Abstracted from the longer phrase Dieu et mon droit', the exhibition's title literally reads 'and my right'. Re-contextualising this heraldic motto which is commonly found on UK legal documents and coinage, the meaning of the phrase is subtly diverted. A similar form of repurposing can be found throughout the exhibition which focuses on contemporary artists' use of law and its convention as a medium with which to make work.
We live in a world of contractual obligations, disclaimers and conventions and yet here legality becomes a malleable substance; a form of creative material with vast potential.
While by no means exhaustive, Et Mon Droit is not limited to the presentation of written contracts alone, encompassing sculpture, performance, photography, installation and video.
Extended text follows concerning specific works :
Carey Young's Obsidian Contract presents a legal text written backwards and reflected in a black mirror, a device which has a long tradition within witchcraft and the occult in many cultures. The text proposes the exhibition space visible in the mirror as a new area of publicly-owned land, in which certain activities considered illegal in public space at different times are made permissible.
Engaging with another more contemporary aspect of of the law in the form of the disclaimer, Carey Young's Missing Mass posits dark matter particles as an in-confinable commodity - perhaps the only truly free substance in the universe.
Dealing with legal language rather than the directly contractual, David Birkin's Existence or Non Existence, from the series Severe Clear, records a performative action based on an extract of text. The phrase is taken from a rejection letter sent by the CIA to the American Civil Liberties Union in response to their Freedom of Information Act request for information relating to the US Government's classified drone program. The full reply reads, "...the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request."
Etienne Chambaud engages the certificate of authenticity in a different context however, creating a work in two parts with a photograph that marks the spot where the other part is buried. The buried case however is printed with a certificate of authenticity that states that legally the material ceases to be a work if the case is ever opened.
Marco Godoy takes a more directly physical approach, systematically erasing all visual information from a series of coins. In doing so he both erases the legal documentation and affiliations on the surface and simultaneously implicates himself in a criminal act according to the law that governs the usage of these metal tokens. Like Young's Missing Mass, Godoy highlights a peculiarity of ownership in that we never actually own any physical currency by law, only the value it promises.
Known for seminal works like Auto Portait Pending - a contractual work entitling the owner to fill an empty ring with a diamond made from the artists remains after death - Jill Magid's most recent and ongoing series engages instead with copyright law. The peculiar restrictions surrounding the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán have fascinated the artist, finding ways to exhibit documentation of his practice by pushing the limit of what his Swiss owned Estate can legally prevent.
The making of David Bikrin's Culura Nubila employs the court approved processes and personnel used for the aesthetic documentation of trials at Guantanamo. Referring to the peculiar efforts of Tom Wilner to persuade the Supreme Court to hear the case of a group of Guantanamo detainees, Birkin comissioned the official court room sketch artist Janet Hamlin to document the iguanas (Cyclura nubila) that were pivotal to his argument. Protected under the 1973 US Endangered Species Act, when iguanas enter the naval base they becomes subject to US law, with military personnel liable to fines of up to $1,000 for harming them. Wilner argued that if the courts extended jurisdiction to the iguanas while denying the detainees due process, they would be affording more rights to reptiles than human beings, convincing the Supreme Court to hear the case.