It seems like an easy enough case of copyright infringement really. Filipino artist Leeroy New files a case against the producers of the movie “Enteng Ng Ina Mo” for copying his original muscle dress design and using it as the costume of its main villainess Satana. New wants to be paid P10 million pesos in damages; certainly a small amount given the P180 million plus that “Enteng” earned in its eight days of screening.
Yet this is more complex than it seems, even as I will not go into what art critic Angelo Suarez thinks, valid as it is:
“<…> it’s sad that for a sculptor who makes assisted readymades and sculptural assemblages using found, store-bought, and industrial objects – New clings so tightly to intellectual property instead of letting it go despite the reliance of so many artists on strategies of appropriation.” (Facebook status, 10 Feb. 2012)
It is a sadness I share, but also because I feel that with art and culture, while it is easy to identify plagiarized work, i.e., whole paragraphs that are copied off an original, it’s also quite easy to see where influence and mentorship make for works from different artists that become but pieces to a bigpuzzle of sameness. And too there’s just this: in Third World Philippine culture, where mimicry is what makes money, are any of us original?
But all that seems too philosophical for comfort, really, faced as we are with the fact of New filing these charges already. Here and now, what is most interesting is how this case of copyright infringement limns over the crucial issues of fashion design versus wearable art vis-à-vis the manufactured image of a celebrity like Lady Gaga. Here and now the first question has to be about the latter, wearing this muscle bustier in question.