AND Publishing: The Piracy Project at Grand Union

Artists from all disciplines take existing works and remodel them, appropriating new from old. The methods for this are hugely varied and can fall in to the purposeful or accidental. The latest exhibition at Grand Union, The Piracy Project, takes this at its core in the form of books and literature. Artist group AND Publishing have been collecting pirated books in an on-going project that explores the underbelly of international publishing. Eva Weinmayr, Lynn Harris & Andrea Francke have brought the collection to Digbeth, Birmingham tackling ideas of authorship, piracy, copyright and the legal (or illegal) connotations of book plagiarism.

Piracy Project

Exhibition View

Like a traditional library, books are placed on shelves and, like a traditional library they are split into categories. Except these categories are based upon how the books have been produced, their relationship to the source and their method of distribution. The Piracy Project examines the multiple ways books are bought and the availability of written material between countries. The majority of books in countries such as Peru and China are plagiarised and significantly cheaper than in the UK. It is estimated that every 6 books in Peru are pirated. The collection holds an autobiography by a well know Peruvian figure Jamie Bayly that has been pirated on several occasions. With larger text, different contents pages and even with two extra, uncredited chapters. The exhibition allows these editions to be seen and compared against each other.

Jamie Bayly

Imitation, forgery, subversion and modification are just some appropriation procedures that have become increasingly important as a representative device changing function or meaning. Graphic Designer Kaisa Lassinaro removed the dialogue from Robert Towne and Warren Beatty’s screenplay Shampoo. The piece is presented in the format of a Hollywood script and renamed Shampoo Silenced. The unauthorised elimination of the actor’s voice is a decisive action, transferring the function from text to minimalist art work.

From subtraction to addition. Swedish artist Kajsa Dahlberg picked up multiple copies of Virginia Wolfe’s’ novel, A room of one’s own from libraries in Berlin and compiled the marginal notes and reader annotations into one edition. The thoughts of many readers merge, making visible the perspectives and responses to the original work. It can be argued that this piece has multiple authors (although unknown to them) brought together by one instigator in which concepts of time and duration are pressed together. The potential for reader to become author is embodied in this exhibition, manifested in the act of reproduction.


Intention is an important aspect of these books as the intentions of the ‘appropriator’ differ to those of the ‘initial author’ in creation, audience and distribution. Freedom, a novel by Jonathan Franzen was on sale in Britain for a week before the publishers realised it was full of mistakes. The publishers recalled and destroyed many copies that were sold before the final book was republished. The Piracy Project retains one of the pre edited books, preserving a history against its creator’s intentions.

Displayed as art objects books encourage gallery visitors to engage in a slower, yet active manner. Past associations in the way books are bought, sold and the experience of reading informs our responses. What emerges is the way in which the book format is used as a space for copying, creating an un-trusting relationship between author and reader.Copyright

Copyright is a result of this distrust. The politics of copyright are blurred and messy, what is legal or illegal? At what point does this become stealing? Who holds the authorship? The Piracy Project bends the rules to the point of breakage through publicly displaying the collection in this exhibition. They appear to be condoning plagiarism and pirated material. But in fact what AND Publishing are emphasising is how existing material is managed in which the cultural traditions of the past are constantly rewritten.

AND PUBLISHING: THE PIRACY PROJECT 6th December 2013 – 8th February 2014 at Grand Union, Birmingham. The Piracy Project collection is ongoing and can be found on-line here.

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by Laura Onions
in Focus on Europe

Wed Development by Digital Art Factory