|Image by Derek Besant via Avenue Calgary|
A public art installation in Calgary has been removed after it came to light that the artist behind it, Derek Michael Besant, used copyrighted photos as part of the project without permission.
Besant was commissioned by the city of Calgary a couple years ago to create the $20,000 CAD / $15,500 USD art exhibit as part of the city’s 4th Street S.W. Underpass Enhancement Project. The resulting exhibit, which was located in the 4th St. S.W. underpass, featured large Polaroid-esque images showing blurred individuals with brief quotes overlaid onto them.
The individuals in the images were allegedly travelers with whom Besant had interacted in the underpass. Local publication Avenue Calgary reported in 2015 that Besant had spent a couple days in the underpass with “a camera, notepad and recorder” to get images and quotes from people who passed through. However, that lie fell apart after a Calgary traveler noticed that one of the project’s images resembled UK comedian Bisha Ali.
He sent Ali a note about it, at which point she began deconstructing the lie publicly online, pointing out that at least a few of the other images were also portraits of comedians. Ali detailed the entire saga in a long Twitter thread accessible here.
This is a pic of the rest of the installation. I CAN NAME SOME OF THE COMEDIANS FEATURED: pic.twitter.com/4DEaWM5xXC
— Bisha K Ali (@bishakali) November 27, 2017
Late last month, Canadian publication MacLean’s unraveled the rest of the story, reporting that the images were swiped from the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and that the artist had recommended to Calgary Head of Community Services Kurt Hanson that the city take down the exhibition.
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