There are lines with art. You can color in them, you can cross them, and you can blur them, even more than Alan Thicke’s boy. Now as with most art, analysis and understanding is subjective to the viewer: there is a reaction, either intended or not, felt, processed, and internalized.
Take this “Solitary Confinement” artwork over at Behance for example. It’s visually striking, definitely cool as shit, and a poster print can be yours for anything between $23 and $57. The link was first passed along to the team by Mass Appeal’s own Jason Goldwatch, who happened to direct the “Solitary Confinement” video. What’s the proper reaction to such a find? Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery, or are there intellectual property rights being compromised? We reached out to the artist who rendered the drawings to learn more about them, and discuss the tricky ownership scenario.
Mass Appeal: Who are you? I see that you signed your email as two people, do you collaborate together as artists?
Elisa Baldissera: Hi everybody! We are EBLTZ, an artistic duo formed by Elisa Baldissera and Luigi Leto. We’ve worked together since 2012, and we just do what we love.
MA: Where do you live?
EB: Turin, north-west side of Italy.
MA: What mediums do you work in?
EB: We mainly focus on the design of posters, illustrations, logos and typography.
MA: What is your art background? How did you begin? What is your life as an artist like now?
EB: We both started doing graphic design work in various advertising agencies. We met in 2011 and after a year of co-working in the same factory, we started this research.
Through our pictures, we raise an aesthetic rebellion against the mediocre level of design for the street advertising of our city. This has made it necessary for us, the abandonment of that environment, and the search for acceptance towards other contexts much more open-minded, like music, festivals, film and literature.
MA: How did you hear about Evidence and his song and video?
EB: I remember I bought Expansion Team in the summer of 2003, during a trip to Spain, so I’ve known about him for many years. I don’t remember exactly how and when I listened to “Solitary Confinement,” but it was love at first listen. Luigi listens to other genres, but when we work together, he’s forced to listen to some rap artists and now he likes Evidence.
MA: Are you a rap fan beyond Evidence and this video? If so, who currently are your favorites? Who are your favorites of all time?
EB: My favorite rappers right now are Evidence and Jay Z. My favorite classics are Method Man and The Fugees. I also listen to Italian rap, of course; Salmo and Willie Peyote are the best now for me.
MA: What prompted you to create the art based on the “Solitary Confinement” video?
EB: The song is one of my absolute favorites, and the video is sick. Genius. I had this project in my mind for a while but just after seeing the Dilated Peoples live in Milan, in November 2013, I decided to do it. I started doing some drawings and then I asked Luigi to write the lyrics. (I love his style.)
MA: Have you created any other rap-inspired art?
EB: In the past I did some portraits of a few rappers of the Italian scene . . . but it’s old stuff, that I’m not particularly proud of. But with this project dedicated to the “Solitary Confinement” video I found great satisfaction in treating so many pictures and creating a continuous flow like the video, a sort of graphic novel or storyboard. In the future, I would like to do more projects like this, related to unforgettable songs, videos, movies or TV series. And of course I hope to do it while I’m listening to some good rap records.
MA: Would you consider music videos art? Does it depend on the video?
EB: Yes, of course, but it depends on the video. In my opinion, this video is art and many others music videos. Video and music are a great combination to make art! I do not think the video art you can find in a museum is art. For me that is rubbish, it ‘s a degeneration of the business of Contemporary Art.
MA: How would you classify your “Solitary Confinement” art? As an homage, a rendering, appropriation, or something else?
EB: I don’t know exactly, sometimes it’s very hard for me to define what I do. I think it’s just an homage to a video and a song I love.
The word “art” seems too much. I thinks they are just a series of drawings, maybe good drawings, I love (almost all) of them. I hope someone else likes them but there is no particular reason why I made them. I did it just because I wanted to do it. It was so inspiring, enjoyable and rewarding. There is no purpose. It is not a way to make money (it would be great if I could live on what I do, but unfortunately it is not, in Italy it is very difficult to survive by doing this job, this is not a meritocratic country). I put them on sale after posting a work-in-progress photo on Instagram because Jason Goldwatch showed his interest. I did not think they could really be of interest to someone when I started. It is already a great satisfaction that Jason and Evidence appreciate them and want them – unexpected.
MA: What do you think the difference is between those terms? What separates them? Is it intent? Is it the final product?
EB: That’s a very difficult question. An homage is a way to underline the respect you have for someone, a gift for him, an exchange to pay for Evidence’s music. I think it can be also a way to disclose something beautiful that unfortunately not everyone knows. (I think that Evidence should have much more success than what he has already, especially in Italy.)
A rendering is one more step. I mean it’s always a tribute, but I think it has something more, when you add something, when you put yourself in the work. You look through your eyes and do it again but in a different way from the original. And I hope I did it in my drawings but I’ll leave that for others to judge.
Appropriation is when you steal someone else’s work, or try to exploit the work and I don’t think that’s the case for my work. I hope nobody thinks that. It would make me feel bad. In any case, I believe that the differences should be looking for intent but I believe it should also be reflected in the product.