Friday, October 10, 2008

The Bay - "Living Artfully" or not so much?

This fall The Bay launched its new autumn campaign "Live Artfully". This campaign involves some lovely watercolour paintings and slogans such as "To Live Artfully is to recognize that art doesn't have to be found in a gallery or museum". Seems pretty harmless...but what if The Bay actually "found" this campaign in a gallery? And what if that gallery, and the artist whose work bears a striking resemblance to The Bay's campaign, have not been acknowledged in any way?

This is where a longtime friend of mine, Biliana Velkova, comes in. Pretty much the whole time I've know Biliana - about 15 years - she's been making art that in one form or another addresses her experience as an immigrant from Bulagaria dealing with North American consumer culture. So in July of 2007 she had a show of lovely watercolour paintings in a North Vancouver shop/gallery called Tartooful, whose tagline is "Live Artfully".

As the posted images illustrate, there are a strange amount of similarities between The Bay's ad campaign, Tartooful, and Biliana's work. (Some clarification may be needed - the top image is from The Bay's recent campaign, and the two below it are from Biliana's 2007 show at Tartooful.) There is, of course, the possibility that this is all just some crazy coincidence, but that possibility seems pretty remote, at least to me.

I find this whole situation interesting on a lot of levels. For me it's not as simple as just immediately hating the big corporation for stealing intellectual property. I actually don't like the term intellectual property at all because I find it really disturbing to apply the ultimate symbol of capitalism - property - to our ideas and creativity. And I also get really excited by the various forms of gifting, sharing, borrowing, and inspiring that can occur in art, science, life in general, etc.

But I think these forms of sharing are best distinguished from plain old exploitation by a system of reciprocity, be it some sort of barter, exchange, gift, or just a simple acknowledgment. And at this point neither Tartooful or Biliana have been acknowledged in any way, so they have sent a letter to the media about this issue, and Biliana has done a few postings on her blog about it.

Hopefully some sort of acknowledgment update will be coming soon....

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