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Cartoon Culture

Splatter pics

The image above comes from a London art exhibit, Splatter, which we reported here last month. The show has now closed (yesterday was the last day) but in case you missed it, artist James Cauty has posted several pics from the opening and has posted several more.

And if that isn’t enough, Cauty is selling exclusive merchandise here. My only question: is this stuff authorized by Warner Bros.?

(Thanks, Steve Gordon)

  • It’s protected under the First Amendment, even the merch, ergo no licensing required. WB would be smart to leave it alone, because being on the wrong side of a corporate branding rights vs. First Amendment rights fight is bad publicity. And yes, there is such a thing.

    If someone invokes children in attacking this art, I’ll scream, since the WB artists said they made those cartoons for themselves (adults).

  • Vvek

    why would it be authorised by warners, tom & jerry belongs to MGM !

  • Vvek – MGM’s pre-1986 film library was bought by Turner in 1986. Turner merged with Warner Bros. in 1996 – thus today, Warner Bros. owns the MGM Cartoons and Tom & Jerry.

  • acetate

    Still seems wrong somehow to make money off someone elses work. If I make a parody toy of Darth Vader that means I can sell it and make a profit ?

  • Kevin

    FWIW, Warner’s logo is plaster all over the merchandise, so either Time Warner is cool with this or they’ve infringed on the studio’s characters and copyrights.

    If Warners is smart they’ll grin and bear this.

  • RobEB

    Yeesh! I didn’t need to see that…

  • Mike

    Seems like a 3D version of those Joe Cartoon Flash things.

  • Robert Schaad

    Checked this out quickly…reminds me a little of Anthony Ausgang’s artwork.

  • ChrisL

    all copyright issues aside, I love the way they organized the exhibition. I always hated how people think galleries should be sterile white rooms, with each piece isolated from one another. Its a much more exciting experience to be overwhelmed and looking around corners for unexpected surprises.

  • Gillian

    Technically, all this work is parody. WB and MGM would do best to leave it alone. It’s free publicity for their cartoons, anyway.

  • Sam Filstrup

    It’d be interesting to see what the creators would have felt about this lucky, for James Cauty they’ve all passed away. The whole thing just feels degrading and robs the charm out of the classic cartoons, though it’s obvious James Cauty meant it to be that way.

  • Johnson

    Cauty doesn’t have kids, does he?

  • David

    The idea behind these sculptures has all the charm and lasting worth of a stoned moron’s witless babbling. “Duuude *koff koff* – what if cartoons were actually subject to the violence that is portrayed inherently in the mind of the plausibly impossible cartoon? That would be so f*****ked!” First, the suggestion of violence in a cartoon automatically implies pain, suffering, death and mayhem. That is, it’s not a leap to imagine those things. Context matters in the cartoons and without it this art exhibit is equivalent to the stand-up comic’s joke, “Don’t you hate it, when you go the bathroom, and there’s no toilet paper?” It would take a Homer to reply, “It’s funny because it’s true.”
    Second, I fear our culture is so bankrupt that all it can do is invert or eviscerate what came before in a desparate attempt at relevance. Looney tunes: ostensibly juvenile subject matter and medium, conceived and created by intelligent, imaginative and skillful adults for universal audience.
    WB Splatter (or whatever the hell it’s called): ostensibly adult subject matter conceived(by universal audience?) ,created by juveniles. No imagination required.
    The words of Pete Burness are timely:
    Everybody is forgetting something very important. In the American cartoon, death, human defeat, is never presented without being followed by resurrection, transfiguration. A cartoon character can very well be crushed…into a plate by a steamroller, may be fragmented, cut up…but he arises immediately, intact and full of life in the next shot. So it seems evident to me that the American cartoon, rather than glorifying death, is a permanent illustration of the theme of rebirth. (1963)
    Ah, Pete, we hardly knew ye.

  • Paul N

    Cauty went for the first, most obvious idea for satire. Utterly lacking in thought or originality, and done for it’s obvious “shock value.” I don’t object to it, I just think it’s weak…

  • Still seems wrong somehow to make money off someone elses work.

    ALL creative work is based on someone else’s work. Some influences are more obvious than others, but all culture builds on what came before.

    Disney, Warner Brothers and MGM all began with what today is called “piracy,” as an expert lawyer explains here.

  • I’m surprised so many people seem so bothered by this exhibition. I find it hilarious.

  • Riza Gilderstern

    I dunno, it’s just very boring isn’t it, the art . I mean how interesting is it to point out that the suspension of disbelief in cartoons doesn’t really apply to real life situations, even a little kid would be bored with that idea. It’s just very very dull and unshocking or anything really.

  • The illustrations look like something a Something Awful poster would photoshop up in half an hour. The sculptures like the one above though are very nicely made all things considered. Someone could easily make a “art” exhibit out the content of “rule34” at this rate. Oops, the idea is out there now!

  • Itchy & Scratchy seem rather tame compared to this.

  • Brian O.

    First Amendment protection only goes so far. An exhibit is one thing but merchandise, if unauthorized, is pushing things. Air Pirates found that out.

    You can argue this exhibit as parody but it just looks moronic. I don’t see a strong statement being made nor is it even entertaining if there was no statement to be made.

  • acetate

    I agree with Brian O. Everything is open to parody , even parody as juvenile and unoriginal as this, but once he starts selling it for profit I think Warners could issue a cease and desist. As some have noted this seems uninspired. Every kid I grew up with at some point took delight in drawing famous cartoon characters committing acts of violence or sex. Then we grew up.

  • Sarah Palin

    This is great stuff! Did he do ones of MORRIS THE MIDGET MOOSE and BULLWINKLE?

  • PorkyMills


    That was a beautiful quote by the Pete Burness. Thanks for mentioning that.

    I love the first picture in the exhibition of Tom & Jerry. It really shouldn’t be this shocking considering it is the logical end of what Tom and Sylvester strive for in their respective cartoon series, but it’s really funny in a grim sort of way.

  • J Lee

    The media used and the design work involved are interesting for the effort, but as far as the idea of showing the graphic results of cartoon violence in real life, it’s an idea at least 40-plus years old, and probably dates back over half a century, to those critics of “mindless cartoon violence” from the early 50s who celebrated the gentler storylines of works like Bob Cannon’s at UPA.

    Looking at the link Jerry provided to the image slide show, Cauty seems to believe he’s cutting edge with this, and to be honest, also seems to have a bit of an anti-American streak that somehow he’s linked in his mind to animated cartoons, judging by the Bugs-as-suicide-bomber postage stamps and the Disney related stuff. His art, his choice, though I think someone probably needs to send him Disc 2 of LTGC Vol. 6 to show that Bugs and Daffy have been around a little longer than George W. Bush, so I’m not sure why he thinks Bugs (or Mickey) are symbols of dogmatic American imperialism.

  • Chuck R.

    David and Brian O. are spot on. Parody is a time-honored tradition in America (and Britain). But when merchandise is sold, the joke’s over and the gloves should come off.

    These postings about fine artists exploiting animation to make a quick name for themselves are getting really tiresome. I wish Jerry would stop encouraging these pop-culture parasites.

  • I’m with the haters. The only question this collection is raising, is whether or not it is still advisable for a company to turn a blind eye to property infringements by the arts, when the art in question is so banal, self congratulatory and uninformed?
    While within the confines of a gallery, the artist has a case, but it that quickly devolves into the selling of ‘ironic’ merchandise and vinyl figurines of familiar cartoon characters in ‘gross’ situations – then there is already a highly profitable commercial industry for that stuff, which has been functioning for years without direct copyright infringement.
    I say sue the guy! Art needs commerce to offer that kind of adversity, to stop it becoming precisely this irrelevant and stupid.

  • Richard

    Kevin says,”FWIW, Warner’s logo is plaster all over the merchandise, so either Time Warner is cool with this or they’ve infringed on the studio’s characters and copyrights.”

    If you notice closely, it says SPLATTER on the logo strip – I’m somewhat confused if they are or not.

    Although, I’m interested in seeing what’s on those Splatter movie DVDs…
    They appear to have original footage from the cartoons.

  • ecto123

    For the love of GOD! Will Somebody end this abomination?!!?!?!?!?!?!?

  • Brian D. Scott

    I agree with Chuck R. on this one. I mean, it’s not that I don’t get it, but more like there’s nothing to get. It reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin tells Hobbes a dog joke – a dog owner says to his dog “Heel!” and the dog responds “Takes one to know one!” and Calvin cracks up, while Hobbes is stoic. Calvin then says tigers don’t appreciate his humor, to which Hobbes replies “How did the dog learn to talk?”

    I think we all know the real ramifications of anvils, bullets, cats chasing mice and birds, and whatnot. True cartoon humor transcends that – if it didn’t there’d be no joke. Another reminder is an episode of Animaniacs where they mixed the characters up so that Rita ends up with Pinky, and he asks her “What are we gonna do today, Rita?” and she replies “Lunch!” and eats Pinky! The end.

  • Nature Boy

    Hello? Don’t you people realize who this is?

    It’s James “Jimmy” Cauty. Half of the KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front). The same guy who brought us the Ancients of Mumu, “Last Train to Trancentral”, and ‘What Time Is Love?”. Their debut single was “All You Need Is Love” which was basically the Beatles’ song mixed with Samantha Fox (“Touch Me, I Wanna Feel Your Body”). Funny, yes? In 1994 he and his musical partner burned a million British pounds in a field. Why? To upset people!

    He’s made a lifetime of this stuff!

  • Gillian

    The artist is bringing up valuable questions through this work. It’s not just about cartoon censorship, it’s about being subversive:

    “Are viewers uncomfortable with this artwork because its bloody or because it features iconic characters?”

    “Is this still valuable as art because of its use of the aforementioned blood and icons?”

    “Why do cartoons soften this violence in the first place when the idea is still there? Why hide it?”

    The dark humor of the work is refreshing as it is unsettling. I really hope this exhibition hits New York!

  • Gillian

    I just scrolled up and read the rest of the comments. Yikes. There’s a lot of anger, here.

    Sorry guys, I know some of you feel this is degrading, but it’s art. Art either makes something beautiful or dissects it in order to reinvent the entire thing.

  • David Cuny

    Where’s the “parody” here? I just see a lot of merchandise.

    Here’s my money making plan. First, I create some artwork of some beloved characters – perhaps Harvey comic characters, or perhaps Fleischer’s cartoon characters – making obscene gestures, put into an “urban” environment.

    By “create”, I mean “trace over someone else’s work”, of course.

    Then, I’ll claim to be contrasting the characters “G” rated personas against how their “real life” personalities – sort of like how Baby Herman was a womanizer in “real life”. So they’re not infringing, they’re “parody.”

    Next, I can then sell these derivative works… Er… “First Amendment protected parodies” for profit! What a great scam!

  • Art is fine, Gillian. Though it’s wholly unoriginal. This is just Itchy and Scratchy with copyright theft. From the looks of it, however, well done and a great looking exhibition.

    But selling merchandise using WB characters? Is that art? Or is that just plain bootlegging? Shame sellers of Chinese Pikachu knock-offs didn’t know that what they had was art all along.

  • There’s gotta be a common sense boundary to parody. If I sold drawings of Tom, but with colored toenails, could I claim “parody”?

    There must be some court work on what qualifies as exempt-from-copyright parody.

  • First Amendment protection only goes so far.

    Uncontroversial speech doesn’t need to be protected.

    Everything is open to parody , even parody as juvenile and unoriginal as this, but once he starts selling it for profit I think Warners could issue a cease and desist.

    If you recall, MAD Magazine, which stood up for the right to parody, was sold for profit. Most “culture” is distributed commercially in the US, whether or not you consider it juvenile and unoriginal.

    The comments here illustrate what copyright has become: a convenient way to enforce censorship. Don’t like someone’s speech? Sue ’em for copyright infringement. We don’t want the government to censor, so we have the First Amendment. Yet many here are fine with privatized censorship, allowing corporations to determine expression.

    Copyright is a good idea when it rewards artists and acts as an incentive to create. It’s a terrible idea when it’s used to censor. James Cauty knows this. His art provokes your desire to censor and your invoking copyright as a means to accomplish that. The comments here are proof he has succeeded.

  • Pez

    That sculpt of Tom is better then anything I have ever seen WB license out or produce. If anyone has seen a better on let us all know.

  • Oh what Dark Souls some Men have !!!!!

  • Jorge Garrido

    I’d love to visit this exhibit, rub my chin pensively as I look at it, and say “That’s very uninteresting.”


    P.S. we don’t have a First Amendment here in the UK.

    Not really Cauty’s best work by any means but pretty much he/the KLF ever did was 100% an excercise in seeing what they can get away with while irritating people and making large sums of money, so I can’t bring myself to get too upset about this really.

  • Nature Boy, I’m sure many of know perfectly well who Cauty is but, well, i guess it’s just not the 90s anymore – and this is the least thought through thing Cauty has been involved in.

    The problem is precisely that it’s not upsetting *enough*.

    Gillian et al, you misread the situation. No one’s angry, just exhausted and underwhelmed. Exhausted, because the sheer volume of point-missing that must have gone into the thought process beggars belief.

    I maintain, Cauty obviously hasn’t been in court enough recently and is getting slack. Being forced to validate his art might encourage him to think it through a little harder next time.

  • Brian O.

    To Gillian’s point, I fundamentally understand what makes “art” tick. In this case the artist is wanting to shock and outrage along the lines of a crucifix in a bottle of urine. Al Capp did this so much smarter sixty years ago as did Kurtzman fifty years ago. See Mike’s great article over at the Animation Archive about Fearless Fosdick. Fosdick was insanely violent but under the surface there was more going on. This new exhibit certainly doesn’t build on sixty year old successes. It’s as cutting-edge as Henny Youngman jokes. Because the intended message isn’t my cup of tea isn’t really my point, however. Unauthorized on-model merchandising is my issue.

    If somebody is going to rip-off a studio then go bootleg copies of Scrappy, Puppetoons and Mighty Mouse. That should be less of a crime than authorized transgender-Tweety merchandise.

  • It is art, but still depressing and trendy.

  • Peter Vincent

    Calling it art don’t make it art. Just like putting lipstick on a pig don’t….you know what I mean.

  • Raymond

    Cauty wants to be sued. That would make his point and his day, as well as garner him more publicity than this work merits. And if he were a REAL artist, he’d have used real blood. Actual artists with no corporate fame agenda have been doing that for years.

  • Beautifully executed, but funny animal violence (and sex) has been parodied for a looong time, so it’s not exactly shocking. Most of us have already read or seen FRITZ THE CAT (Crumb killed off his character by having a jilted ostrich stab him in the head with an ice pick), THE NATIONAL LAMPOON’s 70s parodies of TOM AND JERRY (I can’t recall the title of the recurring feature, but it was drawn by Warren Sattler), “Itchy And Scratchy” and course, the sublime SQUEAK THE MOUSE.

    I’d like to think that merchandising is supposed to be the target here, but after he burned all of that money, I guess Cauty can use the dough.

  • Maybe I would have gone to see this exhibit—that’s a BIG maybe, because I don’t find this that original to begin with— but I would have never. EVER! have allowed little children access to it —in some of those photos there were children no older than 6 watching those pieces.

    I’m sorry if I sound like a cranky old man. I’m actually a member of the X Generation and I enjoy bloody video-games (spent the whole weekend killing Locusts in GoW2); but there’s a time and place to everything, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for little kids to watch this. Maybe I’m being hypocritical about it…

    But I wouldn’t support the banning of that exhibition—at least, not because of that, anyway.

  • zavkram

    Not to change the subject here, but did anyone else notice the corporate logos that happen to be “plastered” on the wallpaper in that image, above, of Tom and Jerry? I can just barely make out the WB logo and the MGM logo; but there is a third logo I can’t see very well. I’m guessing it’s the image of Tom and Jerry that was featured in one of their original theatrical main-title cards… but I could be mistaken.

  • rhinotonight

    well, uhh.
    it looks like the show wasn’t an entire waste. and if he just trying to piss people off, i’d say he it thought it through pretty well and did just that.
    Considering the amount of people up in arms over the copyright issue.

  • Sarah

    To me the whole thing is big “meh,” I mean, the Simpsons’ Itchy & Scratchy short is no different. Not to mention it was much funnier. Maybe if this exhibit came out a few years before The Simpsons it would’ve been great show. Full of shock value, press releases, and all that artsy crap. The sculptures are cool though.

    Also, there’s a photo of two kids watching the animated slaughter of tweety bird and the caption next to it reads “Mentally Scarred Children.” I could not agree.

  • Seriously… who in their right mind would want to pay £1,750 (or $2,736.82 USD) on a vivisected plastic toy in a bell jar? And has anyone noticed the use of the word ‘Misappropriated’ in his sculpture descriptions? Look that up in the dictionary and you’ll understand the artist’s true intentions.

  • I think this is sort of like Andy Warhol’s soup cans or the folks behind the Madame Tussaud wax figures…taking someone else’s property or identity that has become a cultural icon and depicting it as art. If you’ll notice, even the MGM and Warner Bros. logos in these pictures are parodies of the original. I have a feeling if there was any lawsuit to come of this, it would’ve happened by now. Judging by the dead-on likeness of Tom in that Tom and Jerry sculpture, if I were someone working at Warner Bros. I’d HIRE the guy, the heck with suing him!

    I’ll agree with some of the rest of the comments though. The idea is pretty unoriginal. It’s been done by “Itchy and Scratchy”, “Happy Tree Friends”, and that sort of thing. The beauty of Chuck Jones’ “Rabbit Fire!” and the Hanna and Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons was how well the violence was executed and timed, without a single drop of blood or image of something truly gorey. This just seems to be an exploration of the low road the legends avoided taking, and it’s nothing more than an affirmation that they did it better the first time.

  • Ben W

    It’s sort of like the difference between suggested sexuality and overt pornography.

  • Larry T

    After looking at the photos: meh.

    It’s James “Jimmy” Cauty. Half of the KLF (Kopyright Liberation Front). …. In 1994 he and his musical partner burned a million British pounds in a field. Why? To upset people!

    He’s made a lifetime of this stuff!

    Then obviously this “art” exhibit has no value except for shock factor.

    If he wanted true shock value he should have used real blood, real cats, dogs, ducks, etc not cartoons… or does he only have the stomach to use cartoon characters?

    As long as you intend to offend, don’t go half-way…. a quote from Christian Slater in the movie, “Heathers” comes to mind:

    “The extreme always makes the impression.”

    and this exhibit is nowhere near being extreme…

    Hopefully it just passes and Cauty ends up with a closet full of dismembered cartoon characters.

  • Jim Engel

    I’m always amazed at the lengths people are willing to go to…

    I’ve drawn a thing or two like this in my time—5 minutes, haha, over.

    I can’t imagine spending hours & hours on such juvenile stuff. Such a waste of obvious talent on such a pointless outcome.

  • Gillian

    “Beautifully executed, but funny animal violence (and sex) has been parodied for a looong time, so it’s not exactly shocking.” (from Scott Shaw!)

    I couldn’t have said it better! The artist has funneled all of the parody that has been inspired by these characters for ages (Itchy and Scratchy, has already been mentioned) and turned it into a well-executed gallery.

    To Bitter Animator, I don’t know how “wholly unoriginal” this is. I’ve seen rude cartoon parodies, before, but never a whole exhibition devoted to it. I think it’s good to see cartoons in an art gallery. Lichtenstein might have done a bit of tracing, but in the long run, I think he brought comics to a wider audience via art history classes.

    To Tony Mines, I would definitely say some comments here are angry. Not wrong or vengeful, just a little angry. Responses such as “juvenile” and “taking the low road” prove the artist has succeeded in getting a reaction.

    Thanks again for putting this up, Jerry!

  • Karma

    They actually went through with this fucking garbage?

    There is nothing counter-culture, “edgy”, impressive, artistic, or interesting about this crap.

    It is puerile, idiotic, childish, disgusting and revolting (Not because of it’s gore but simply because it’s a shameful attempt to misuse and manhandle the licensed works of others for their own “glory” (however childish and terribly idiotic said “glory” can be construed as.)

    The presenters of this “exhibit” may bullshit themselves and others to call this art, but anyone with half a brain can tell a mile off that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

    It’s not clever satire on any level, though it pretends to be. It’s completly base, childish, and utterly meaningless. I’ll grudgingly admit that Warhol’s Campell’s can may have been an artistic statement but this is pathetic garbage and should be rightfully condemned as such.

    Every “piece” in this exhibit remains only a testament to the sad failure of deluded self-fashioned “artists” ripping off other intellectual properties, for some lame, backpatting effort of futility amongst themselves.

  • One thing it does, though, is make you question why the violence in cartoons was funny in the first place.

    As a kid, I happened to think that Tom & Jerry, also the Three Stooges went too far with the ouch and the bang (obviously, others didn’t,and a prt of many cartoons is that kid-like being transgressive). But I laughed when Daffy got shot by Elmer, or the anvil fell on the coyote, or Laurel and Hardy got the piano dropped on them.

    That was mostly because they made a funny reaction, underplaying it mainly as a loss of dignity, and they were okay again. Of course, reality, and ironic splatter art, tell it differently. Excuse the psychobabble and analysis, which always kills humour!

  • J Hobart B

    Well, I find it funny, and I think all the outraged comments here are evidence that it is provocative enough to qualify as legitimate commentary. Yes, I know you’re not “shocked” by the violence, you’re upset because it’s boring and misappropriates licensed characters. But that, in itself, makes it relevant.

    I especially like it now that I see the way the artwork was displayed, and in so many different media. That’s pretty cool.