Barbie Doll is after The Thing

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Posted by G.H. Hovagimyan on October 29, 1997 at 13:19:58:

Hello World,

The Thing website received a letter from Mattel's
lawyer ( Mattel manufactures the Barbie Doll) Demanding the removal of
my work BKPC from the
website. Mattel is claiming trademark dilution. I mean really!
It does broach some interesting issues. If I were to make an oil
painting of a Barbie Doll there would be nothing that Mattel could say
about my effort. Is this because the audience for art in a gallery is
small or that a handmade object is handmade, giving it an author in some
Wolfgang Staehle,who started The Thing did a cursory web search and
turned up over 2000 references to Barbie. Using shared commodity symbols
is distinctly Post-Modernist and cues into the *Mediasphere* that Regis
Debray has defined so elequently in his doctoral dissertation &
subsequent book, *Media Manifestos*, 1996, Verso books (Manifestes
Medialogiques, Editions Galliamard, 1994). This mediasphere is
organo-synthetic and grows despite the best efforts of nations and
multinational corporations to censor and control it.
Of major concern for artists is the exaggerated efforts by corporate
concerns to squash any artworks deemed offensive or opposing their sense
of an orderly global business world. I've enclosed my response to
Mattel's lawyer for the list to look at and comment upon.

William Dunnegan, Esq.
720 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10019
Dear Mr. Dunnegan:
I am an artist and I created the artwork that prompted your letter to
Wolfgang Staehle dated October 21, 1997. I offer this response as an
explanation for my work.
First you should be aware that The Thing is a website that is devoted to
artists and allows them an opportunity to exhibit artworks. There is no
particular perspective or theme to Wolfgang's site; rather it is a place
for artists to show a wide variety of works.
I have chosen to exhibit several works including two pages on the
that show a parody that I made that includes the Ken doll and the Barbie
doll. I chose to satirize this particular toy and its image because I
that was the most effective way to express the protest that I was making
about the use of these products by children who eventually engage in
activities such as war. While I am making a statement about these toys,
do not believe that I have done so in an unwholesome or degrading manner
but simply in a very established and artistic way. I doubt that any
would make any negative association to the Ken or Barbie doll but rather
would understand the point of the satire.
Turning to your letter, it appears that you are mostly concerned about
use of the name "Barbie." I recognize that I did describe the toys, but
once again my reference states only: "Barbie and Ken Politically
Correct!!!!" Once again, I do not believe that this reference to the
Barbie suggests in any way that this is a work of art sponsored by
or in some other way officially linked to this manufacturer. This is
clearly an artist website and I am clearly presented as the artist of
I am familiar with stories (whether true or apocryphal) of behemoth
companies that have overzealously attacked even the most innocuous
reference to their image. Hence I suppose that if Mattel is one of these
your demand is therefore not surprising. I can now add myself to the
of artists who have received such threats. Since, however, I do not
that my parody in any way affects the link between Ken and Barbie and
authorized manufacturer, I feel I am within my rights to produce this
and display it in the manner that I have.

G.H. Hovagimyan

cc: Wolfgang Staehle

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