I have written similar things in the past on this and my now defunct blogger site but we (humans) especially in free countries have an inherent desire to be different, to be noticed as being apart from the crowd. I’m no social scientist but I do have some skills of observation. For example, I live in the bustling metropolis of Orlando and, once in a while, while driving downtown, have passed lines of Goths waiting to go into some alternative club or another to see a band that’s made up of like made-up people. My initial response is “What the hell are they thinking?”, but I guess I can empathize with them if I think about it. These are kids who have no personal identity but they do have a perhaps misguided need to rebel, so they adopt the most rebelious thing they can come with… the undead look. The thing I always find amusing is, when you see a line or a room filled with them, they’ve once again lost their identity, they all look the same. I always wanted to point that out to them but have no idea what happens when you piss off the undead.
Of course they are not the only social subculture going, there are bikers and bowlers and tatoo people, I suppose you could broaden it to include any group not in the mainstream, maybe even any group that see’s themselves as different. Certainly these groups serve a social purpose providing acceptance to the individual but in the case of the Goths where standing out is important, why do they all look so alike? My point is this, being an individual comes from within, it’s being true to yourself. In art, in the subset of plein air impressionism, for example, there is the danger of sameness that can occur because the individual is choosing to follow a movement or a style without interjecting the trueness, the purity of the individual. It’s fine to follow a leader, a way, a style for a while but at some point it’s time to leave the nest. I guess what brings this to mind is seeing artists in the mags who are blatantly borrowing from another and calling it their own. They aren’t ever going to stand out this way. Not to mention the lack of ethics (and how that speaks to the individual) it takes to claim something that they didn’t create.
I know I’ve said this before but I’ve always wanted to use the goth analogy. So, let’s just take this a little further into the legal realm of plagiarism. In the world of art there are two kinds of copyright infringement (i’m greatly simplifying this): style or brand infringement and content infringement. An example of the former might be if I decide to create a soft drink and call it Stoke-a-cola and put it in a red can with white scripty type. If I did that my ass would be in the wringer faster than you can spell copyright infringement correctly. Why isn’t the same true for a painting style. I think it is but it’s harder to prove and too costly for the average artist to pursue. The latter is easier to prove and nowhere is it more prevalent than on the home computer via the internet.
It’s easy to take an image off the web, just a click and a drag to the desktop. Hey, there’s a pretty picture, I’ll just borrow that and use it for reference. Copyright law says that if you can put up the originating image next to the copy and see the similarities it’s infringement, there’s no percentage of copying that’s allowable. Doing a study after a master for the sake of learning is one thing but copying a painting or a photo and calling it yours without crediting the originator or getting permission is deep, turbulent water. Putting said art up for sale makes the waters deeper still. Class 5 rapids. The law also states that if a body of work is published with a blanket copyright somewhere in print or on a website, it covers all of the work. It’s actually inherent at the signing of each piece but, while this law is still in effect, it’s very hard to support in court. If you wish to protect your work from infringement you need to physically file copyright with the copyright office. It’s not that hard to do and might just come in handy some day.
So if you are going to go goth, don’t just take the look, make it yours, be a big pink goth and then copyright it and become a bozillionaire. Out sub-culture your sub-culture!