Intellectual (Agency) Property

Agency: Assembly (Showroom) 2011, Installation view, Photo: Daniel Brooke

I attended a curious talk at the Institute of Modern Art (IMA) last Thursday: a teaser for their upcoming exhibition ‘Imaginary Accord’ by Brussels-based artist Kobe Matthys who, in 1992, founded an institution called Agency. Curious because I didn’t realise just how relevant this talk was going to be for my current focus which is to review the Intellectual Property Policy at QAGOMA.

Agency has been growing an archive of ’things’ which resist simple categorisation, particularly in Intellectual Property law. For example, have you every wondered who is the author of a choreography, a jam session, an interview or even an idea?

Agency explores these ‘things’ through presenting all pieces of the Intellectual Property puzzle, such as the surrounding judicial processes, lawsuits, cases, and (sometimes) controversy, and where possible, re-enacting the thing itself. Agency calls this format an Assembly. Each Assembly has a different focus question and in Brisbane the exhibition will explore how processes and systems can become included within artistic practices.

Processes and systems seem to be alive and well in artistic practices – I’m thinking Tomoko Yoneda’s ‘Scene’ series, begun in 2000 and currently on display in the exhibition ‘We can make another future‘. It consists of large-format, colour landscape images depicting the current state of sites of events of world significance. Where would you situate this series of images, or more specifically the process behind the series in the labyrinth that is Intellectual Property?

Tomoko Yoneda, Japan b.1965 / Path – Path to the cliff where Japanese committed suicide after the American landings, Saipan 2003 / Type C photograph on paper / The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art. Purchased 2013 with funds from Michael Sidney Myer through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Agency provides an open platform to explore and weigh up these complexities which, particularly at a time when property, both public and private, online and offline, is increasingly contested, could not be more welcome. Researching the possible forms of IP in art museums I have become more aware of how complex an issue it is and I’m interested in how the exhibition ‘Imaginary Accord’ might address the role of the institution.

I asked Kobe about Agency’s neutral stance and whether he ever feels moved to take sides i.e. for increasing open access to cultural objects/acts or greater protection of artist’s rights. He responded by saying he was more interested in the doubt surrounding ‘things’ and how a different outcome could change the way we see ‘things’ in the world.

I should have seen that one coming given he kick started his presentation with the question: “Does it matter which art we make to make art with? What would happen to an art practice if copyright law would be a protocol of improvisation amendable with an art practice?”


Speculation seems to be an underlying theme at the IMA at the moment and is particularly at issue in their current exhibition ‘Hito Steyerl: Too much world’. Ellie Buttrose, Assistant Curator of International Art at QAGOMA will be giving a tour of this exhibition at the IMA on Saturday at 3.00pm. And if you’re super keen, the IMA will be launching its 2015 program this Thursday followed by the inaugural lecture of a talk series titled What Can Art Institutions Do? See you there.

CategoriesCategories   QAGOMA