Intellectual Property Donor – From the Student Perspective

Chloe Jones ’15, one of our amazing interns, wrote a great post for the CFA’s blog page about Evan’s exhibition, which is reposted below. She spoke with Virgil Taylor ’15, Sewon Kang ’14, and Stratton Coffman ’14 about the exhibition and captured some behind-the-scenes action with students who spent time with Evan during his residency.


On display now in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery is the exhibition Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor. This is the largest one-man show to take place in the United States for the Paris-based American artist.

Installation view of Intellectual Property Donor with Sewon Kang '14 and Virgil Taylor '15. Photo by John Groo
Installation view of Intellectual Property Donor with Sewon Kang ’14 and Virgil Taylor ’15. Photo by John Groo

Blurring the line between artist and hacker, the exhibition asks gallery visitors to consider how everyday life intersects with virtual reality and how viral media can become high art.

Beautiful, curving, white sculptures are suspended from the gallery ceiling, each one algorithmically produced from motion-tracked graffiti data. Across the gallery, an interactive installation invites visitors to create their own TED talks on a stage that looks startlingly identical to the TED stage. Covering one wall is a series of 1,540 smartphone screen-sized ink prints depicting the gestures required to beat all 300 levels of the popular game “Angry Birds.”

With an interest in the overlap between free culture and popular culture, Roth transforms existing systems into public, often political, statements. As part of the exhibition, visitors can obtain a small sticker that reads: “In the event of death please donate all intellectual property to the public domain.” Perfect for the back of your driver’s license, he wryly suggests.

Roth was on campus for a week leading up to the opening reception on the evening of Wednesday, February 5, 2014. I spoke with three Wesleyan students who had the opportunity to work directly with him during that time.

Studio Art major Virgil Taylor ‘15 first met Roth when the artist visited Wesleyan last year. Intrigued by his work, Taylor signed up to help with the Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor exhibition and returned to campus early from winter break in order to begin preparing for the show’s opening.

One work in the exhibition, Propulsion Painting, consists of a variety of mixed-media sculptures that use the pressure within spray paint cans to perform tasks such as the one in this video.

Roth needed 70 empty spray paint cans! Taylor emptied what cans he could by repainting all the stools in two classrooms, and spent the rest making a series of paintings. Done on canvases typically used in the installation of exhibitions, the series was titled In Conjunction and displayed in South Gallery next door to the Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor exhibition on opening night.

“It ended up being a really productive experience and a really great exercise for me,” says Taylor, who had never worked with spray paint before. Taylor also attended a daylong workshop held by Roth on the topic of hacking culture, in which students made mini projects based on systems they observed in their surroundings. “It was a really fast process: talk about it, identify a system, do something,” Taylor describes.

Here is an artist interested in talking about ideas, observing the world, and then acting. The internet, Roth argues, is not only a means of communication but also a rich artistic medium and a potent vehicle for activism.

Creative Campus Intern Sewon Kang ’14 also attended the workshop. According to her, “Evan works with infrastructure that is already there for him to subvert, so when he talks about activism he talks about how activists don’t necessarily need to go in and build from the ground up.”

Roth’s activism takes place through creativity and innovation, always seeking to make small interventions that will attract worldwide attention.

“There are already systems in place that you can change to work to your advantage,” explains Kang. “Roth sees everything in the world as an opportunity. Where I see a room full of tables and chairs, he sees the tables and chairs as a system for some sort of intervention.”

Zilkha Intern Stratton Coffman ’14 also spoke about the activist impulse running through Roth’s work. “He’s asking, in what ways can we exploit the technological and social systems that are already there to change not only our environments, but also what it means to be an agent in the world.”

Coffman was first introduced to Roth’s work last year when the proposal to bring Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor to Wesleyan came before the Zilkha Planning Committee.

“I was intrigued,” Coffman remembers. “What’s alluring about his work is its interconnectedness. It’s part of a larger practice, each individual work, which makes them all more complex.”

Having followed Roth’s journey to Wesleyan and interacted with him and his work on numerous different occasions, Coffman says, “There are still interesting questions to think about, which is partly why I think it’s such a fruitful show. There are these questions in the works that are not resolved.”

Evan Roth//Intellectual Property Donor is more than an art exhibition, it is a catalyst for creative thinking and a commentary on our world, a call to action and an interactive sensory feast.

The exhibition will be open through Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 5pm. Visit the exhibition website for more information, photos, and the video of the artist talk that Roth gave on the night of the opening.

Just In: “Intellectual Property Donor” Photos

We just received the official photos for the Intellectual Property Donor exhibition and wanted to share a selection of them. Thank you to John Groo, our photographer and Sewon Kang ’14 and Virgil Taylor ’15 for being our models. For more wonderful photos, check out The Wesleyan Connection’s post on Evan’s show.

Ideas Worth Spreading, 2013 Courtesy Wesleyan University
Ideas Worth Spreading, 2013
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Installation view of Graffiti Analysis: Sculptures, 2013 Courtesy Wesleyan University
Installation view of Graffiti Analysis: Sculptures, 2013
Courtesy Wesleyan University
Installation view of Graffiti Analysis: Sculptures, 2013 (foreground) and Graffiti Analysis, 2009 (background)  Courtesy Wesleyan University
Installation view of Graffiti Analysis: Sculptures, 2013 (foreground) and Graffiti Analysis, 2009 (background)
Courtesy Wesleyan University

Evan Roth Artist Talk

On the date of the opening of Intellectual Property Donor, Evan spoke about how he found out that he was actually an artist, what it’s like to run around with graffiti artists in the middle of the night and what inspired the works in the show. At the end of the talk Evan noted that he had more slides left then time to talk – I wish there had been more time as I could have listened for another hour! He’s just that good. You can now watch this talk and leave your comments on YouTube.

Thanks to the panelists and Wesleying!

Last night we had a fantastic discussion about art and open source during our panel discussion connected with Evan Roth show in Zilkha. Thank you to our panelists Max Dietz, Greg Goldberg, Joyce Jacobsen, Isabella Litke and Alec McLane for providing us with such a variety of ways to look at open source and hacking. Big thank you as well to Brendan O’Donnell for moderating the panel and to the live bloggers of Wesleying. And thank you to our audience for attending the talk. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!

Art and Open Source: A Panel Discussion

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:30pm
Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Room 106

Once the nearly exclusive purview of lawyers and librarians, questions of copyrights, freedom of information, and open source programming now reach into the lives of everyone. From the knock-off Prada bag, to the distribution of music, to questions of privacy that could impact national security–all of these issues and more come to the fore with currently available technologies. Previously accepted precepts and practices are being challenged from all sides. Moderated by students from the blog, this panel of Wesleyan faculty and students will explore these engaging issues with audience participation invited. Panelists are Max Dietz ’16, Assistant Professor of Sociology Greg Goldberg, Dean of Social Sciences Joyce Jacobsen, Isabella Litke ’12 (Ph.D. Candidate at Princeton University) and Music Librarian and Archivist Alec McLane.