Fighting Fakes | Batta Mon Returns
On view November 6 through November 27, 2010 at Osaka’s CAS in Japan, Mitsuhiro Okamoto’s “Batta Mon” sculptures raise questions about the relationship between authenticity and imitation. The locust shaped works are produced from fake designer bags – with logos prominent – and the name plays off of the slang term for knock off.
Okamoto’s work was previously displayed at the Kobe Fashion Museum, but removed after Louis Vuitton protested pieces containing their brand logo.
‘Battamon’ is a a play on the words ‘Batta’, meaning locust, and ‘Batta Mon’, slang for knockoff.
The previous exhibition at Kobe fashion museum (that kicked off on April 15) showed 9 locusts made from fake merchandise bearing the logos of top brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Fendi, and which were removed from the exhibit after the museum received a letter from the LV fashion house, claiming that the works damaged the image of their luxury items because they incorporated material from counterfeit products.
‘We had no intention of recommending counterfeit brand-name products at all. we removed the works because LV expressed displeasure at them‘, a city official said. ‘It was an appropriate decision as a public art museum is supposed to be neutral‘.
With this second exhibition, Okamoto wants to take this opportunity to discuss the protection of brand images and freedom of expression.
‘Sophisticated fake products that are indistinguishable from genuine ones are widespread. that no one can tell whether the materials used for my works are genuine is part of what I wanted to express through my works‘, he said.
‘Laws regulate commercial products. Under the current situation, Battamon works can’t be recognized as commercial products, and the display of the works can’t be deemed illegal‘, said patent attorney Seiji Ota. ‘However, they could be regarded as commercial products depending on circumstances, such as whether they will be traded. experts would be divided over the issue‘.
Lawyer Tasuku Mizuno, co-leader of the nonprofit organization (NPO) arts and law that extends legal support to artists, Instead pointed out that the removal of Okamoto’s works from the exhibition in response to pressure from Louis Vuitton Japan was inappropriate. ‘Public art museums should hold fair exhibitions from the viewpoint of freedom of expression and citizens’ right to know. it’s a problem that the works were removed at the urging of a private company‘, he said.
In favor of free speech, the gallery space CAS in Osaka decided to held a protest exhibition and on November 27, the last day of the event, the organizer will hold a forum to discuss the pros and cons of the removal and the artistic value of the works.
1968 Born in Kyoto,JAPAN
1994 Postgraduate Studies of Shiga University, Master of Education (Art)
1994-96 Art Students League of New York
1997-99 CCA(The Center for Contemporary Art) KITAKYUSHU Reserch Program, ArtistCourse
2001-05 Artist residence program in Germany, Spain, India and Taiwan.
2007- Live and work in Kyoto