Exhibition: Pastiche, Parody and Piracy

June 12, 2014 in Events, General, News

Steve Bell: "I licence the logo bearers ..."

Steve Bell: “I licence the logo bearers …”

Many PCO members feature in an exhibition that brings together cartoonists and contemporary artists called Pastiche, Parody and Piracy and opens at the Cob Gallery in north London on 20 June.

The exhibition was put together by the the curator Camilla Ellingsen Webster with artist Miriam Elia and cartoonist Jeremy Banx, with the aim of showing the importance of the “appropriation” of images made by others in art and satire.

The team say that they were inspired to “celebrate the historical creative act of pastiche, parody and piracy” after Penguin UK threatened to pulp Elia’s book We Go to the Gallery, a parody of the Ladybird series of children’s books.

Alongside Banx, the PCO members involved are: Nathan Ariss, Steve Bell, Andrew Birch, Matt Buck, Wilbur Dawbarn, Pete Dredge, Noel Ford, Steve Jones, Kathryn Lamb, Chris Madden, Glenn Marshall, Alexander Matthews, Jonathan Pugh, Ken Pyne, Royston Robertson, Martin Rowson, Cathy Simpson, Bill Stott, The Surreal McCoy and Mike Turner.

Wilbur Dawbarn plays with Dance by Matisse

Wilbur Dawbarn plays with Matisse’s Dance

As well as cartoons, this exhibition will feature projections, photographs, prints and collage that use or pastiche other works of art, characters and logos.

The use of other works – though it has long been a tool in art – can be a controversial issue, particularly as those works are often copyrighted. The exhibition has already stirred up debate within in the PCO, with some members refusing to take part.

The gallery says: “The pieces in this exhibition play with other people’s ideas and pre-existing works to showcase a selection of contemporary appropriation in art that is often mischievous, somewhat humorous, and often unsettling. It plays with what the viewer might be comfortable with and questions ideas of authorship and originality.”

The title for this exhibition was inspired by a proposed exception for parody, satire and pastiche in a government copyright law. If it is passed, the act of subverting and appropriating elements of popular culture will be protected from large companies that often seek to silence artists through the courts.

Chris Madden takes on the House of Mouse

Chris Madden takes on the House of Mouse

“We believe this is crucial for the future of appropriative art and satire, and although the law has been delayed, we are putting on this exhibition to celebrate artists, satirists and cartoonists who are paving the way,” say the organisers.

Pastiche, Parody and Piracy: Exploring Different Approaches in Contemporary Art Appropriation is at The Cob Gallery, London NW1 from 20 June – 5 July. For more, email info@cobgallery.com or call 020-7209 9110

17 responses to Exhibition: Pastiche, Parody and Piracy

  1. As is stated in the blog piece, there are a number of PCO cartoonists who have refused to take part in this exhibition. As one of those, I feel I should explain why, since the blog makes no attempt to do so. Whilst I have absolutely no problem with parody and pastiche, having produced numerous works involving both in my 30 years as a professional cartoonist, the acknowledged inspiration behind this exhibition (Miriam Elia’s book and her dispute with Penguin UK) contains artwork that has, without permission, been directly lifted from Ladybird publications and so is not her work, is not owned by her, is not credited to the original artist, and is thereby effectively presented as her own work for (crucially) commercial gain. In my view, and that of others, this is a step too far and is not covered in any way by the umbrella of Pastiche and Parody. This is blatant piracy, and wrong. 

    But rather than any signs of remorse, the case against her has been turned into a cause célèbre, with this exhibition being the prime focus of that. Whilst other cartoonists have the right to participate in this exhibition, and a minority of the membership have indeed done so, I find the fact the PCO Committee has officially aligned our organisation with this cause deeply regrettable. Plus our continued criticism of another high profile organisation for not-unrelated issues now appears more than a tad hypocritical. 

    The theme of the exhibition is a good one. The exhibition’s declared association with the cause in question, however, completely negates what it should be highlighting, and the message that conveys is simply wrong. And that, in my view, severely discredits the PCO in aligning itself with this event, and why I have turned down the chance to participate in it. 
  2. I share Steve’s concern about this, he’s summed up very well the feelings I have about this matter. It’s one thing to parody and pastiche another’s work to express a statement, it’s quite another to openly use someone else’s work and to promote it as one’s own. This surely goes against the principles of the PCO and what it stands for and support of an exhibition that highlights her supposed ‘injustice’ is, at best, misguided.

  3. I echo the above sentiments. I worry about the confusion this exhibition will cause in the public’s eye as to when it is deemed acceptable to reuse other’s artwork without permission.  It is difficult enough as it is to explain to the world that just because that a piece of artwork it has been published in print or electronically it is NOT then in the public domain to be freely stolen and reused in or out of context.

    Sadly I feel this exhibition, excellent though it doubtless is in content,  muddles that issue and is therefore unhelpful to the PCO’s aims.

  4. I think there’s also a real danger that the very title of the exhibition gives a false impression, unless this exhibition highlights the differences in the three ‘P’s. Pastiche and Parody have a long and noble tradition among satirists of all kinds, and I would defend anyone’s right to employ it. Piracy, despite the romanticism portrayed by the likes of Captain Jack Sparrow et al, is out and out theft for profit, and ought to be roundly condemned, particularly by organisations which seek to protect and promote the professionalism of creatives, as the PCO was born to do. 

    But Piracy appears to be lumped in with Pastiche and Parody (a more fitting title would have been ‘Pastiche and Parody…or Piracy?’), and all seemingly celebrated equally within the confines of this exhibition, which in my view is very wrong. I admit I may be prejudging it (I’ve obviously not seen it), but if it manages to highlight the difference between the concepts, without drawing negative attention to the piracy employed during the creation of the book which inspired it all, that would be some trick. 
    We have been told there will be a debate during the exhibition on the matters raised by it. My request to be a part of that has so far been ignored. 
  5. I’m a willing participant in the exhibition and I think a show about a key part of our skills in the controversial area of intellectual property is a good thing, disputed or not.

    I thought the PCO correct to offer the chance to participate in the show to its members and I note, above, that more than 20 have had work accepted into the show.

    I hope the work undertaken by The Cob Gallery and the independent organising committee will be a success*.

    * I do have an interest because I am selling prints of work at the gallery and I imagine many others are as well.

  6. The idea of the show would be commendable, except that the declared object of the exhibition is to show support for an artist who has pirated images in order to create a commercial book, and therefore all who participate in the show are doing likewise by association with it.

    Still, I hope you all sell out. 

  7. If you think a crime has been committed call CRIMESTOPPERS on 0800 555 111 and ask for Inspector ‘Knicker of the Art’.

    Acting on an anonymous tip-off, members of the Serious Cut ‘n’ Paste Squad last night arrested a man in his 80’s believed to be Sir Peter Bloke, internationally renowned collage artist responsible for creating the Les Beat Four’s  ‘Major Salter’s Divorced and Separated Club Band’ album cover in the 60’s.
    Before being whisked away for further questioning, Bloke told reporters “It’s a shameful, abhorrent crime! I only got two hundred quid for creating the piece!”
    Knicker of the Art commented: “What is PCO exactly?”
  8. Would it be incorrect to infer from that last jocular post that you think Ms Elia did no wrong, Pete, and that all artists’ work is fair game for anyone else to use at will? 

  9. God forbid that a cartoonist should be “jocular”, on a cartooning website, Brighty!

    I think there’s another “p” that could be added to the title of the exhibition: playful. The organisers are clearly making mischief with the topics of parody, pastiche and piracy. Nothing wrong with that. There’s a history of it in art, and certainly in cartooning. There is a danger of taking this exhibition all too seriously. Maybe a sense of perspective is needed. Another “p” to add to the list.

  10. Paywall?

  11. Did I say there was any problem with being jocular, Royston? Even if it was at my expense. Admittedly, would have preferred a more considered insight into Pete’s thinking on all of this, however, but I still hold out hopes for that.

    As for your second point… Forgive me cutting and pasting the following response to when you posted the same paragraph on your Facebook thread, but I can’t be bothered typing it all out again….

    I can think of a few more (P’s), Royston. I only have one objection to this exhibition, and that is what inspired it. To me, seeking to do my bit to protect a business I’ve been in for 30 years now, it IS a serious objection, and the danger from where I’m standing is that the PCO and many of its members appear not to be taking it seriously at all, to the extent that they have ended up supporting the very thing we should all be united against. Just my view of course, but it’s a shared one. Playful? No. Perspective varies – wildly it seems.

  12. This makes interesting reading, seeing as the artist being criticized has actually re-done a number of other artists illustrations to create larger exhibition works. He’s basically enlarged the originals and painted over, copying faithfully.


  13. Interesting piece, Malcolm, and ‘transformative’ seems to be the key word here.

    I don’t know much about ‘art’ but is this faithful copying parody? It only needs a couple of ‘in the know’ art critics to talk this up and the price sky rockets.
    In principal I can see little difference of approach in Miriam’s Penguin parody and the Steve Bell cartoon that heads up this topic. Sharp-eyed Inspector Knicker has spotted at least four examples of logo theft in Mr Bell’s work so expect imminent collar feeling in the Brighton area (probably when resources are available after the England v Uruguay match).
  14. He drew them himself, Pete. That’s the difference. 

  15. Doesn’t matter in the eye of the copyright infringement lawyers, Steve.

  16. We’ve all infringed copyright on that score, Pete – there’s no doubt about that. But most copyright holders recognise that parody done properly is not only not a bad thing for their interests, but often a good thing, and will not recourse to law in order to fight it. Some do, of course, and currently that is their right, and we all walk that wire from time to time. But the reason this particular case/book is different to all of the others in the show is that it relies heavily on another artist’s work throughout, without permission or accreditation, and in doing so, it suggests that the artist created that work herself, especially when publicity for the book talks about her own skills as an artist, and her ability to ghost the Ladybird style. 

  17. I don’t think it does suggest that. Maybe this exhibition has attracted more ‘traffic’ to the original Lady Bird back catalogue and associated merchandise thus generating additional income for the respective rights holders. All good then. (I’ve purchased a couple of Wingfield prints, an artist whose name escaped me before all this hoo ha.

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