Whose Art is Your Dating Profile Picture Anyway?
Is your dating profile art?
A forum just appeared on the Jewish Museum website in response to an emotional controversy over a work by Marc Adelman that played out last summer. The piece, Stelen, features photos of men posing in Berlin’s Holocaust memorial. The artist had downloaded them from profiles on a gay online dating site.
For Adelman, the photos spoke volumes about memory, minorities, and persecution. “The fact that several hundred men (and likely many more) posed for casual, flirtatious snapshots in the Holocaust Memorial cannot be reduced to sheer coincidence,” he writes.
Some of the men saw it otherwise, saying their privacy, and safety, was compromised. When they threatened legal action, the museum took the piece down.
“We say we want artists to be provocative, but as the controversy around Stelen makes clear, there are lines we are not comfortable stepping over,” comments Marvin Heiferman, one of seven contributors to the forum.
Patricia J. Williams, a Columbia law professor, suggested a creative way to approach some of the privacy issues the case raises. She wondered if online profile photos could be considered “one’s ‘own’ artistic rendering”—in other words, subject to copyright legislation.
Marc Adelman, image from the series “Stelen (Columns),” 2007-2011, inkjet print. COURTESY THE ARTIST.