Partial installation view
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FREE TEXTS: An Open Source Reading Room
Commissioned for the ZERO1 Art and Technology Biennial, San Jose, CA. September 12 - December 5, 2012.
This installation functions as a physical archive, public reading room and actual printing site for texts dealing with the thorny issues of digital copyright, open source culture, alternatives to capitalism and the state of the intellectual commons in the 21st Century. Visitors are invited to pull tabs from a wall of flyers that advertize URLs to download their own copy of text, many of which have been illegally uploaded by anonymous file sharers around the world. A Production Desk houses a laptop, laserjet printer, and thermal binder for on-site printing, staffed periodically by the artist-as-librarian. Printed versions of the texts are available for reading and previewing on the bookshelves.
The texts are curated around the history of the open source movement, creative commons, remix culture, and challenges to copyright in the digital era, engaging the public in a lively dialogue of ownership and public access. File sharing and copyright infringement—of media, entertainment, creative works, and intellectual property—are hot political and cultural topics in a world increasingly seeking to commodify the production and dissemination of ideas and information.
The internet has created a seemingly endless amount of ways in which information can be spread, much to the consternation of copyright holders. Surprisingly, not only music and media are illicitly shared online, but also texts, which are sometimes scanned directly out of books and traded within the academic community. A quick internet search can uncover an amazing amount of them, many ironically being themselves about open source culture and copyright.
In a much larger context, the fight for access to cultural resources can also be linked to the fight for physical resources, such as in the field of agriculture and bioengineering, where corporations are claiming patents on genes of plants and animals. FREE TEXT: The Open Source Reading Room is a space devoted to an urgent and pressing topic that will shape how the future accesses and produces culture.
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