I wish to thank Roger Malina for the opportunity to moderate the
discussion on artists as inventors and our six accomplished
discussants for their participation: Derek Hales, Sylvie Lacerte,
Arantxa Mendiharat, Hideki Nakazawa, Barbara U. Schmidt, and Colette
My interest in artists as inventors stems from my curiosity about the
intersections between contemporary art and utility patents. I
discovered through research that this seemingly narrow terrain was
actually an expansive area, which could encompass a wide range of
practices that went far beyond artists' patents. For instance, it
could include elements as diverse as the novel achievements of an
innovator whose self-patent works were reclassified as "visionary" or
"outsider" art (William W. Adkins) and a patent institution that
collects contemporary art and displays it in the workplace with the
progressive idea of stimulating discussion, productivity, and
integration (the European Patent Office).
However, the topic of artists as inventors is focused on the
relationship between the roles and practices that are conjured by the
terms. To this end, I will share comments on the subject by the artist
Jakob Fenger, who is a member of Superflex, which invented (with Jan
Mallan) a biogas system. In a conversation via Skype on 12 February
2009, Fenger told me that "all good artists are inventors," adding
that "a concept for a piece is like an invention," and that in his
opinion there is "no difference between inventing and art-making,"
referencing the creative process as the link between these two
I look forward to a lively discussion on the topic of artists as
inventors throughout March.
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