…and withdraws case against European art project
In December there was still uncertainty about the final outcome of the lawsuit filed by Nike International against Public Netbase for producing 0100101110101101.ORG’s art project "Nike Ground – Rethinking space". For several weeks, the fate of the renowned Vienna-based net culture platform hung in the balance, its continuing existence threatened by the court action. But we can now confirm that the sportswear company has yielded under the pressure of international public and media attention generated by the action.
"We won! – declares satisfied 0100101110101101.ORG spokesman Franco Birkut, – and our victory is proof of at least one thing: the famous "Swoosh" logo belongs to the people who actually wear it every day. These commercial giants think they can beat anyone who annoys them, and they’re unable to distinguish an artistic or critical project from unfair competition or commercial fraud. Nike was not the target of our performance, they are just one amongst the many tools we use to make our point. We were not against them, but they reacted in such a hasty and unseemly way, with no style at all. In the end it was a pleasure to play with Nike: the bigger they are, the harder they fall!"
"It was worth the risk in order to insist on the right to free artistic expression in urban spaces – Public Netbase director Konrad Becker declares – The intimidation attempts of this company known for its sneaky marketing strategies have turned back against them". The worldwide interest generated by the project can also be explained by the fact that it emphasized the importance of a cutting-edge artistic practice that employs the real means of production of a society increasingly determined by the media and technology. Becker: "The project drew attention to important issues such as the globalized dominance of economic interests over cultural symbols and gave rise to controversial perspectives and contentious interpretations".
In mid September 2003, 0100101110101101.ORG started a surreal art project called Nike Ground (http://www.nikeground.com), a "hyper-real theatrical performance" built around a fake guerrilla marketing campaign: Nike was supposedly buying streets and squares in major world capitals, in order to rename them and insert giant monuments of their famous logo. A 13 tons hi-tech container was installed in Vienna, the first city to host a "Nike Square", as part of the action.
Nike wasted no time: "These actions have gone beyond a joke. This is not just a prank, it’s a breach of our copyright and therefore Nike will take legal action against the instigators of this phoney campaign". On October 14th, Nike released a 20 page injunction requesting the immediate removal of any reference to copyrighted material, and that any activity related to Nike cease immediately. Failure to comply with this request would mean that Nike would claim 78,000 Euros for damages.
"When they started legal action against us – says Franco Birkut – they knew perfectly well that we were not a competitor and that they were dealing with an art project, but they continued legal proceedings in order to crush us and erase any trace of the work. We didn’t allow them to intimidate us, we ignored their ultimatum and went on with the performance till the end of October, because this was our initial idea".
The international press reacted badly to Nike’s legal action: "Regardless of the outcome of the trial – wrote Cathy Macherel in Le Courrier – their action will have been success: hasn’t operation Nike Ground shown the public the other side of the "Swoosh" corporation advertisement? Far from being a free symbol integrated in the public sphere, here Nike reveals itself as a humorless multinational that has lost all sense of play as soon as someone touches its interests".
The Commercial Court has rejected Nike’s plea for a provisional injunction on formal grounds. After this refusal Nike didn’t take further legal action. The match is over: Nike threw in the towel.
Nike Ground is the latest surreal action by the European art group known as 0100101110101101.ORG, a band of media artists who use non conventional communication tactics to obtain the largest visibility with the minimal effort. Past works include staging a hoax involving a completely made-up artist, ripping off the Holy See and spreading a computer virus as a work of art.
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