The Arts in Society International Award for Excellence

The Arts in Society Journal Collection offers an annual International Award for Excellence for new research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of The Arts in Society Research Network.

Award Winner for Volume 12

So, Sue Me: Legal Actions as a New Staging Ground for Performance Art

The utilization of ready-made content is a powerful current in contemporary art, taking the form of such practices as parody, rephotography, photomontage, simulation, and quotation. Whether used in part or in whole, appropriated imagery is often intended to question meaning and originality in contemporary culture. Yet, despite its ubiquity, the incorporation of pre-existing imagery is not without risk. Since the 1960s, copyright cases have escalated among notable artists, such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. In many such cases, the unlicensed reusage of imagery plays a strong role in the creation of message, particularly with works intended to be a commentary on consumerism or popular culture. Yet, some artists, such as American photographer Richard Prince, seem to create artworks in order to invite legal reprisal, as if ensuing copyright lawsuits are the true subject matter, not the appropriated content itself. The purpose of this article is to explore and introduce a new artistic category, which the author classifies as legal performance art. Participants range from legal counsel and the judiciary to members of the press and the consuming public. Pleadings, exhibits, and press coverage become part of conceptual framework of the performance. This radical shift in venue and scope challenges the traditional definition of the artwork, fragmenting it amongst countless sites, thereby revolutionizing the concepts of production, participation, and viewership.


“So, Sue Me: Legal Actions as a New Staging Ground for Performance Art” provided the opportunity to explore a new category of art that transforms traditional artistic practices into performance art by way of legal reprisal. As an art historian and attorney, my research interests focus on the melding of art and law, particularly in relationship to copyright and intellectual property. Recent cases involving American painter and photographer Richard Price provided the inspiration for exploring a type of performance art that incorporates plaintiffs, defendants, legal counsel, and even the judiciary as performers in a conceptual courtroom drama. I will continue to explore themes related to these concepts; I am currently working on a paper that introduces a new legal-art historical lexicon to be used in connection with the analysis of legal performance artworks. I am hopeful this research will contribute to the developing theories of contemporary art and performative practices.

—Courtney Davis

Past Award Winners

Volume 11

Between Two Earthquakes: Gazing Beyond Kant’s Sublime in Humanitarian Disasters

Sally Cloke, The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp. 1–18


Volume 10

The Philosophy of Localness and the Arts: A Focus on the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

Aleksandra Kunce, The International Journal of Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.1–18


Volume 9

Interrogating Women’s Experience of Ageing: Reinforcing or Challenging Clichés?

Susan Hogan, The International Journal of Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.1–18


Volume 8

Facsimile and Originality: Changing Views of Classical Casts in Arts Education and Art History

Joseph Basile, The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.11–30


Volume 7

Art in a Hidden World: Creative Process and Invisible Anomaly

Dawn-joy Leong, The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.29–39


Volume 6

The Handed Self: Reaching Toward Individuation

Cherie Redwood, The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp.221–234


Volume 5

Public Memory, Private Truths: Voices of Women and Visual Narrative in Post-apartheid South Africa

Annette Blum, The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.13–32


Volume 4

The Arts in a Time of Recession

Marque-Luisa Miringoff and Sandra Opdycke, The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.141–168