Artists Rights Stories


In 2018, a legal advice clinic was held at Forde, which we organized in conjunction with Lab-of-Arts, an association made up of lawyers specializing in copyright law. Feeling at the time that criticism was no longer sufficient to advance the issues encountered on a daily basis by actors in the artistic world, support from the legal sector made it possible to offer a concrete solution and to bring about change.

During the consultations, which took place in the Usine building, our role was to welcome people into the stairwell transformed into an improvised waiting room. Registration was carried out on site according to order of arrival. Those present were then admitted one after the other behind closed doors by the lawyers inside the Forde exhibition space. Waiting times were naturally created and were conducive to discussion. During these moments, people often talked spontaneously about their reasons for consulting, their concerns, of past negative encounters and the bitterness of relations caused by cases of plagiarism, cancellation of projects, stigmatization, or exclusion. Everyday stories that were sometimes an expression of violence and loneliness within the cultural milieu, vulnerable areas, power struggles and relations in the face of an unnamed authority. Countering prejudice and uneasiness, we discovered that the people attending the clinic were not set in a plaintive stance, but were at that moment taking the initiative with regard to their situation. Their attitude gave off a personal determination guiding them radically towards a process of liberation.

Confidential on principle, the legal advice clinic was hidden from view and no sound recording was allowed. From these singular encounters, only a summary breakdown of statistics (“40% copyright law, 40% conflicts with third parties, 20% general questions”1 ) appeared in the public domain.

How could we then share the force of these individual approaches in a public event? How could we reveal this repressed and traumatic aspect of the artistic community, shedding light in more ways than one on the social changes now underway, without betraying the integrity and the words of the people concerned? How could we transcribe the full scope of these exchanges and narratives, which could then inspire others to break free from their condition and take a proactive approach, instead of putting up with their situation?

In the context of the Swiss art awards, it is not a question of presenting the legal aid clinic, but rather the stories of those who attended it. To invent for them a form of expression for public use capable of conveying the uniqueness and ambiguity of their journey. Based on investigative work, compilations of testimonies, conversations, letters and lawyers’ notes, together with all that these elements imply in terms of crossings-out and withdrawn information, this is achieved by rendering these self-narratives in written form in the first person. Despite the legal limitations that this entails, we wish to disclose through personal anecdotes what can usually not be said in public, and which yet constitutes an incomparable resource of expression and emancipation, as well as comprehension.


  1. Presentation of the results of the legal advice clinic held at Forde by the lawyer Yaniv Benhamou during the meeting organized by Rosa Brux and Hélène Mariéthoz at the Commun: Où en sommes-nous avec le droit des artistes ? (What is the status of artists’ rights today?)