Sunday 31 January 2010

A moral conundrum

Above: Training Ground in the course of installation

Last Wednesday the US First Circuit issued this judgment over an intriguing moral rights question. It concerns Training Ground for Democracy, an elaborate installation piece by Christoph Büchel at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The work was being constructed by a team who were following instructions emailed by the artist. Museum and artist fell out but the Museum continued work on the piece and went ahead with exhibiting it. The First Circuit, reversing a district court's summary judgment, held that it was open to a jury to find that:

1. continuing to work on the piece in a manner that was contrary to instructions infringed the artist's moral rights.
2. the Museum had violated the artist's right to publicly display.

The moral right in question is the right of integrity (right to prevent intentional modification of the work that would damage the artist's reputation). Somewhat discomfortingly, those who were hired to modify the work are now being sued for modifying the work...

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