Recent light bulb ads raise questions from Calgary artists

A Calgary artist is raising concerns about advertisements from two big companies that look very similar to a light bulb installation she helped create.

Local work seems similar to several recent advertisements by Disney Institute, IBM

A Calgary artist is raising concerns about advertisements from two big companies that look very similar to a light bulb installation she helped create.

Caitlind r.c. Brown and  Wayne Garrett were behind an art piece at Calgary's 2012 Nuit Blanche festival called CLOUD.

It was a large-scale interactive sculpture made using 6,000 lightbulbs and pull strings that allow people to engage with the installation. Last year, the piece was short-listed for an Innovation by Design Award, but now two recent advertisements by the Disney Institute and IBM are sparking controversy among artists for their similar look.

"There's a decent possibility they were aware of CLOUD on the internet and through all the different sources where CLOUD is posted," said Brown. "It's very difficult to even Google search the term 'light bulb art' without CLOUD coming up."

Brown says other artists and friends have been contacting her since seeing the advertisements to point out similarities between them and CLOUD.

Similarities found

Key among them is the interactive element of the structure and the look of joy on the faces of those pulling the light bulb strings in photos from CLOUD's Nuit Blanche showing and the ads. 

The phenomenon of artists saying big companies have used aspects of their art is nothing new.

Random House of Canada's literary and arts magazine Hazlitt recently devoted an entire article to exploring the trend of corporate ad campaigns 'borrowing' from artists.

While the concept of inspiration vs. intellectual property can often be a grey zone, Brown says she and her collaborator, Wayne Garrett, do want to believe the similarities could be an honest mistake.

"Right now what we're most interested in is discovering what sorts of rights we have and exploring this issue a little bit further," she said.

"More than anything, we feel like we have a responsibility to our community and to ourselves as artists to just sort of discover what sort of action we could take if this were to happen again or if for some reason this were to escalate."