it adds much thematic resonance, but it’s worth noting that [title removed for trademark violation] (2014) was not minted in 2014, as the title suggests, but almost half-a-decade later. 

It’s not the comparisons between [title removed and the image of the Bat Symbol that make this piece so interesting, but how powerfully the artist wants us to make this association. The piece itself does not benefit from this association in any overt way. Even in the world of faux-copyright-infringers-and-their-subsequent-legal-apologies which the title and description of this piece reference, there is a sense that something truer is being sapped from both art and artist by their inability to give this piece its proper title, or describe itself on proper terms. Thus, there’s almost a performance aspect of the piece, one that utilizes the physical internet environment around it, the literal written summary beside it, and the title above it. 

It’s fruitful, however, to explore the rabble-rousing intention of this piece; it strikes me as similar in tone to a certain type of Supreme Court case. In these examples, an already tenuous or murky legal situation will purposefully be incorporated in a lawsuit, subsequently backed by high-profile politicians and litigators, and all of this done with the express intention that the case will be ruled upon, appealed, ruled upon again by an appellate court, again appealed, and finally seen by the Supreme Court, thus ensuring a long-standing legal precedent will come out of it. 

That is to say, in these situations, litigators first go looking for trouble. And Aggott-Hönsch is looking for trouble. The artist clearly wants us thinking about copyright infringement, and who owns a symbol once it becomes meaningful to a larger population. One could see DC coming after this piece in seriousness, thus providing confirmation to the punkishly tongue-in-cheek atmosphere built around it. [Title removed is conceptual art, not much to look at, but much to think about. It’s still unclear how the central image was arrived at, whether intended by the artist or an accidental generation of the AI. Either way, [title removed is a provocation: to the ideological-establishment, to the purveyors of IP law, and most importantly to observers. Would someone purchase a piece like this not for its own merits, which may be meaningless to them, but for its resemblance to some other, unrelated symbol that does have meaning?  And then, if so, does [title removed not become the symbol in question? Does it not, through the actions of a purchaser, a believer, an imagination, become just the thing it purports to not be? 


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