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Live: Jack Chambers Media Preview

November 22nd, 2011

Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life opens at the AGO on November 26. The collection surveys the varying styles and media used by the artist to create an incredible range of work. Today members of the press arrive to preview the exhibition – I’ll be following along right here on the ArtMatters blog so you can get a sneak peek of the show too! Remarks start at around 10.15am. – Holly, Internet and Social Media Content Coordinator.


Photo: Quotes about the exhibition from people who have contributed.


Photo: Curators Dennis Reid and Sarah Milroy with the AGO’s Matthew Teitelbaum. Reid is a renowned Canadian Scholar and Milroy is an art critic.


Photo: A section of the exhibition catalogue cover.


Jack Chambers by Michael Ondaatje (from the exhibition catalogue)

10.19 MT is now on stage welcoming the audience – HK

‘It’s the first survey of Jack Chambers’ work since 1988. The project was made possible by Dennis Reid who is known across the country for his commitment to Canadian art, together with esteemed art critic Sarah Milroy.

You’re going to see the complexity of Chambers’ collection. At its heart is the collection of record formed at the AGO.’

10.22 MT is thanking the sponsors and the people who loaned artworks for the exhibition. He’s joking that we won’t be giving them back.

10.23 Dennis Reid ‘Jack’s papers are phenomenal – he was a deeply reflective man, and he kept everything. We didn’t want to think of this as a retrospective but it’s certainly comprehensive. It’s organised according to four big themes in Chambers’ work: Life, spirit, place and time.’

Light: Jack thought of light as that which makes everything actual. He was snapping all the time with his camera.

Place: it’s about geography, ancestry, the past and the future, Jack felt all of this deeply. When he came back to London from Spain he discovered that this was his place and the rest of his life was sent exploring this.

Spirit: Raised baptist and converted to Catholicism, spirituality was a constant. But for me it all came down to family.

Time: You can’t make film without thinking about time.

10.29 ‘Critical to this exhibition is how we displayed the archival material – I’m going to ask Sarah i talk about this.’

10.30 Sarah Milroy is on stage talking about the archives as her ‘happy place.’

‘You can travel inside the mind of an artist. Jack really used the camera as a way of seeing – you’ll be in his mind.’

‘In the archive you’ll see photos if sea and sky and beach, preparation for a series of works of Lake Huron. By looking at these photos you can see how this work really arose out of his family life – kids eating peanut butter sandwiches on the beach.’

‘He also used photography when he was building an image. If you look in the archive you can see his pictures don’t arise from one photograph but a bunch of different photographs – his pictures can be thought of as collages in this way.’

‘We have a suite of source photos from when he was planning to paint The 401 Towards London. You can see he was actually running back and forth across the 401 with his camera – it’s uncanny, you can be with him whilst he’s figuring out his subject.’


Photo: Sarah Milroy talks about the archival element of the show.


Media checking out the show


Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life opens at the AGO on November 26. For more information please visit

Liveblog: The General Idea behind General Idea

November 16th, 2011

General Idea, No Mean Feet, 1973-74

In connection with the exhibition  Haute Culture: General Idea – A Retrospective, 1969-1994, join artist Luis Jacob, artist and writer Sholem Krishtalka and art historian Virginia Solomon for a stimulating discussion about this foundational Canadian artist group’s diverse and increasingly influential production. I’ll be liveblogging this panel session, which begins at 7pm, so you can follow along at home if you couldn’t make it out to the Gallery tonight. Click here for more information about the panelists. I hope you enjoy reading tonight’s blog! – Holly, Internet & Social Media Content Coordinator

19.00 Philip Monk and AA Bronson are both in the audience, sat together talking about the work. V exciting. HK

19.02 Our awesome adult program coorrdinator, Gillian McIntyre, is on stage introducing tonight’s panelists. HK

19.03 ‘SK is an artist and writing in Toronto. His writing has been featured in Canadian Art amongst others. His paintings are featured in the premiere issue of Headmaster magazine and has solo shows in New York & Peterborough.’

19.04 SK is on stage. ‘I wanted to acknowledge the obvious. I’m a generation removed from the topic at hand – I thought people who knew General Idea personally might be more suited to this event. I’m not going to pretend to an expertise I don’t have. I’m going to address a particular aspect of GI within the context of Toronto and trace a lasting legacy.’

‘Toronto is a provisional space. It was when GI formed and it is now. There’s no firm social hierarchies or stratification in the art scene here. We drink together, eat together, party together and go to each others shows, whatever they may be. This is hospitable to acts of self-creation, invention and insertion.’

19.07 ‘GI are a standard bearer for this kind of self-mythologisation.’

19.08 ‘GI has been explicit in calling Toronto an outright vacuum. It’s not literally true but GI refused the status quo by devaluing its validity. By devaluing that validity they created for themselves an open field of limitless possibility. The mail & correspondence work set the groundword for this self-invention – in it you see the creation of persona, avatars, and characters. Each name is followed by a request for images – both a name, a taste and a persona is declared.’

19.10 ‘To build an art career you can be a farmer or an alchemist. A farmer assembles a body of work and you gain notoriety through the advancement of work. GI were alchemists – as soon as they announced a fixed entity comprised of three identities they began the alchemist moment that defined themselves. They said they were a corporation, great artists whose work needed to be housed in a pavilion, and it was so.’

19.11 ‘Form follows fiction – the utterance was followed by work. Every subsequent work following this utterance fleshed out the self-proclaimed legend and fuelled the Promethiun flame(r).

19.12 ‘GI created self advertisements as their art. The work spawned out of the legend.’

19.14 ‘The myth of queercore/homocore was disseminated by zines, mixtapes and networks. It was a function of and affirmed by a network of zines. There are other tactics of queercore shared with GI – a knack for polemics and for media manipulation.’

19.16 ‘Bruce LeBruce enacts various versions of himself – the blurring of fiction/reality and identity as a front. This is very much inherited and can be critically linked to the General Idea project.’

19.17 ‘The Punk Til You Puke issue of FILE Magazine announced queercore to Toronto – ‘it’s cheap, it’s easy, go do it.’ GI laid the groundwork for an alternative scene in Toronto and Queercore furthered that legend, bringing the Queer West scene into bringing.’

‘Queer West has become this strangely efficient marketing handle. But it’s geographically diffuse, unlike the Village, it’s harder to locate and has no central strip. Vaseline happened at Lee’s Palace, Club V happened in Kensington. It’s more of a persona than anything else and it’s indebted to the lineage of homocore – finding a space outside of the gay village. Will Monroe was the great avatar, the torchbearer for this and he was kind of a social shaman. His parties weren’t just parties – they can be interpreted as rituals that birthed a persona. He brings queercore and GI together.’

19.23 SK is introducing the next speaker – Luis Jacob. 

19.25 LJ ‘I’ll be showing the work of General Idea, Image Bank and my own work. This talk emerges from many discussion I had with Barbara Fisher – I want to acknowledge her.’

‘Historical continuity is the achilles heel of Toronto artmaking. It renders the act of making art into a poignant but self-defeating project. Exhibition follows exhibition and quickly sinks into the black hole of collective amnesia and cultural disregard. Without a public or a language, how can we be an artist? In the absence of history, people turn to myth and begin to gossip. More than 2o years ago AA Bronson curated an exhibition in the Power Plant – it functioned as a kind of manifesto about what artistic culture can mean here in Canada. Bronson’s vision of culture was a network one – culture wasn’t based on individual figures or on institutions but on what happens when one connects the dots.’

19.29 ‘What is striking in AA’s writing is its tentative tone. This network is a dream of community, Canadians want an art scene but are unable to picture the reality except as a dream projected on the national landscape. It appears as an absence and something to desire and project.’

19.30 ‘Without real artists, galleries or magazines, we forget that we were artists ourselves.’

19.31 ‘The artists of Bronson’s generation were informed by McLuhan. When Bronson refers to media however he is pointing so something broader than new media. It is anything that stands between, mediates a network culture as a means of fabricating a tissue.’

19.35 ‘The network has a connect the dots impulse that is overtly transactional.’

19.37 ‘A move away from immediacy is a move towards the media as a mode of mediation. Including the old media of the postal system.’

‘For an artist who works in a community that is a network of communities, a village that is global, ‘here’ becomes very tricky. I might feel totally up to date with art happenings, but how do I relate to people here, in Toronto. This is precisely the question of audience. What’s the relationship between culture by mouth and culture by media? General Idea’s answer is ambivalent.’

19.39 ‘General Idea can dream the audience if it is an un-organic audience. It emerges artificially, theatrically, out of its own lack of artistic culture. The contradiction between artwork and network is the ground from which their production emerged, instructing us about the genius of this artists whose three heads are better than one.’

19.42 ‘The artist is a figure that embodies the impossible idea that the energies of network culture can survive in the form of the autonomous artist. It can be preserved in the artistic canon and reconciled with a history not whispered. For artists to be artists here in Canada we must remain poised between public and publicity.’

19.45 Third speaker, VS, is being introduced. 

19.46 VS ‘I’m writing a dissertation about GI re-articulated politics to include the self in everyday social life.’

‘Where does this sexuality come from? My work talks about how sexuality structures the group…How sexuality can a collaborative, iterative identifcation rather than just about smooshing…’

19.48 ‘For GI politics can be about making space for ourselves and our social groups. This is fundamentally political and not about our institutionalised power structures. They replaced cultural terrorism with viral methods. In the context of Occupy, there is a history of politics without specific goals.’

‘Part of GI’s portrait comes through self portraits. Practices were about creating identities and personas that were in flux. GI did lots of mail art and correspondence – Canadada was about using the postal system as a way of creating personas that lived in people’s everyday lives. Mail was part of larger projects.’

19.52 ‘Artist were able to play each others personas – not about acting but inhabiting. Circulation of emblems were free game.’

19.57 ‘GI didn’t have a lot to do with the body politic for various reasons. Body Politic was a collective publication which grew to national significance – a gay liberation paper that articulated a different kind of social order. It critiqued the building of a narrow definition of what gay life was. Homosexuality breaks the rules of distinct sexes and appropriate performances – GI wasn’t as much gay as it was anti-patriarchal, says a label upstairs.’

20.02 ‘The video Test Tube, in the colour lounge, is a soap opera, telling the story of painty Mary-Anne. It set out the possible political stances the group could take – fascism, communism, capitalism – they ultimately present as the solution to the problem of what stance an artist should take. It’s a hybrid, an opportunistic, navigational kind of politics depending on what systems and structures are available to you. Embedded into a social scene and a social life, hybridity and flexibility.’

20.06 It’s now time for the panel talk portion of the evening. SK, LJ and VS are talking about General Idea and camp.

20.07 SK ‘The stealing in and out of meaning is an astute shorthand for the mechanism of camp. The colour bar for instance is the camping of TV, the Decadance is the camping of the Oscars… absorption, subversion and inserting meaning.’

20.09 VS ‘Camp offers a way to be funny but still be taken seriously. It gives ‘silly’ work meaning and consequence. It shows camp as not just being about accident but a deliberate and conscious choice to appropriate and inhabit.’

LJ ‘Queer people have had to develop strategies of codifying messages for multiple audiences. I liked the idea of fiction following form and these different moments in recent history where people are performing something they wished existed – an art scene, a punk music scene that includes queerness in it, creating a community that didn’t already exist. I don’t know if it’s a camp strategy but this process of behaving as if what you want is real and attracts people to it, making it real.’

20:13 SK ‘Using what’s around you to elevate your persona is a camp strategy. ‘I am legend’ is a very camp utterance – GI are absorbing the corporation and the pavilion into themselves.’

20.15 VS ‘It’s about speech that means one thing in one context and TWO things in another context.’

LJ ‘That’s where GI’s humour comes from, when you can see the two things at the same time. In the early work there are references to Humpty Dumpty – when something cracks, new space happens and also you get the joke when you crack up.’

Question from the audience: ‘I was exposed to GI as part of the aids movement in the early 90s in NYC – how do you talk about the virus in that context, how did it present challenges to the strategies of General Idea?”

SK ‘I feel with GI that metaphor and reality become these cruel echoes of each other. It’s a devastating irony that their career was premised on the idea of viruses in the media and then had to cope with the reality of aids. It’s almost alarming – a slippage of metaphor into reality. It’s cruelly poetic – the initial reception to the image virus campaign was total hostility. GI’s mode of codes and sly subversions were not enough in the moment – this was a terrible moral crisis that demanded more than image play. When GI died I was 15 and being taught that sex would kill me – to me, the image virus stuff narrates beautifully this seismic cultural shift – the end of free love, hedonism and the beginning of a darker age. It narrates a shift into how we conceive of sex, love and politics.’

20.27: LJ ‘I find it uncanny how the metaphor of the virus was there from the very beginning and then took a whole other dimension in the 80s. It’s almost supernatural – form follows fiction. One easy way to interpret irony is as ‘above it all glibness’ – but I detect other emotions in irony. There’s a deep poignancy in irony sometimes. The AIDS logo pieces have a sort of blankness, the colours are jaunty and vibrant but there’s all these other emotions there too. I came of age sexually in the 80s – I never lived sexually pre-aids. It was very important to give a face to the diseases then. Artists made it human – a person and a community dealing with an illness.’

20:31 VS ‘Reagan didn’t say the word until 1987. So it was almost a branding campaign.’

Thank you to all the speakers and to everyone who’s been following on at home. If you’ve enjoyed reading please leave us a comment and let us know! Back for more liveblogging soon – HK

Liveblog: McCready Lecture on Canadian Art by Philip Monk Marshall McLuhan, General Idea, and Me!

November 9th, 2011

Inaugurating their collective enterprise in the heyday of the “medium is the message,” General Idea were often dismissed as camp “triviality.” Yet they created a fictional system based on popular culture that was as coherent as the media analyses of Marshall McLuhan and the International Situationists. The lecture considers General Idea’s contribution to the Toronto School of communication theory. This liveblog follows along with Philip Monk,  Director of the Art Gallery of York University and former AGO curator, as he delves into the worlds of Marshall McLuhan and General Idea. The talk is due to begin at 7.00 – we hope you enjoy following along at home.  Holly, Internet & Social Media Content Coordinator

A bit about Philip Monk: Philip Monk is Director of the Art Gallery of York University and has served as a curator at both the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Power Plant. A published writer since 1977, he currently is finishing his eighth book Glamour is Theft: A User’s Guide to General Idea, a book as if written in the 1970s and as if written by Roland Barthes (in English translation).

19:04  Georgiana Uhlyarik, Canadian curator, is on stage to introduce Philip Monk.
Philip began as a critic and freelance curator in 1977. Last week he was announced as this year’s recipient of the Hnatyshyn Foundation prize for curatorial excellence in contemporary Canadian visual art.’

19.06 ‘Philip has been implicated in the history of General Idea for many years. It has been a complicated and ever evolving history – today is yet another chapter.’

19.07 Philip is now on stage.
I installed the 1984 General Idea retrospective – my first installation. (On screen is photos of that moment and of General Idea). What was is about Winnipeg? That’s the initial connection between Marshall Mcluhan, General Idea and me. But this is a talk about Toronto and the Toronto school of communications. It included McLuhan, why didn’t it include General Idea?’

19.10 … And baby makes four.

19.11 Mt title is a menage a trois, or a menage a cinq. MAT is the title of a General Idea exhibition. Two is the number of rivalry or mimicry, which are one and the same. Two insures we would talk about influence – the influence of Marshall McLuhan ON General Idea. It is mechanical. On the other hand we are already caught in the binary logic of either/or… the number three complicates matters.

19.13 The numbers two and three rule everything I say tonight. These numbers rule General Idea’s system – easy to remember, not easy to see. One-two-three – the numeric cosmology rules General Idea’s system.

19.15 GI were the first to recognise the pervasive influence of MM. A General Idea quote – ‘As children of the Summer of Love and spectators of the Paris riots, we were well aware of the International Situations and Society of the Spectacle on one hand, and of MM, drug culture, digger houses, underground papers and free schools on the other.’

19.16 For AA at least, McLuhan was a hero of sorts.

19.17 Commentary was the linguistic basis of much of General Idea’s fabrications. Rather than a specific medium, we need to discover the immersive environment in which General Idea’s system lived.

19.18 MM’s comments about invisible environments could also be applied to GI’s invisible system.

FILE Magazine could find its source in MM’s Industrial Bride. GI always proved that the dated was fertile, camp ground. Creating an archaeology of the past, images of the future, drawn from fortune magazine, where the same kinds that MM used. They were contemporary for MM and retro for GI.

19.20 FILE published from a Canadian point of view. At a high point in Canadian nationalism, GI were nationalistic too. Another MM trait perhaps?

GI’s criticism was produced from an artistic, not an academic point of view, mimicking advertising and popular culture at a higher semiotic level.

19.21 ‘The best weapon against myth is to mythify it in turn… since myth robs language of something, why not rob myth.’ (Barthes quote)

19.22 GI not limited to MM in their media analysis – extended to the Kabalah, de Bord’s Society of the Spectacle and the wildcard of William Burroughs.

19.24 Burroughs offered models, methods and lingo to assimilate and use magazines (1968 novel Nova Express). (Shows WB quote about newpapers and the image virus).

19.26 PM talking about the influence of Levi Strauss and his model of myth on General Idea

19.28 MM was only part of the mythic, subversive mix. I want to look at the relationship between MM and GI in a more diffused way than just tracking influence.

19.29 ‘Perhaps the mere speed up of human events and the resulting increase of interfaces among men and institutions insure a multitude of innovations that upset all existing arrangements whatever.’ – Marshall McLuhan

19.30 In light of MM’s quotation conside this GI quotation:

‘When the junkie, when the art junkies gotta get our fix, we gotta make a connection, we need our correspondences’

19.31  ‘In this article seeing art as a system of signs in motion as an archive and indicator and stabilizer of culture as a means of creating fetish onjects as residence for the field of imagery defining a culture, seeing all this and more in many ways we have become aware of the necessity of developing methods of generating realizing stability alternate myths alternate lifestyles.’ General Idea

19.34 ‘We take General Idea at their word as much as we don’t take them at their word. Their work appeared visually as artworks but its event of appearing was performative. The system put their Pavillion in place and kept it standing – a priority given to language.’

19.35 The systematic nature of their work has even now yet to be addressed. Whilst it does not appear, all their operations are linked through it. The systems ruling term, glamour, is a concept who’s operations are achieved through the applications of techniques, produced by strategies and insinuated by tactics.


19.36 Showing a diagram of Glamour’s operation of reversibility. (Barthesesque diagram)

19.38 I want to cover the early ground that instituted this system. The Pavilion was built on a spacial and temporal fault line – we don’t go far back enough in figuring out where this came from. GI were architect advocates. Through their verbal advocacy the Pavilion was erected. ‘This is the story of General Idea,’ they said. We believed them, but behind every story is a back story.

19.41 Everything is permitted was a Nietzsche slogan GI took from Burroughs. Talking about images banks and the collage/cut-up method.

19.42 Perpetually changing, constantly colliding, different alignments of words and images, ever new configurations.

19.45 The Borderline was a concept MM and GI shared. An ambiguous model signifying domains in politics and psychology, it was a major operative concept for General Idea. ‘Ambiguity is not a symptom of a schizophrenic who travels back and forth across the line’. Mirror, cutup and borderline were one and the same – ‘the vacuum created by your invisibility has to be filled with words.’ The Pavillion was built on this unstable fault, borderline, were the border dweller (GI) performed in stolen moments.

19.49 ‘Two heads are better than one, but it’s really just one more mouth to feed on’ – General Idea

19.51 Words are a method of invasion, even of the image.

19.52 As in the tripod, a motif of their late 1970s work, is a symbol of stablity. They are all each other’s right hand man and would hate to be reduced to a couple. They weren’t always a threesome – a three man they became. They did not conceptually consolidate until 1975 – portraits of themsevles as architects, poodles, baby seals, etc.

19.54 Their association with McLuhan ends in 1975 with the passage of two to three. From Borderline, where one and two dominates, to three. This number three was all about control, constructing our vision. Their fixed point of view was a throwback.

19.57 We cannot judge or argue with a mythic system such as General Idea’s.

19.58 General Idea were a laboratory, a studio, an advertising agency. Their collective dream was the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion.
The talk is over – time for some questions for the audience. 

Q. Would you say that some of General Idea’s work, or details or their works, fell out of this system by accident, experiment or chance?

A. Crisis was repeated – and they were always able to cope. Whilst the system seems to have continued throughout – there was a deviation of sorts but with the burning down of the Pavilion they turned their back on their early system. In 1986 there was a crisis in moving to New York and they had to dumb it down for Americans which fell out of the system.

‘I Sent my interperatation to AA (Bronson) and he thought it was fundamentally true and groundbreaking.’

‘Everything that they say in their work is related to everything else.’

Q. What do you think happened in 1975? Until 1975 there’s an interest in the mirror and after it’s the interest in the menage a trois… from two to three.

A. They began to consolidate themselves… in 1975 they had to brand themselves because people were confused about them and who they were. It was necessary – that’s how the portrait came about and how the story began. They consolidated into a trio and the business model came up then.A collective dream became more specifically focussed. They had to have an artistic identity when they began showing commercially.

‘Everything in General Idea is coded – you have to read the code words.’

Liveblogging from the AGO: Cory Doctorow

September 14th, 2011

Tonight at the AGO Cory Doctorow joins us in the Weston Family Learning Centre to talk about freedom, creativity and copyright in the age of the Internet. I’ll be liveblogging the event, which starts at 7pm, so if you couldn’t make it out you can still see what he has to say. – Holly Knowlman, Internet & Social Media Content Coordinator

6:41pm This is the first talk we’ve held in our brand new Weston Family Learning Centre. Great to see the space filling up, think we’re headed for a full house.

6:59pm Cory is in the room.

7:00pm Opening remarks from Kelly McKinley, Director of Education. ‘It’s a double thrill bill for me tonight – the first public lecture in the new Weston Family Learning Centre.. and to have Cory Doctorow here tonight. We’re delighted he’s taken time out of his holiday to join us.

7.03pm Entertainment Weekly called (Cory Doctorow) the William Gibson of our generation. Cory will talk for about an hour followed by a Q&A session.

7:04 pm: Cory Doctorow takes the stage.

“There’s a boring, polarizing debate around copyright. Copyright is good vs copyright is bad. I think this is an incredibly unfruitful way of approaching the subject… we should be asking which rules give us the outcome that we’re hoping for.”


“Everything we do in the digital age involves copies. Millions of copies. Copy is something that happens in the digital age every time you click a mouse… so the stakes have never been higher becasue it affects everything we do all day long.”

“So what should copyright do? It should serve as an incentive to creativity. A good copyright system is one which serves creatives.”

7.08pm – Cory is talking about the history of copyright law in relation to the Internet.

“The American govt passed a law which stated that breaking a digital lock was unlawful, no matter the reason. If you’re a user of creative work things like backing up and copying were no longer allowed if you had to break a digital lock to do so.”

“Under this new system of copyright, the people who created the locks had more rights than the people who created the work in the first place.”

7:10pm Cory is talking about iTunes as an example.

“For example, if you create an audiobook and you go to iTunes, they’ll tell you that you need to put a digital lock on the book. This means you can’t grant your users permission to follow you to a new system if you want to work with a competitor.”


“This becomes copyright the friend of a platform owner, not the friend of the creator.”

7.15pm Cory is talking about how Apple uses this law to its advantage to prevent creatives and users from leaving its platform. The more popular Apple gets, the more difficult it becomes for competitors to offer an alternative.

“The alternative is a law that states it’s illegal to break a digital lock to break the law… but otherwise is fine.”

7:17pm Cory is now talking about C32, the Canadian Copyright law.

“It’s been 15 years since they got this so wrong. You would’ve thought other governments would be lining up to get this right. But no. More than a decade later it’s inexcusably stupid to repeat these mistakes, but it’s happening.”

7:20 Cory asks:  Why doesn’t DRM work?

“DRM doesn’t work because if you want to make a system that stops a user from copying a file, you need to create a device that can ‘hide’ a function from its user. You have to ensure that everyone, from the dumbest person in the world to the smartest, can’t break it.”

“Doctorow’s first law: When someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you, it’s not there for your benefit.”

“Doctorow’s second law: Fame doesn’t guarantee fortune, but noone ever got rich from being unknown.”

7:23pm Cory is talking about Tim O’Reilly, who coined the term ‘web.20’ and said ‘for most artists the problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.’

“It’s not true that if you’re famous you’ll necessarily be rich. Fame is nice but you can’t eat it. You can’t exchange it for a ride on the subway to the AGO. But everyone who is successful creatively has fame. If the people who love your stuff don’t know that it exists, then they won’t pay you for it.’

7.26 “It’s never been easier to put your work in the hands of someone who wants your work. Videogames for example – we can deliver content to browsers, tablets, phones through DIY shopping carts or large carriers.”

“Things like blogging and Twitter, and low cost copying, make it easier to get your work to audiences that care about it. It’s easier to enter distribution channels than ever before – this means there are more creators than ever and more people than ever who want to view your work.”

7.28pm “Governments are trying to get intermediaries, like YouTube, to be more responsible for the content. They think that sites used by pirates should be held responsible for piracy.”

“We need intermediaries to bear the cost of production and distribution – there is no such thing as a substantial creative endeavour which doesn’t involve exchanging large volumes of files between people.”


“Doctorows Third Law: Information doesn’t want to be free, people do.”

“We want to be free to use networks that don’t spy on us in case we’re infringing copyright. We want to be free to communicate privately without worrying that our communications are going to be made public.”

Cory is now talking about the 3DS: “It has one enormous flaw in the way it tries to stop you pirating games. Every time you’re near a network it connects to it and checks for a new operating system update, even if you don’t want it to. If you’ve jailbroken your device it will detect this and render it inoperable.”


“I’m a science fiction novelist… and there’s one thing I really dislike about sci-fi movies. It’s the self-destructing rocket ship. Whenever I see that I think, that would be a better ship if it wasn’t designed to explode. I think devices would be better if they weren’t built from the ground up to let spyware/governments see what we’re doing.”


“‘The UN calls Internet access a human right. My wife looked at what happened when people in the poorest, most vulnerable parts of UK society had Internet access. They had better nutrition, more pocket money because they could pay bills online, their kids had better grades, more class mobility. The Internet improved their lives. And we’re talking about taking this away from people who have infringed on copyright, the people that live with people who have been accused of infringing on copyright etc.”


“I predict that everything you do in the physical world involves some online component. Tomorrow it will REQUIRE an online component. I believe we can make copyright law that will pay artists and look at the reality of the technology around us without the absurdities that currently exist.”

“I want to be free more than I want to be a writer. I want my daughter, my country, our future to be free. If the only way to create copyright is with devices that spy on us, I’m going to go and get a real job.”

7:46pm Q&A from the audience
Q: How can we capture the public’s imagination around these issues?
A: “Science fiction gives us a narrative to make real some of the very abstract concerns about technology affects our lives. Imagine if you want to explain surveillance… Orwell’s 1984 has given us Orwellian, the way we feel when a camera looks at us.”

Q: What can we do to stop Bill C32 in Canada?
A: “There’s a legal clinic at the university of Ottowa which is coordinating a grass roots response to the bill. There’s room inside the Tory party to square opposition to this bill ideologically….”

Q: Alot of the rhetoric around copyright is that it protects creators. What words can be used to make sure that groups that are supposed to protect creators aren’t perpetuating these ideas.
A: “Every debate is a balance between fact and emotion. There’s a lack of evidence that DRM makes money for creatives. It’s harder to capture the emotional argument.”

Q: What prevents us from stealing physical items?
A: “I think it’s a social contract. People are mostly good. But I don’t think copying falls into this contract – people copy music that they love.”

Q: We all agree that in the future copying will become easier. But here and now we’re dealing with changing laws – what’s a best case scenario for the future of copyright law?
Kevin Kelly from Wired aruged that there’s a certain amount of inevitability with technology. I think this can be stopped with weird and crazy rules. I worry that if we don’t do something, things could get very bad indeed. But I hope that if we do do something, things could be better. I think that defines activism.

That’s the end of Cory Doctorow’s talk, we hope you’ve enjoyed tuning in at home. Please leave your comments, questions and suggestions underneath – we’d love to hear what you think!