The internet has long been a hostile place for artworks. Shutterings of various websites have coincided with the deletion of pieces by such artists as Akke Wagenaar and Olia Lialina, and Petra Cortright’s famed video VVEBCAM (2007), which features the artist looking into a webcam while digital animations dance in front of her, was removed by YouTube because it ostensibly violated the platform’s policies about scams and spam. Now another cult classic has been taken off of YouTube: Mark Leckey’s 1999 video Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, which was uploaded by the artist in 2011 and had since been viewed more than 203,000 times. [The copyright claim has since been “released,” according to the artist, who told ARTnews that the video’s page has been reactivated.]
According to a removal notice posted by the artist to Instagram last week, the video posted by Leckey was deleted by Google following a copyright claim from the distribution company Fremantle Media, Inc., which oversees the release of various television shows, including The Young Pope and American Idol. What, exactly, the company claimed as its own property remains unclear. YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“It’s disappointing,” Leckey told ARTnews in a phone conversation from London. “They didn’t only take the video off—they took away the whole page. That I find upsetting, because I used to love the comments, which are now gone.”
Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, the Turner Prize–winning artist’s best-known work, is an essay film about British nightlife during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The 15-minute video is constructed from appropriated footage, and it traces how disco evolved into rave culture over three decades during which styles changed in time. (The titular Fiorucci refers to an Italian clothing brand.) An attempt to hold on to images and eras that die off during cultural shifts, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore has, in the nearly 20 years since its creation, accumulated a strong fan base; the musician Jamie xx sampled the video’s jittery soundtrack for his song “All Under One Roof Raving.” (Leckey said he received a box of chocolates from xx as a thank you.)
Leckey said he recognizes that relying on appropriated images comes with risks. “The thing is, with Fiorucci, it’s never been legal—nothing’s cleared, never has been. I never intended it to be,” he said. “So I guess it’s more a surprise that it’s lasted this long, being this public.” Leckey said he isn’t sure what triggered the copyright claim, but it could have been a number of different passages. (Some documentary footage of bell-bottom-wearing partiers gyrating to Northern soul music could be a suspect, he said.)
Leckey isn’t sure what he’ll do now with Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore. The wide-scale video service Vimeo, he said, is “boring” and “like a VIP lounge.” Ubuweb, a smaller and insider-inclined website devoted to all kinds of avant-garde art, is currently hosting the video, with Leckey’s approval.
Since the YouTube deletion, other users have posted bootleg copies to the same service by way of different accounts. And still more fans have taken an interest in making the video more widely available. Nancy Spector, the chief curator of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which holds the video in its collection, commented on Leckey’s Instagram that she was looking into finding a way to host the work on the museum’s site. “It is such an amazing, important work,” she wrote. (A Guggenheim spokesperson queried after said there are no immediate plans for the work.)
For now, Leckey hopes the video will continue circulating in other ways. “Fiorucci is free to use, and if anyone wants to show it, they can,” he said. “What I’d always hoped is that people would remix it and extend it themselves, which a couple people did. I have no copyright claim over it, so I’m more than happy for people to do what they want with it.”