One of a series of 7 pieces entitled ‘Disclaimers’, this installation is constructed from white neon light tubes formed into letters. Huyghe takes as his subject the often disregarded and wholly unglamorous concept of the ‘disclaimer’ and transforms it into an elegant sculpture used as a tool to question notions of artistic ownership and copyright. Huyghe has said of his work that “The sentences are disclaimers, which are a juridical form that allows someone to put in circulation, or to expand, something that he does not own.”
Modern Times is a Charlie Chaplin movie from 1936 where Chaplin’s iconic ‘Little Tramp’ character struggles to assimilate into the modern age of machinery and industry. Huyghe aired the film some years before the creation of his sculpture in a manner that infringed the film’s copyright. The themes of alienation and disenchantment from the industrial age that feature in Chaplin’s film resonate in the present, with the precise ‘modern times’ referred to in the installation ostensibly unclear. There is a duality of meaning in the statement I Do Not Own Modern Times: the artist is declaring both that he does not own the Charlie Chaplin film, but also denying ownership of modern times themselves.
The very denial of the objects makes them present-the sculptures state an absence, and in so doing they make manifest a concept. Huyghe makes sculptures that are ‘reminders’ and so through absence creates presence.
The rest of the series has also dealt with the artist’s interest in ambiguities of possession and title. Huyghe rescored John Cage’s 4’33” for the flute, a composition that through its silence is in itself an expression of absence, and then went on to create I Do Not Own 4’33”. His work I Do Not Own Tate Modern was caught somewhere between the truth and a lie- at the time the artist was occupying half of a floor of Tate Modern. He did not own it, and yet the space effectively belonged to him, if only momentarily.
This particular work was previously exhibited in 2006 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and also at Tate Modern throughout the summer of 2007 in an exhibition which included other works of his from the same series.