Agency: Assembly (The Showroom)

The work of Agency constitutes a growing list of ‘Things’ that resist easy categorisation, such as the divisions between culture and nature, creations and facts, subjects and objects, humans and non-humans, individuals and collectives. These things are derived from judicial processes, lawsuits, cases, controversies or affairs around intellectual property (copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc.).

Assembly (The Showroom) focuses on the complexity of collaborative relationships in art and how the law struggles to define these when problems arise. In this show, Agency speculates: ‘How to include collectives in art?’

For example, Thing 000880 (Papa Hemingway) concerns a controversy between Ernest Hemingway’s Estate and Aaron Edward Hotchner about Hotchner’s biography of the author. Hotchner reproduced notes of his dialogues with Hemingway against the will of Hemingway’s Estate. During a court case in 1967, the judge had to rule whether or not the dialogue between the interviewer and interviewee could be cited as a joint work.

Similarly, Thing 000918 (Portrait Photographs) concerns a controversy between the Olan Mills Photography Studio and the Eckerd Photo Laboratory about the ways in which portrait photographs are treated. The Eckerd lab reproduced existing photos of people – at their request – without the permission of the photographer. This led to a court case in 1989 in which the judge questioned the notion of joint authorship between photographer and the photographed subject.

Assembly (The Showroom) brings together some of the actual things discussed in the cases or controversies, which are described by Agency as ‘witnesses’. These range from books, films, music, architectural plans, sculptures, audio recordings, training videos, letters, interviews, magazines, etc., which are displayed on tables accompanied by explanatory text.

Assembly (The Showroom) is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation, the Flemish Government Agency for Arts and Heritage and is part of Circular Facts, funded by the European Commission.

Special thanks to Wiels – Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels.


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