Monday, July 31, 2006

Stolen kisses

Marty Schwimmer made the post about the NYT story on underground brands and their appropriation of others' IP so I don't have to. Instead, I bring you another NYT story, this one about a performance artist whose prior work involves digitally inserting herself into mainstream movies, like Woody Allen with a Macintosh:

The film on the flight was “Bandits” (2001), starring Mr. Thornton and Cate Blanchett. Ms. Mcdonald awoke in the dark to see the actors’ lips moving toward each other in slow motion. “I knew immediately and irreversibly that I should be kissing him instead of her,” she wrote later on her Billy Bob Web site. “I was in love.”

The result was “Me and Billy Bob” (2003), a video in which Ms. Mcdonald creates the tale of a doomed love affair by digitally inserting herself into clips from his films. Using scenes from “One False Move,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “Monster’s Ball” and others, she charts the relationship from sappy first encounter to tearful farewell. In the final scene she re-enacts her deus ex machina “Bandits” moment: holding Mr. Thornton’s face in her hands, she slowly moves in for a final, despairing kiss.

.... Then came “Screen Kiss” (2005), now on view at the Sixtyseven Gallery in Chelsea. In it she splices herself into make-out scenes with other actors, including Ben Stiller, Ewan McGregor, Vincent Gallo and Johnny Depp, culled from movies like “Down With Love,” “Along Came Polly,” and “Before Night Falls.” “Dear Billy Bob,” explains the introduction, “I still love you the best but I can’t wait forever and there are a lot of other fish in the sea.”

After most of the kisses, Ms. Mcdonald turns and stares triumphantly at the camera. But the high point comes in a scene (taken from the campy movie “Original Sin” ) in which she locks lips with Mr. Thornton’s ex, Angelina Jolie. As she nears Ms. Jolie, Ms. Mcdonald’s lips and eyes quavering ridiculously with expectation, it becomes clear that the actress’s features are doing exactly the same thing.

What intrigues viewers of both videos is how Ms. Mcdonald manages to transform herself so completely into a variety of personas, and how cleverly she modulates her expressions and gazes to match — and thereby send up — those of her digital partners. Technologically, the works look surprisingly sophisticated; yet Ms. Mcdonald made them at home on a Macintosh, using editing and special-effects software that she mastered through Internet research.

There's no mention in the piece of possible copyright concerns, much less DMCA anticircumvention violations: How exactly did she get those clips? But assuming that she used a legal method, does she still have to claim fair use, or might clips of kisses be de minimis?

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