Friday, August 12, 2011

Is It Art, And Is It Ethical?

It would be foolish of me to make a generalized statement about piracy in Thailand for several reasons, but mainly because few of you reading this view such things strictly in black and white, and everyone seems to have their own level of comfort regarding counterfeit clothing, movies, music and the likes - depending on their own personal code.  It's also sometimes difficult to know for sure what is "real" and what's not in the Land of Smiles.

I read the other day that counterfeiting is big business there, especially in tourist areas, but not only there.  Designs  for clothing are "borrowed" or blatantly stolen, knock-off copies of watches appear with only minor changes - the list goes on and on, and you're liable to see copied merchandise for sale in a rural village stall as you are at Jatujak Market. Imitation is said to be the highest form of flattery, but when it impacts the bottom line - people get testy.

Take for example the shops who will, for a fee, paint you a piece of art from a photo you bring in.  Some also have original pieces for sale, but usually they're copies of existing images: paintings, photographs, that sort of thing.  The shop up top today was one where several people sit day after day, carefully painting canvas after canvas of reproductions such as the one of Vincent Van Gogh's painting of irises.  You can see the image of his painting in the book clipped open to the right of the canvas.

The folks working in the shop seemed a little uncertain about my taking photos in there so I won't say where in Thailand this was, and I've obscured their faces. They were pleasant people, but obviously they themselves had some misgivings about the use of their skills in this particular instance.  One man was working from a snapshot a customer had brought in, and he was pleased to show that off, but I haven't included that shot, either.

While the owners of some of these works might just say "who cares" my guess is that a huge mega-corporation like Coca-Cola might not feel that way.  Van Gogh isn't here to get a royalty check, but monies are owed to someone, and where does one draw the line?  They're not being passed off as the Real Deal Originals at market value.  Personally I don't like the idea, but I'm not a lily-white participant in this arena, either, so I'm casting no stones.

We'll address the movie and music part of it another time.  Enjoy your weekend, all.

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