Exquisite Corpse workshops overview

Permission Taken, which exhibited at Birmingham Open Media and University of Birmingham between October 2015 – May 2016, focused on copyright, remix culture and ideas around sharing, originality and ownership. In planning the exhibition I was fully aware that these concepts can be quite complex to comprehend and, worse still, incredibly boring, so I devised various ways communicate these ideas . I did so not in order to dumb it down but to give audiences as many entry points as possible. The exhibition featured images, texts, videos, sculptures, documentation of research and workshops. One such workshop was the Exquisite Corpse workshops.

Exquisite Corpse workshop

It’s highly likely that you will have encountered the Exquisite Corpse idea before but under a different name such as Picture Consequences or Exquisite Cadaver. The concept was originally developed by the Surrealists in the early 1900s as a way to collaboratively create a piece of art. Having discussed this concept with David Littler whilst at the Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts Copyright + Art event I began to think about how this could be recontextualised to talk about ownership and copyright.

In the workshops, which took place at Birmingham Open Media and University of Birmingham as part of the Arts and Science Festival, I split the participants into small groups and gave them the task of creating an image based on a theme – children’s cartoons or mythical creatures. The tools they had at their disposal were images from the University of Birmingham’s Research and Cultural Collections, lots of small bits of vinyl and pens. In both cases artistic talent wasn’t the focus, more the communication of the theme. After a short time I made the groups switch places and add to the new piece using their theme i.e. not adopt the original theme.

Exquisite Corpse Workshop

Exquisite Corpse Workshop at Arts & Science Festival

Following the collaborative art making we regrouped to have a discussion about several topics. Imagining myself as an art dealer will lots of cold hard cash to spend (I wish!) I asked the group how the funds should be divided if sold. Initially most were more than happy to split it equally. That is until I decided to introduce some doubt.

I suggested to the group that the amount of funds given should be based on the quantity of their contribution. In planning the workshops I specifically gave each group less time on their second piece than I did on their first, the theory being that with less time they would be able to contribute less. Should this result in them receiving less funds?

I then suggested to them to think about the quality of the contribution and not just the quantity. One group used the imagined scenario that they were a highly successful artist and the others were still unknown. Even if the unknown artists contributed the same or more to each piece should the successful artist receive a greater share of the funds? Socially their contribution could be considered worth more due to their status and so, in theory, this could be reflected in the funds received.

Exquisite Corpse Workshop at Arts & Science Festival

Finally, they took into account whether the originator of the idea should be rewarded with a greater share of the funds. Although I was technically the originator of the idea of this iteration of the workshop, in each group you could see participants leading or guiding others using their own ideas. Using this line of thinking should the “originator ” of the idea receive a greater share of the funds?

All of these ideas and more were discussed at length. The participants began to see how this relates to their own practice as they often collaborate with others and consider how it will affect the market value of their artworks and themselves. There are still no obvious answers to these questions and it often boils down to opinions and lawyers, of which there are many! For related things see Writing About Comics and Copyright by Ronan Deazley, which looks at quantity and quality in relation to copyright, the Sweat of the Brow doctrine which talks about effort in relation to the worth of art, and the Monkey Selfie which highlights authorship and ownership of art.

Exquisite Corpse Workshop at Arts & Science Festival

In the end what these workshops showed is that the legal side of art can distract from the creative aspects of it and make collaboration with others something more akin to a strict negotiation process. Nina Paley is an artist I often cite for her talk in which she talks about how copyright affected her work, Sita Sings the Blues.

Although my thoughts do mirror those of Paley’s, I am not advocating for a dismissal or abolition of the copyright system. Instead I would like to see the adoption of more permissive licences such as the Creative Commons licences and a greater focus on encouraging sharing and collaboration.

Permission Taken launch photos

It’s been open since 2nd March and now the second part of Permission Taken, taking place at the Bramall Music Building at University of Birmingham, had its launch event on 7th April from 17:30 – 19:30.

Permission Taken launch

Permission Taken launch

Permission Taken launch

Permission Taken launch

Many thanks to everyone that turned up and heard my short speech and drank all the wine. The exhibition continues at the Bramall Music Building until 30th May.

Permission Taken launch, 7th April

It’s been open since 2nd March and now the second part of Permission Taken, taking place at the Bramall Music Building at University of Birmingham, will be having its launch event on 7th April from 17:30 – 19:30.

Join us this Thursday 7 April in the Bramall Music Building from 17.30 for the launch of Permission Taken! This exhibition displays work by Antonio Roberts created during his 2014/15 artist-residency at the University of Birmingham. Roberts focused on issues surrounding copyright, permission culture and art: issues which become ever more pertinent as online communities become more prolific and harder to police.

Permission Taken

Permission Taken

This iteration of the exhibition presents some of the work exhibited at Birmingham Open Media alongside works made for the Remix Party! in addition to a reinterpretation of Dead Copyright.

Permission Taken

Permission Taken

Photo by Greg Milner

Please RSVP to rcc@contacts.bham.ac.uk if you wish to attend. The exhibition continues until 30th May.

Permission Taken at University of Birmingham, 2nd March – 30th May

I’m happy to announce that the second part of Permission Taken will be taking place from 2nd March – 30th May at the Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham


This exhibition displays work by Antonio Roberts created during his 2014/15 artist-residency at the University of Birmingham. Roberts focused on issues surrounding copyright, permission culture and art: issues which become ever more pertinent as online communities become more prolific and harder to police.

The exhibition includes gifs and videos created by Roberts and other artists using images from the Research and Cultural Collections. Whilst his practice focuses on digitally reusing and remixing archive material, Roberts uses his work to encourage audiences to engage with issues such as the ownership of art and intellectual property rights. In doing so, he highlights the possibilities of a future where Free Culture and Open Source ideologies are adopted.

The exhibition features work originally shown at Birmingham Open Media alongside a reworking of Dead Copyright made for this exhibition. Alongside the exhibition there will be a series of workshops as part of the Arts and Science Festival.

Remix Party photos

The Remix Party happened on 20th January to celebrate the closing of my exhibition, Permission Taken, at Birmingham Open Media.

Remix Party!

Throughout the night remixes art artwork from the University of Birmingham were displayed in the main gallery space whilst Ryan Hughes took on DJ duties with soundscapes and the occasional R&B hit. It was really interesting to see how all the artists approached the archives and selected materials to work with.

Remix Party!

Thanks to the following artists for taking part in the party:
Dan Hett, Lorna Mills, Ashley James Brown, Shawné Michaelain Holloway, Michaël Borras A.K.A. Systaime, Benjamin Berg, Michael Lightborne, Morehshin Allahyari, Daniel Salisbury, Carla Gannis, Faith Holland, Nick Briz, Daniel Temkin, Adam Ferriss, Víctor Arce, Chema Padilla, Kate Spence, Jessica Evans, Emily Haasch.

Remix Party!

All of their remixes will be available online shortly and you’ll even have the chance to make your own! Photos from the party can be seen on Flickr.

Remix Party!


Permission Taken at Birmingham Open Media officially closed on 23rd January 2016 after opening on October 23rd 2015. It was my first solo exhibition and I’m extremely grateful to Karen Newman/Birmingham Open Media, Clare Mullett/Research and Cultural Collections and Arts Council England for helping it be a great one.

Permission Taken

The next iteration of the exhibition will be coming in March. Until then do check out Common Property at Jerwood Space for more work from myself and other artists following similar themes

Permission Taken opening

Permission Taken launched at Birmingham Open Media on 23rd October and it couldn’t have been better!

Permission Taken opening

You may have noticed my internet presence has been somewhat quiet over the last few months. This can all be attributed to the many hours it took to prepare for this, my first solo exhibition. Prior to this I had done many performances, contributed videos, gifs and still images to group shows, and curated shows featuring the work of other artists. Being given the large gallery space of BOM was therefore quite a challenge and a new experience.

Permission Taken opening

In developing work for this exhibition I wanted to present work that best represented the direction my work is taking. Aesthetically this will still include lots of screens and projections, and will still incorporate the (mis)use of technology and glitch art. However, there will be more of a focus on the free culture and the open source movement.

Archive Remix

These issues have always been present within my work, just not at the forefront. For example, it’s no secret that I only use open source software and have done since around 2008. I also release my work under Creative Commons licences in the hope that people will reuse my work somehow. Through this exhibition I aim to encourage others to do the same in their own practices.

Permission Taken opening

I know that this can be a difficult message to convey through visual artwork alone. There will be a few upcoming events that will invite the public to further look into these issues, explore new approaches to ownership and authorship, and learn about how creativity is restricted by outdated laws and practices. Information about those will be published very soon, but in the meantime keep an eye on my events page and the BOM website.

Dead Copyright


This exhibition wouldn’t have been possible without the help of loads of people. In particular I want to thank:

  • Karen Newman – After being a curator at FACT and Open Eye Gallery she came to Birmingham to open up BOM and support artists interested in art, science, and technology. She immediately offered me a slot in the BOM programme for my solo show and has been extremely patient and supportive over the last year.
  • Clare Mullett/Research and Cultural Collections – This exhibition is happening as part of my residency at the University of Birmingham. I was really honoured to be accepted onto the residency programme, especially considering the technical aspect of my proposal. The exhibition will culminate with a showcase of this and other work in 2016 at the University of Birmingham. More information on that in time.
  • Arts Council England – Their support shows to me that there is a place for science, technology and digital art within the wider art community.
  • Pete Ashton, Lucy Hutchinson, Sebastian Lenton, Marianne Mulvey, Kerry Grace Leslie, Leon Trimble and Matthew James Moore. Each helped me in their own special way, be it helping with the Arts Council application form, installing the show, building the Copy Bombs or just being generally supportive.

Permission Taken opening

And last, but by no means least, I’d like to thank everyone that came out on the opening night and has been to the exhibition since. I was really touched by all of the support from my family, friends and the art community.

The exhibition continues at Birmingham Open Media until 23rd January. It then will happen again in March 2016 but more on that later 😉

Artist in Residence Mixer – December 5th

In addition to everything else, since July I’ve been an artist in residence at the University of Birmingham. I’ve been quietly writing about the project over on its own dedicated blog, and on 5th December there will be a chance to meet me and Matt Westbrook, the other artist in residence, in meatspace and discuss our respective projects.


The University’s new artists in residence, Antonio Roberts and Matt Westbrook, will be holding an open studio to introduce their work and discuss potential collaboration opportunities.

Join us for drinks and nibbles on Friday December 5th 12.00 – 14.00, 32 Pritchatts Road

For more details of the artist’s work and areas of research see the AiR webpage.

Please RSVP to rcc@contacts.bham.ac.uk

If you’re at all interested in remix culture, copyright and how it can impact your work come and talk!

University of Birmingham Artist in Residence

I’m happy to announce that I have been accepted onto the University of Birmingham’s Artist in Residence programme for 2014-2015.

The University of Birmingham‘s Artist in Residence programme provides artists with a studio on campus and a unique chance to engage with the diverse range of cultural collections held here. The artists work alongside the University’s curators, conservators and researchers with the opportunity to forge new interdisciplinary relationships. They also work with the cultural engagement team, delivering a series of workshops and lectures to staff, students and the public, bringing an exciting active aspect to the University’s cultural offer.

Over the next year (August 2014 to June 2015) I’ll be working with the Culture and Collections department to look at the issues of copyright, resue, and reapprorpriation and how it affects their extensive collections. Below is an excerpt from my proposal:

Archive Remix

As more people share their work online many questions have arisen over copyright, patents, intellectual property and remixing of artworks. Writers and artists such as Lawrence Lessig and Phil Morton have, through their work, argued that placing restrictive terms on an artwork prohibits creativity, rather than stimulates it.

In my practice I encourage engagement by releasing my work under so-called Copyleft licences (such as Creative Commons and GPL) that encourage the work to be reused, reinterpreted and remixed whilst still retaining authorship over original works. I also freely release all code, documentation and sources.

There have been many high profile cases of artists and institutions adopting similar approaches, such as The British Library releasing its image library into the Public Domain in 2013, and the Google Art Project, which, since 2011, has allowed users to view in very high-quality collections of artworks from 134 museums.

Through the residency I aim to work with the University to find effective methods for opening their collections to the public for them to be used, reused and remixed whilst still maintaining the integrity and reputation of the the University and Copyright holders.

Although I have proposed some outcomes for the residency – new tools built for remixing artworks, hosting a remix party, an exhibition of remixed works – this will all likely change as the residency progresses. You can follow the progress of my residency over at Archive Remix, and the academics amongst y’all can also view my Zotero library. Any major developments will also be posted here.

If y’all would like to talk about ideas, collaborations, meet me IRL in the studio, or just throw some suggested reading my way please do get in touch.