Appropriation is Ethical, obviously...

Well, sometimes.

Tonight’s debate with Tanya is over... I think it went ok, but I guess I was talking too quickly sometimes (sorry to Ines and Monika if I was talking too quickly to follow). I was arguing for appropriation, and whilst, on the whole I do agree with this standpoint, there are exceptions. Exceptions I tried to brush over, but Tanya picked up on.

I’m not adverse to working the Appropriation Art trope. I’ve appropriated films, using them as a source material, transforming them visually and conceptually. I’ve worked with the ideas of others, Stephen Shore’s and Ed Ruscha’s photographs (albeit indirectly) and Andy Warhol’s soup. I’ve even photographed others images within my own image, notably in
Speak My Language which includes a number of books, posters and the like. I wouldn’t take an image and leave it unaltered or without real context, which Prince flirts with. Yes, there’s slight transformation, but not a huge amount. Similarly, Koons but at least he (or his people) put some craft into what they’re doing... Prince’s recent portrait series I’m not so sure about. I suppose you could argue that anyone can do that (put a comment and some emoji on Instagram), but then anyone could turn a toilet on its side and sign it. One is art, the other is scandalous. Will we think differently of Prince’s work in the future? It is after all rooted in the Internet zeitgeist - is this an example of Post-Internet art? I’d not thought of that before...

Would I object if someone appropriated my work and transformed it? No, I don’t think I would. If someone just used a photograph without altering it for commercial reasons, then yes. Or if they passed my work off as their own... Yes, again I would. On my landing page copyright statement (yes, my work is copyrighted) I say “Please don't use my stuff in any commercial way without permission”. A “collaboration” though, where my work is used? How could I take offence if I do similar things myself?

It’s a muddy subject, one where right and wrong answers are bound up in copyright law, something that is not really suitable today in the format it stands - there was a good quote somewhere on this, but everything is everywhere in my studio space at the moment... It was probably
Cutting Across Media, but that’s pretty irrelevant if I can’t remember what the quote was! The wealthy artists will get sued and fight their corner, sometimes winning other times not. Poor artists will more often roll over and remove the work from show, destroying it or whatever.

But of course, appropriation art is not just about stealing (or even using with permission) other works of art, symbols or intellectual property. It’s about detourning something from its original state into something new. Now that I do completely agree with.


The Ethics of Appropriation

Before Monday’s debate on the ethics of appropriation art, here’s a pdf of my Google Slides...