Friday, September 21, 2007
Christoph Buchel vs. Mass Moca
(just got back. more later)
LATER... okay, it is now later. I blew the ending already (the losing of Buchel), but from here on out - after setting up the scene - I'll stick to the order in which things were said.
The Scene - Judge Ponsor... faced by three law-people on the Mass Moca side (from Skadden) and three law-people on the Buchel side (from Silberman). Seated in the spectator area were at minimum seven different reporters taking notes (including Martha Lufkin from The Art Newspaper), three people from Mass Moca (including Joe Thompson), and a handful of other people.
Judge Ponsor spoke first, about his visit to view the Mass Moca space on Tuesday, from 4:30-6:45pm -
Ponsor admitted that he "approached skeptically" and is "not a connoisseur" of contemporary art, but was "extremely moved by this piece of art...", "it is very powerful", "I have never been so powerfully ...(somethinged, maybe he said affected)... by a piece of contemporary art", and "had to take an hour just to settle down" and "woke up in the middle of the night" thinking about it.
Ponsor is "very disappointed that such a powerful piece finds itself embroiled in such legal controversies"... "this controversy doesn't belong here", it is "extremely illsuited to the courtroom". The court "urged counsel to come to an understanding".
Musings/Questions from the Judge, for the Defendant (Buchel) -
- "I ask myself whether VARA applies to an unfinished work" - "Is this situation one in which Buchel can be considered the sole author of this work of art?" - it "was highly collaborative, highly collaborative... the author was not here most of the time when the work was being completed... the museum made many decisions"
Judge Ponsor, in talking about the collaborative aspects of the aborted installation, made note of the motto emblazoned on the crashed police car in the space... Pride Partnership Professionalism - "lots of irony on that police car... did Mr. Buchel choose that? Did the museum choose that?"
- the installation is "more like a piece of architecture... tremendous amount of discussion going on... isn't Mass Moca a co-author?"
Team Silberman Speaks -
Mark Elliott did all the representing... I was surprised because I had expected it to be Donn Zaretsky. Zaretsky was one of the three law-people sitting at the Buchel table, but he never said anything. Okay, I'm just going to share here, because he never responded to my e-mail asking when the court date was, that Zaretsky was by far the scruffiest and worst dressed of anybody in the courtroom. This is just my opinion. He wasn't wearing a zoot suit exactly, but it was pinstriped and baggy, something that called to mind a zoot suit. Maybe he had a gig at a Springfield jazz club that he needed to hustle over to after the motion hearing.
Mark Elliott was okay... he argued forcefully and strenuously and super knows his shit... but, it seemed like a lot of spinning of the wheels. Lots of repetition and hyperbole, saying "the art community is up in arms!", while citing Robert Storr's irrelevant afudayvitt, Roberta Smith, Ken Johnson. I'm SURE that I'm the only one who noticed that no artist's opinions (either way) were presented.
I will interject here that while each of the two sides individually presented his case Judge Ponsor would interrupt with questions and/or comments. Such as -
- recalling his visit, marvelling at how impressive it was and the attention to detail, noting even "a snicker wrapper, which I assume was intentional"
- talking about e-mails between the museum and the artist, "Mr. Buchel at one point wants a better class of trash"
- "artists are okay, they're all right, some of my best friends are artists"
- "the artist stands in a glowing circle in the middle of this process... and... I have a bit of trouble with that"
- "showing this work will do nothing but enhance Mr. Buchel's reputation"
- "and I'm not so sure... at some point I stepped into the process and now I'm part of it.. and we're all here taking part"
- that Kafka had wanted all of his stuff destroyed and the judge is glad it wasn't. Plus a story about a long-ago composer who ordered his wife to burn his stuff, that if the judge had been there he would've taken away the match and said "I'd like to listen to that".
TEAM SKADDEN SPEAKS -
This was a bit worrisome at first. The judge was a great speaker, Elliott less so, and then the Skadden guy (name later. later, maybe Kurt Wm. Hemr) less so. His tone seemed conciliatory, and he was weirdly arguing something I'd thought the judge had already basically expressed an opinion in their favor on.
He was the least dynamic speaker, but I guess he was plodding along at his point, maybe covering a bunch of bases here (in case of appeal) and getting things on the record.
Posner asked "what is with the timidity on the part of the museum", and "why bring it to court?... you want me to go ahead of you with my robe on and say this is okay this is okay?"
Mark Elliott - this is "an absolute heresy in the artworld"
40 minute break...
BREAK HERE so I'll finish with a second post tomorrow. This is enough for now.
UPDATE 9/22/07 - Here is the second part.