Art ,Fluidity and the law: The Challenging Relationship between Public Site-Specific Environmental Sculpture, Land-art and its Uneasy Fit with “VARA”
Nicholas Lee, Hamilton
That a work of visual arts’ moral right is protected under “VARA” might seem an unarguable proposition of the Copyright Act in America. But several recent movements in post-modern and contemporary art, emerging from the late 60’s has cast serious doubt on the proposition. More precisely Site specific art or environmental sculpture, earthworks, earth-art or land-art, environmental art, eco-art all emerging in 1968 America, mostly public and ephemeral in nature poses many challenges to moral rights legislation under VARA. Current copyright laws and in detail moral rights in the U.S are lacking explicit provisions for protecting these types of emerging and some of the most cutting edge contemporary art genres and among these genres include a wide range of ground breaking internationally well known artists. It remains unclear to what extent site specific art where even “conceptual destruction” is destruction is protected and if at all the large range of art belonging in the category of “Natural media art” which are ephemeral in nature, changeable, and of transitory duration should or is copyrightable or falls under the narrow definition of “works of visual art” under VARA. The analytical focus emphasis falls on moral rights but also a brief look at copyrightability; which is a pre requirement for VARA. I ask whether this kind of art that is primarily ephemeral, changeable, and transitory in duration can be deemed copyrightable and if at all fall under the definition of sculpture as defined under VARA.