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Bootlegging as Creative Practice

SIGNED by Ben Schwartz


Please join Artbook @ MoMA PS1 on March 30 2024 at 4pm to celebrate Unlicensed: Bootlegging as Creative Practice with the curator, graphic designer and editor of the book, Ben Schwartz, and contributors Shanzhai LyricNat Pyper, Hassan Rahim, and SHIRT.


Shanzhai Lyric is a body of research focusing on radical logistics and linguistics through the prism of technological aberration and nonofficial cultures. The project takes inspiration from the experimental English of shanzhai t-shirts made in China and proliferating across the globe to examine how the language of counterfeit uses mimicry, hybridity, and permutation to both revel in and reveal the artifice of global hierarchies. Shanzhai Lyric (Ming Lin & Alex Tatarsky) circulate their ever-growing archive of poetry-garments in the form of poetry-lecture, publication, and installation. In the fall of 2020, Shanzhai Lyric founded the fictional office entity Canal Street Research Association from which they continue to problematize notions of ownership and property through bootleg as method. Their work has been presented in unofficial and official spaces including Amant, Times Museum, INIVA/Stuart Hall Library, Women’s Art Library, Abrons Arts Center, SculptureCenter, MIT School of Architecture and Planning, Artists Space, MoMA PS1, Printed Matter, Harvard (AFVS),Clearview Ltd, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Selected publications include essays in The New Inquiry, Viscose, The Serving Library, Capilano Review, Vulture and ArtReview Asia.

Hassan Rahim 
(1987— ) is a creative director and high school dropout from Santa Ana, California, currently living and working in New York City. In opposition to culture’s obsession with speed, Rahim’s output remains guarded — incubating as long as necessary while he continues to build a body of work dealing with monomania, memory, and mortality. Hassan owns and operates anti-disciplinary creative studio 12:01.

Nat Pyper
is an alphabet artist. Their practice of fonts, wearables, video, and performance extends from ongoing research on queer countercultural publishing histories. They’ve performed at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, Cooper Cole in Toronto, and PAGEANT in Brooklyn; exhibited work at the Typojanchi Typography Biennale in Seoul, Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich, and Kunsthall Stavanger in Norway; and published texts with, Draw Down Books, GenderFail, Inga Books, Martian Press, Queer.Archive.Work, Source Type, and the Walker Art Center. They are based in Brooklyn, NY.

Ben Schwartz (1988) is a graphic designer and editor based in New York City. He is currently working as a designer/editor for the online research platform Source Type and has collaborated with several graphic design studios in the cultural sector across a variety of media. Ben went to school at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, and was awarded a design fellowship position at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. In 2020 he attended the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, NL. He has been a visiting critic at Parsons, Yale, ArtEZ, and the Rietveld Academie. He recently published the book UNLICENSED: Bootlegging as a Creative Practice in 2023 with Source Type and Valiz.

is a multiform artist based in New York City. Working across writing, rap music, performance, video, photography, painting and sculpture, Shirt’s practice becomes a bricolage of language, sound and object wherein notions of authorship and publics are blurred to create a more expansive readership. Exploring modes of social study and critique through a deep investment in radical imagination and found practices, Shirt’s work often considers ways of unlearning and seeks to propose questions such as: Who gets to be called an artist? and What is considered art? Shirt has presented work nationally and internationally in public spaces and at venues including Dia Chelsea, New York; The Kitchen, New York; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany; Royal College of Art, London; Helmhaus Museum, Zurich; Centquatre-Paris, Paris; and Kunsthalle Baselland, Muttenz. Shirt holds an MFA from the Academy of Art and Design in Basel, Switzerland and a GED from the New York State Education Department. He has been an artist-in-residence at Civitella Ranieri and Abrons Art Center.

In-depth discussions on bootlegging and its myriad definitions in the creative world

Over the last few decades, the term “bootlegging”—a practice once relegated to smugglers and copyright infringers—has become understood as a creative act. Debates about homage, appropriation and theft, already common in the art world, are now being held in the spheres of corporate branding, social media and the creative industry as a whole. Today, bootlegging has become an aesthetic in and of itself, influencing everything from underground record labels and DIY T-shirts to publishing ideologies and acts of high fashion détournement. Unlicensed, a project by Ben Schwartz, contains 21 interviews with a range of creative practitioners on the topic of bootlegging. Some of these interviews were originally published on the Gradient, the design blog of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where Schwartz began his research on bootlegging. These conversations investigate bootlegging’s creative and critical potential, and explore new ways it can be deployed in order to thrive as an impactful cultural force.

Artists include: Line Arngaard, Clara Balaguer, BLESS, Boot Boyz Biz, Akinola Davies Jr., Eric Doeringer, Experimental Jetset, Elisa van Joolen, Czar Kristoff, Hassan Kurbanbaev, Oliver Lebrun, Urs Lehni, Jonathan Monk, Sonia Oet, Matt Olson, Online Ceramics, Mark Owens, Printed Matter (Jordan Nassar and Christopher Schulz), Nat Pyper, Babak Radboy, Hassan Rahim, Shanzhai Lyric, SHIRT, Oana Stanescu.

Valiz/Source Type, 2023

Paperback | 4.5 x 7 in. | 432 pgs | 40 bw.