Comedians say faces used in Canada artwork are theirs

Comedians say faces used in Canada artwork are theirs

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Bisha K. Ali/Jayde Adams

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Comedian Bisha K. Ali identified an image of herself in the Canadian artwork

UK comedians say it is no joke that their faces, initially featured in an Edinburgh Festival brochure, are being used in an art installation in Canada.

“Snapshots” by artist Derek Michael Besant features 20 photos with text over them in an underpass in Calgary.

Bisha K. Ali identified herself and other comedians, including broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli, in the artwork, and says permission was not sought.

Calgary City Council says the £11,600 artwork is to be removed.

The BBC has contacted the Canadian artist – but he has yet to comment.

An article in Calgary-based magazine the Avenue reported in 2015 that Mr Besant chose 20 people at random for the artwork from pedestrians he met at the underpass. Each phrase on the black-and-white images was pulled from his interviews with those people he met, the article said.

“It’s a real cross-section of the city,” he told the magazine when the artwork was installed in 2015.

But London-based comedian Ali says that the woman whose blurred face features on the artwork’s I Want Love picture is actually her – and that her image had been used without her knowledge. She says that this is “disrespectful and wrong”.

In a series of tweets, Ali said an old friend shad initially alerted her to her unwitting starring role in Calgary.

The comedian, who has updated her Twitter profile to state that that she “loves Canadian art”, said the original image of her was taken in about 2012 by fellow comedian Jayde Adams.

Ali went on to identify a number of other comics from images of the underpass, including Danish comic Sofie Hagen, broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli and comedian Chris Betts.

She told the BBC News website: “My reaction was mostly one of bemusement – why on Earth did the artist use a photograph of me?

“Beyond that, it’s disrespectful and wrong for the artist to have pinched other photographer’s work and used performers’ likenesses without their consent.”

Other comedians also reacted on social media:

In another twist, Comedy Club 4 Kids tweeted that the images appear to have been taken from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival brochure in 2015, a year that the artist Mr Besant visited.

Ali said she had not been contacted directly by the city council of Calgary, but had heard that the installation was being taken down.

“I am not sure how to feel about it – personally I would rather the money spent to remove it go to the photographers whose work has been up for the past two years,” she said.

The Calgary City Council website lists the artwork as costing $20,000 (£11,600) and says it was completed in October 2015.

Kurt Hanson, general manager, Community Services for Calgary City said: “The City of Calgary was made aware of concerns about the temporary art installation in the 4th Street underpass.

“As part of the City’s investigation, we have been in contact with the artist.

“The artist has said that we should remove the installation. We will be doing this and are considering our next steps.”

The removal process will start on Wednesday night, the council said.

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