Written for the publication accompanying the 6th Expo for the Artist and Musician.
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I Stole Someone Else's Art …

An art show, actually. It was called “Illegal Art” and featured appropriation-based work. You know – Mickey-Mouse-turned-porn, U2-sampled-by-Negativland, that sort of thing.

First my collaborator and I stole their website. Well technically, their site was (and still is) illegal-art.org, so we launched an “erased De Kooning” version with the url illegal-art.com. They chose a dot-org and not the more obvious choice of dot-com? Surely they were begging to be hacked!

You would think so. What could be more appropriate than appropriating an appropriation show? But it was more than that. Sure, it’s great to blur the lines of ownership in an "ownership society." But to traffic in “illegal art” seemed to us to be setting up a simplistic binary, an “us versus them” that trotted out the age-old “avant-garde” contempt for so-called “mainstream” culture. It also seemed, given the audience that would be consuming it, like preaching to the choir. The implication is that this culture in which we all participate was foisted on us, by UFOs or something. So we thought, we want to be the other guy. They want illegal art? Well, I Want A Mainstream!

That was our show, mounted at Build art space. That too was a theft — we “stole” the gallery space (read: subverted its traditional function) and made it instead a “Transit Center for Cultural Exchange & Social Interaction.”  Still more thievery — we took images of the “illegal art” from the mainstream conduit of the World Wide Web (which at that time, July 2003, were also on display at the SF MOMA Artists Gallery) and, in the spirit of seeing them as cultural artifacts, we liberally placed those images in the space along with anything else attendees wanted to bring, either artifacts fished from or offered up to that slippery, ineffable, yet oft-invoked territory known as The Mainstream.

Stanley Kubrick, Sleater-Kinney, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Terry Gilliam, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Thelma and Louise, a Whispered Media sticker, a sculpture by Konstantin Bokov, the cover of Unknown Pleasures … all this and more combined to make a heady concoction which, at its height, saw participants simply submitting to being carried along, and giddily, joyously going with the flow.