Keith Aoki

"I have special memories of Aoki's performance piece "Wings over Nudetown," a send-up of Cass Corridor hagiography which was part of a series of exhibitions put on at the DIA during the time John Hallmark Neff was curator of contemporary art. A comic strip documentation of it was published in The Detroit Artists Monthly, a magazine put out at the time primarily by Spodarek. 

After graduating with his BFA from Wayne, Aoki moved to New York where he received an MA in art at Hunter College. Besides being a damn fine draftsman, Aoki was a really smart guy. And at some point his interest turned to the law, and so he got a JD from Harvard and embarked on an academic career. But he often combined the two disciplines, legal scholarship and art, using his considerable drawing talents to illustrate his academic work. In this sense, he was also a pioneer of the new pedagogy that uses pop culture for didactic purposes.

Aoki went on to become a significant scholar in cultural studies and intellectual property law. Perhaps his most well-known work, though, is the graphic-novel format treatise on the creative commons Bound by Law, co-authored by another important copyright law scholar James Boyle. He also had his graphic work published in The Nation. But my favorite Aoki effort in this vein is actually the legal legwork he did for the underground rock band Negitivland (who among other things are generally credited with coining the term "culture jamming") for their 1997 CD DisPepsi, a satire of consumer culture consisting of cola-commercial sound collages, a classic work of cultural production in the creative commons.

Click here to read James Boyle's appreciation of Aoki. And click here to download the entire text and images of "Pictures within Pictures" from the Social Science Research Network. "

Vince Carducci
Motown Review of in Art  -  In memorium : Keith Aoki


Two of Keith's comic strips from 1978

Wings over Nude Town

Artist Story
&
a posthumous book
Theft: a History of Music