Canadian artist apologises for using Fringe photos

Derek Michael Besant's installation was commissioned to show residents of Calgary.

Art: Comedian said photos were 'plagiarism'. SWNS

An artist has apologised after he was accused of "plagiarising" photos of Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedians for an art installation in Canada.

An installation in an underpass in Calgary was purported to show blurred portraits of residents of the city.

Artist Derek Michael Besant was paid 20,000 Canadian Dollars (around £12,000) for staging the artwork.

Comedians based in the UK were surprised to discover the pictures were from a 2015 brochure for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Authorities in Calgary are now taking down the artwork, which included Hardeep Singh Kohli's face with the phrase "I speak French" superimposed on top of it.


Mr Besant has now released a statement apologising, saying he wanted to "open up a conversation" around "who are we - in cities".

He said: "When I received some torn-out pages from a handout flyer with these faces, my impression was they were already out in the public domain."

'In no way did I ever mean to hurt anyone involved, and I am extremely sorry that this is the result of my misunderstanding.'
Derek Michael Besant

"I intended my project to incorporate a theme of 'representations of strangers that could be from anywhere, in any city'," he added.

"My premise was to open up a conversation centred around 'who are we - in cities'. I've initiated that the temporary artwork be removed immediately and want to apologise to all concerned.

"In no way did I ever mean to hurt anyone involved and I am extremely sorry that this is the result of my misunderstanding."


London-based comedian Bisha K Ali discovered her photo had been used when a friend contacted her.

Accusing Mr Besant of "plagiarism", she said the photo was used without her or her photographer's permission.

The art project, known as Snapshots, was installed in October 2015 at an underpass on Fourth Street, Calgary, and was meant to portray the lives of ordinary people who use the underpass.

Commissioned by Calgary's planning, development and ssessment department, the project featured large images of slightly blurred faces with various short phrases printed over them.

"I live here" and "I walk to work" are some of the phrases laid over the photos.

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