Monday, June 04, 2007

Photographer’s block

Yesterday we went to visit Block Beuys at the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt. It is one of those art pilgrimages to complete soon as the word is the place will close for renovation in October. Block Beuys is a six room installation created by Beuys himself and he continued to make adjustments for years. The rooms are on the second floor of a combined museum that also features archaeology, natural history and old art. The Beuys rooms today feel rather forlorn as their fate is debated but we told you about them so we can tell you about photographing in museums. At Block Beuys we attempted to take a picture of Kate Newby and Simon Denny who were there with us. We posed them sitting in front of Beuys’ felt screened TV set which had been apart of a performance work. As we took the shot a guard came and announced that photos were not allowed. Fair enough, but too late as you can see above.

Museums have a very strange relationship with photography. At the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, where we took the pic of Cattelan’s horse (that’s for you pm), we were able to sign up for a pass that let us take photos for personal use (and what could be more personal than blogs which are pushing an increasingly wide definition of what constitutes private use). The Museum of Modern Art in New York allows you to photograph anything you like, while many other museums have a no photographs at all policy. Often the copyright of images has long passed into the public realm so the only rationale seems to be to hold onto the commercial rights. Some museums have seen the light and put up their images of out of copyright material on the Internet. They are simply accepting the inevitable.
Images: Left, Joseph Beuys Filtz TV, first enacted in Copenhagen in 1966. Beuys later re-presented it as his only performance ever made specifically for the camera. In the performance Beuys sits in front of a felt screened TV set cutting sausage and boxing the screen. In confirmation of the confusion around copyright, you can watch the whole 10 minute and six seconds of it here. Right, Kate and Simon sitting in front of Filtz TV at Block Beuys. Please do not use this photograph without our permission (just kidding).