Art and Law

We develop streams of research which focus on the intersection between art and the legal discipline.


Our research activities are developing in a number of directions, such as: 

  • the analysis of the copyright and intellectual property framework aims to question regulatory assumptions and current solutions to the call for digital preservation, archiving and dissemination of cultural objects and art content via innovative platforms
  • probing theoretical and actual debates around how law can influence our perceptions of order, disorder, intellectual and real ownership, what is beautiful and ugly, therefore what is right and wrong, protest or law
  • engaging with artists working on law and lawyers working on art as a methodological and pedagogical tool in legal research and undergraduate and postgraduate tiers of education
  • how expression cuts through legal and illegal acts, demonstrating artistic creation as a form of protest and social involvement, as well how law is ensconced in its own performative legal aesthetics
  • understanding how art could be useful as a tool within the criminal justice system and legal system as a whole, in rehabilitation and beyond.

Internal activities

We host a range of seminars focusing on topics related to art and law.

Find out more about our internal events below:

The Art/Law Sessions

1 November 2017, Cutting up the Law: An Aid to Statutory Interpretation?
Wednesday 1 November 2017, 12-1pm
Freeman Building, F40

Following a method used at a previous event run by the Art/Law Network over the summer, Verona and Lucy will be using the same technique to practically test whether or not cutting up legislation (and putting it back together again) can aid us further in understanding judicial statutory interpretation, ultimately how legal text is made, unmade, and can be changed. Come ready to brandish scissors, paper, glue, and most importantly your legal and artistic creativity.

23 November 2017, Artist and Agitator Adelita Husni-Bey

Thursday 23 November 2017, 2-4pm
Jubilee Building, G135

We are extremely excited to have the wonderful and influential artist and agitator Adelita Husni-Bey to come and visit us at Sussex as part of the Art/Law Sessions. 

Adelita’s work is provocative, inspiring and most importantly, political. She drafted a ‘Convention on the Use of Space’, along with many other presiders and stakeholders, such as lawyers, politicians, housing officials, squatters, members of the public, and academics, that sought to protect squatters using vacant property in the Netherlands, promoting use-value property over ownership, homelessness and exclusion. The convention was drafted over a series of months, the workings and annotations of which were shown in an exhibition at CASCO entitled ‘White Paper: The Law’ (2015), the work itself coming full circle as both a piece of art and ultimately a piece of legislation. 

Her work questions the divisions between art and law, combining political and aesthetic processes. Adelita has written about her art/law work in ‘White Paper: On Land, Law and the Imaginary’ (Valiz, 2017).

Adelita will be here in person to present her work, talk about the convention, amongst other projects, and join in conversation with participants to discuss the role of art, politics and law. 

29 November 2017, Art/Law as Pedagogy Roundtable

Wednesday 29 November 2017, 1-4pm
Arts A A155

Artists, lawyers, academics, students, art therapy practitioners, those working with artists facing difficulties, activists and agitators of all creeds are invited to join us for this discussion on the usefulness of communicating art through law, and law through art and all perturbations in between. 

We are very excited and happy to be joined, amongst others, by artist-lawyer Jack Tan, famed for his work on the performativity of law and aesthetics through his wonderful ‘Karaoke Court’, as well as wild lawyer Mothiur Rahman of the Flow Partnership, formerly advisor to Occupy St Paul’s and an integral part of initiating a Community Bill of Rights against Fracking in Falkirk. Further participants to be listed.  

External activities

We take part in a range of external research activities, conferences and seminars. Recent highlights include:

Extended collective licensing, digital archives and artistic content

In November 2015, Maria Mercedes Frabboni was invited to speak at 'Copyright Reform: The Implications One Year On' at Bournemouth University, where she spoke on the introduction of extended collective licensing schemes as systems set up to unlock access to digitised content held in museums and archives.

The event was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy (CREATe), the Centre for Commercial Law and Financial Regulation (CCLFR) at the University of Reading, and the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University.

Art/Law Network

The international Art/Law Network is currently being developed by Lucy Finchett-Maddock. The network will bring together artists, lawyers, youth justice workers an academics to produce research and work with local artists on practical projects, including:

  • Legal aesthetics;
  • The legal regulation of beauty;
  • Inclusive and outsider art;
  • Art therapy;
  • Protest and expression;
  • Rehabilitation involving teaching on postgraduate research and undergraduate student projects linked to the Art/Law Network.
Postgraduate research

Swastee Ranjan (formerly of the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), will be joining Sussex in September 2016 as a Chancellor’s International Scholar under the supervision of Lucy Finchett-Maddock and Sabrina Gilani. Swastee's work will focus on the intersection of law and aesthetics, entitled Law and the City: Constituting Legal Aesthetics in New Delhi.   


We convene a number of optional modules that focus on art and the legal discipline. Current modules include:

  • Law and Aesthetics (LLB)
  • Law and the Creative Industries (LLB)
  • Regulating the Creative Industries (LLM)
Law and Aesthetics module, 2014/15

Sussex Law students create art work and paint freely on walls at Sinna OneIn the 2014/15 academic year, each Law and Aesthetics seminar was accompanied by a visit from a local artist of thinker to assist students in understanding the links between law and art in a more practical way. Activities included:

  • writing poetry on incarceration with quills and ink, highlighting the aesthetic nature of law and language;
  • cutting up parts of the Law of Property Act 1925 to make new legislative 'cut ups' in the style of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin of the Beat Generation, assisted by Professor Adam Gearey from Birkberk College School of Law;
  • learning about the importance of rhythm in protest with a visit from up and coming spoken word talent Tommy Sissons and esteemed thinker and musician Charlie Blake;
  • discovering how artists can open up sites for debate around legal and political issues, demonstrated by artists Dann and Layla Tully, who recalled their 'Rights Room' provocation on the Human Rights Act 1998;
  • spray painting with artist Sinna One at Brighton Youth Centre, where students created their own artwork and experienced freely painting on walls. 

A group of students enrolled on the Law and Aesthetics module also helped participate in an international art and law project by Adelita Husni-Bey where they pasted up the ‘Convention on the Use of Space’ at the Synergy Centre, Brighton.

Other opportunities

Clinical Legal Education

Sussex Law students visit the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS)Law School Students visit Design and Artists Copyright Society Sussex

On 13 April 2016, as part of the Sussex Clinical Legal Education, a group of undergraduate and postgraduate students from Sussex Law School visited the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS).

During a seminar discussion with DACS Head of Legal and DACS Legal and Policy Manager, students and faculty had the chance to discuss legal issues surrounding the art market, the relationship between rights holders and art market professionals such as auction houses, art galleries and dealers. 

StreetLaw Brighton

StreetLaw BrightonStreetLaw Brighton saw Sussex Law School students work with local art gallery Art Schism on issues surrounding the legality and illegality of street art and graffiti, copyright, and questions around the role of art in criminal justice and rehabiliation. 

The students responded to questions on ownership and criminality from the artists as well as researching specific topics and themes around copyright, illegality in art, art therapy and rehabilitation. 

Find out more about the project on the StreetLaw Brighton blog and Facebook page.