Assembly (Modes of Instituting)

Kobe Matthys (Agency)
08 Nov / 10 Nov, 2019
Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto
Kobe Matthys workshop is part of the UNIDEE fall term titled MODES OF INSTITUTING, that is dedicated to imagining the role of art organizations in times of perennial crisis, and to discussing what their future(s) in the next twenty years will be. A group of eight international applicants will be selected to follow a two-weeks programme of workshops and conferences. Together with Kobe Matthys other artists and curators will promote their own workshops: Bik Van Der Pol, Janna Graham and Valeria Graziano, Annette Krauss and Yolande van der Heide.

For Assembly (Modes of Instituting), Agency calls forth a selection from its list of things, speculating on the question: “How can collectives become mutually included within artistic practices?” For Assembly (Modes of Insitituting), Agency focuses on collectives. Copyright law revolved around the romantic notion of the author, who was believed to make expression through a predominantly individualistic manner. According to copyright law the contribution of the individual “author” justifies his or her status as the sole proprietor of an expression. Like this copyright has given rise to incomplete and misguided understandings of what the creative process involves, who takes part in it, and how its results ought to be rewarded. This conception of solitary authorship often seems to ignore the embeddedness of creation. Many artists have turned to non-profit organizations to support them in their artistic endeavors.
Artists employ non-profit organization in order to support their creative working processes and hire themselves as salaried employees. What many seem to forget is that the copyrights mostly go to the non-profit organization. The rationale behind the “work for hire” doctrine is that when an employer hires an employee to create a copyrightable work, the fruits of the employee's endeavors properly belong to the employer, the non-profit. Only exceptionally reciprocal relationships between artists and patrons, audiences, models, actors, technicians, assistants, researchers, etc... result in joint authorship.

Agency’s selection from the list of things for Modes of Instituting is Thing 000955 (Martha Graham’s choreographies). In the late 1920s, Graham founded a dance company. In 1948 Martha Graham incorporated a not-for-profit corporation called Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. The purpose of the center was to free Graham from the burden of administrative aspects so that she could devote herself more to the creative aspects of dance. The choreographer was hired by the center to create choreographies. In 1991, in her last will, Graham named Protas her executor and bequeathed to him her personal property and her residuary estate, including “any rights or interests in any dance works, musical scores, scenery sets, [Graham's] personal papers and the use of [Graham's] name. Protas claimed all the rights in Graham’s choreographies. But because of the works for hire doctrine the center claimed that all rights belonged to the center. Protas argued that the work for hire doctrine was inapplicable because of Graham's central role with the center. During the case Martha Graham School and Dance Foundation, Inc. v. Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, the court had to decide if the right went to the artist or to the institution created by the artist. Other cases involving working relationships and artistic control might also be discussed, like for example Thing 000798 (Third World America) and Thing 002334 (Captain America and other drawings by Jack Kirby).

During Assembly (Modes of Instituting) Agency proposes to organize one public gathering around Thing 000955 (Martha Graham’s choreographies) and invite a group of diverse concerned local guests to respond to the selected controversy. The gathering will take place inside Agency’s architecture and will last for approximately two hours. The gathering will have three parts. First, we will look closer at the thing in question and situate the controversy. Second, we will collectively read out loud fragments from the court case report text. Third, we will speculate around the case via a more open discussion. The purpose of this assembly is to re-invoke the moment of hesitation during the court case with the participants, which are entangled in the discussed case. This is less meant as a re-enactment of the judgment and more of a "palaver" that prolongs the doubt provoked by the controversy.



Agency is an international initiative that was founded in 1992 and has office in Brussels. It constitutes a growing list of “boundary things” that resist the radical split between the classifications of nature and culture. This list is mostly derived from controversies and juridical cases involving intellectual property (copyrights, patents, trade marks, publicity rights, etc...) from the start of the enclosures of the commons around the 17th century until today and from various territories of world integrated capitalism. The colonial concept of intellectual property relies upon the fundamental assumption of the split between culture and nature and consequently between expressions and ideas, creations and facts, subjects and objects, humans and non-humans, originality and tradition, individuals and collectives, mind and body, etc... Each controversy, included on the list, witnesses a resistance in terms of these divisions. Agency calls these “boundary things” forth from its list in varying “assemblies”, which combine the formats of exhibition, performance and publication. Each assembly speculates around possible inclusions. All of Agency’s assemblies look at the operative consequences of the apparatus of intellectual property for an ecology of diverse art practices and aim at caring for practices their singular modes of existence.