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Art Bandits 

What's stealing and what's not, in "Pirated: A Post Asian Perspective"

Wednesday, May 4 2005
The word "pirate" conjures up a caricature of a one-earringed buccaneer who sails the high seas, plundering others' treasures and burying the loot in a far-off Shangri-La. But in recent years, "piracy" has come to refer to the misuse of intellectual property rights, the use of illegal software, and other forms of copyright infringement. "Pirated: A Post Asian Perspective" challenges this second meaning with a multimedia exhibit drawn from a diverse group of artists answering the curators' call to explore the concept of piracy in whatever form they chose.

From hip hop sampling to kids running radio stations out of their bedroom closets, the spirit of appropriation can be liberating, often resulting in new, more robust art forms. It can also offer tough commentary on the status quo. According to the exhibit's press materials, the work on view here offers a "revealing critique on global and cultural piracy." Co-curator Derek Chung's arresting black-and-white photographs of the 1999 protests of the World Trade Organization in Seattle cast riot police as "pirates-in-hiding." The uniformed enforcers look like swashbucklers who've taken the law into their own hands, mistreating protesters in their efforts to protect the WTO.

But even these politically aware artists aren't without a sense of humor. Several pieces inject whimsy into otherwise somber topics, such as Michael Arcega's Fortified, a comment on the Filipino galleon trade, a favored prey of oceangoing marauders. His defense against anyone who wants to plunder his fortune? A fort built entirely of Cocoa Puffs. Another intriguing offering is Donna Keiko Ozawa's robots, which she makes from Styrofoam takeout containers -- suggesting we ponder the downsides of not recycling.

Both the serious and not-so-serious meditations challenge our perceptions about what's stealing and what's fair use, making us think and laugh along the way. Just like good art should.

About The Author

Jane Tunks


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