Appropriating and Recontextualizing Google Image Search Results

Part 1 of an article I wrote for jewishinstlouis.org

Every art student learns about the fair use principle, granting us permission to use any image in our artwork as long as we transform it so that it conveys new meaning.  But beyond that all-encompassing definition, we don’t know what transgressions, if any, we are actually committing.

The Associated Press is alleging copyright infringement against Shepard Fairey for his use of Mannie Garcia's photo (left) in creating his "Hope" poster (right). AP

Recently in the news is the preemptive lawsuit artist Shepard Fairey filed against the Associated Press. According to Fairey the AP threatened to sue him unless he pays royalties for the image that he used as source material for his now famous campaign poster of Barack Obama. Fairey argues that he is protected by the fair use principle. He claims that his intention was not to reproduce any particular image,  but instead was to capture a specific gaze representative of the ideas of hope and change.

In an interview on NPR, Fairey declared he was going forward with this suit on behalf of all artists, the thousands of artists that created their own campaign images in the same grassroots manner, pulling images from the web in support of the message of hope, change and a new administration in Washington.

screen shot of: first page of google image search results for "Barack Obama"

screen shot of: first page of google image search results for “Barack Obama”

I am fascinated by Fairey’s implication that the process of appropriating and re-contextualizing Google image search results might be considered a grassroots action. As an artist, I frequently use images that that I find on Google. Like Fairey suggested, my motivation for using these images is to highlight the search itself, not the derivative image.

Perhaps then, these cyber Robin Hoodian actions—using and transforming Google image search results—are capable of changing the structures that control the dissemination of information. After all, the order that information appears in Google searches is determined by the amount of people searching any given topic. And as a result of the Fairey’s appropriation, his campaign poster may be forever linked to Obama’s presidency.

email from President Obama

email from President Obama

Obama’s popularity can be credited to his skillfully constructed presidential campaign that effortlessly linked his name to hope.  I was quick to jump onto Obama’s online campaign message of hope.   Like many others, I subscribed to his twitter, facebook, and YouTube pages. I now get weekly emails from him and I even have a blog on his site…

A Response to a Response to a Response

This is the Jack McBrayer Response
To the Internet Response
To the Republican Response
To the President’s Address to Congress

[clearspring_widget title=”Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – The Jack McBrayer Response To The Internet Response To The Republican Response To The President’s Address To Congress” wid=”4727a250e66f9723″ pid=”49a664282cffce66″ width=”384″ height=”283″ domain=”widgets.nbc.com”]

Bobby Jindal Or Kenneth From 30 Rock?

1000 Rabbis Call On Obama

Time to Choose Peace
A Rabbinic Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama

Rabbis, Cantors, and Jewish clerical students:

Join your colleagues in urging President-elect Obama to make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority of the incoming administration by signing on to the statement below.

Current List of Signers
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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NOT A RABBI OR CANTOR? CLICK HERE

Text of the Letter

We the undersigned, call on you, President-elect Obama, to pledge to make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority of your Administration.

While you come into office with a long list of problems before you, the long-simmering conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is among the most urgent. After eight years of half-hearted diplomacy, there is no time left to walk softly and hope for the best.

The consequences of failing to establish a durable peace are grim. The influence of Iran and Hezbollah would grow among an increasingly bitter Palestinian population, and extremists would have further excuse to do vicious battle with the West. It is difficult to calculate the damage that a downward spiral into fresh waves of violence could hold.

American Presidents traditionally look to the Jewish community for insight on Israel-related policy. As Jewish clergy, we pledge to mobilize our people behind your leadership for a mutually-acceptable, two-state solution. We pledge to support you through difficult, trying times, and to celebrate with you when the job is done. We pledge to let the American public know: An American President who dedicates himself to the establishment of a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace acts in the best interests of Israel and the United States.

* We call on you to dedicate yourself to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel early in your first term.

* We call on you to appoint, within your first 100 days in office, a high-level, highly-regarded envoy to the region, an individual who has the ear of both Israelis and Palestinians, the respect of the American people, and ready access to your Oval Office.

* We call on you to establish mechanisms of enforcement and follow-through, so that decisions made and agreements signed will be respected and brought to fruition.

Signed by:
[Your name]
[Your address]