Artistic License
A Turbulence Commission proposal from Andy Deck


Abstract: Artistic License makes it official: anyone can be an artist. There's no need for hard work or advanced training. Just a few clicks and you will have the Artistic License you need to join the professionals Percy Bysshe Shelley once called the "unacknowledged legislators of the world."* Can't draw you say? Use a camera or upload any old image: get started using your artistic license today!

Ever since R. Mutt there has been an air of suspicion about "modern art" and what constitutes art. In response to abstract modernist painting, the philistine's "I could paint that!" exemplifies a way of viewing art that is still quite common eighty years after the Fountain. Artistic License implicates its participants in the production of another suspiciously simple and conceptual artwork, and it invites each person who sees it to identify him or herself as the artist. Even if the person's visual contribution is crappy, this can be dismissed as, ahem, artistic license. License

While interactive art online has more than ten years of history in 2008, basic assumptions about the division of labor between the artist and the spectator haven't changed substantially for most citizens of Internet-enabled societies. Artistic License targets this issue ironically, using the co-creation of an ID card — an "artistic license" — as the framework for a series of online-accessible compositions.

Artistic License leverages the proliferation of PC-integrated cameras as well as recent changes to the Flash plugin that give free access to image data from such cameras. It will be easy for people who have MacBookPro-style integrated cameras to snap portraits for their licenses. Other options will exist for people who don't have this hardware, including drawing and uploading images. The end result will be a mixture of regularity, since the pictorial and textual elements of the licenses are structured, and variety, because the visiting artist will be able to change the photo, signature, text, Camera control colors, styles, emblems, and security features. Many expressive aspects of the series, what distinguishes one element from the next, are in the hands of the viewer-participant. The various contributions are liable to be, by turns, performative, rebellious, naive, sophisticated, vulgar, etc.

While Artistic License is primarily an online phenomenon, everyone knows that, as a sign I once read put it, "laminated cards last forever." Fortunately, I was the lucky recipient of a squeaky old card laminator years ago. It will be pressed into service for a public event during which people can print and laminate their Artistic Licenses. Additionally, genuine laminated cards will be awarded at the end of the first year to the ten best cards, as determined by online voting.

Artistic License encourages card-holders to swipe across the borders of technology and identity. The greater socio-political context for this work includes privacy issues stemming from emerging identification technologies like biometrics, RFID transmitters, facial recognition, global positioning, and embedded microchips.§ License While making their licenses, people are given a variety of options. For example, they might add a fake fingerprint or encode a brief message into a "data matrix" barcode. While mimicking personal identification, the irreverence of Artistic License is an implicit repudiation of the regimes of difference that enforce nationality, legitimacy, and entitlement.

What is Artistic License good for? You be the judge. Practically speaking, it just might get you free admission to the Musée de la Ville de Paris, and other institutions that like artists. Conceptually, it challenges visitors to consider their own creative contributions to an open, online artwork while simultaneously examining issues of identity, civil rights, privacy, and technocratic security. Ultimately the project takes a visual form intended to enforce our individuality identity and converts it into a collaborative visual collection that resists seriousness, plays with identity, and blurs authorship.


Examples of earlier work (Net.Art)


Artist Info

Andy Deck
257 7th Ave
New York, NY 10001

Andy Deck is an American artist specializing in Internet art. His work addresses the politics and aesthetics of collaboration, interactivity, software, and independent media. Using the site ARTCONTEXT.NET, Deck combines code, text, and images to demonstrate new patterns of participation and control that distinguish online presence and representation from previous artistic practices. His aesthetic program delves into the myth of technological progress, issues surrounding collective authorship, and the cultural context of political passivity. Visitors to Artcontext encounter online production processes that suggest both the potential and limits of systematized creativity. In addition to the anonymous collaboration fostered by his websites, Deck has worked with arts collectives such as Turbulence, Personal Cinema, and Furtherfield, which mounted a retrospective of his work in 2004. In 1999 Deck co-founded the environmental art organization Transnational Temps, which has produced a series earth art projects for the new century. Presently the collective is represented in the traveling exhibition Eco Media. Deck's commission Screening Circle is currently featured on the artport website of the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2006, he participated in the Node.L cultural events series and exhibited his work in London at the HTTP Gallery and through the Tate Online. Other recent exhibitions include Haifa, Israel; Stockholm, Sweden; Como, Italy; Castilla-La Mancha, Spain; Bodrum, Turkey; and New York City, U.S.A. The artist currently lives and works in New York.




Budget estimates

Javascript, XHTML, Actionscript, CSS, SQL & PHP Programming $1000   
Graphic design$250  
Concept development$750  
Total$2050  Note: all code will be published open source using the Perl Artistic License!


* Shelley actually said this about poets, but I do have an Artistic License after all.
§ A new program in Washington state began issuing new "enhanced" driver's licenses in January 2008 that use RFID technology.