Ex. 2.4: Is appropriation appropriate?

Is using Google Maps to simply plan a journey or come up with destinations appropriation? I don’t think so, because its involvement isn’t present in the final image. By all means, I think the internet is a great resource for ideas based on other peoples work. But to actually use the work of somebody else is stealing. I’d say that as long as the second artists work is their own, that is appropriate.

Geoff Dyer asks, “who’d have thought that you could be a stay-at-home street photographer?1 I propose that that possibility is not a reality. Whether I disagree with it or not, appropriation has a place in the art world, but that does not mean that an artist using the photographs of others is a photographer.

Roy Lichtenstein appropriated over 140 works in a time before artistic copyright was rigorously enforced. His work was made up of copies of original comic book panels. Of the quality of his appropriations, graphic artist Graham Johnson notes that, “nearly all of his copies are inferior to the originals on basic levels, such as line quality, form, etc.”2

Not once are any of the original comic artists named or referenced, which I believe constitutes ‘stealing’. It would seem that Lichtenstein merely traced original artworks, reproducing them in lesser quality and then took all the fame and fortune deserved by the true artists. Yet, because of his importance in art history, this is ‘swept under the carpet’.

There’s little-to-no information about how Lichtenstein or the original comic artists reacted to the appropriation due to the time period. Moving right into the modern day however, the subject of appropriation is very present in the art world. Artist Richard Prince is a particularly well-known example of a serial rule-breaker.

Prince has, on a number of occasions, used the work of other photographers and made very minor alterations to pass the shots off as his own. There is certainly no remorse from Prince, who seems to find cease-and-desist letters and copyright an annoyance rather than a meaningful law, “I knew what I was stealing 30 years ago but it didn’t matter because no one cared, no one was paying any attention.”3 I wonder if this is a mindset shared by other modern-day artists? Will this thinking increasingly be a problem in the future?

References

1 Geoff Dyer. (2012). How Google Street View is inspiring new photography. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/jul/14/google-street-view-new-photography. Last accessed 02/08/2016.

2 Graham Johnson. (2011). Roy Lichtenstein: Plagiarist or Art Thief?.Available: http://nextpanel.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/roy-lichtenstein-plagiarist-or-art.html. Last accessed 03/08/2016.

3 Mahita Gajanan. (2016). Controversial artist Richard Prince sued for copyright infringement. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jan/04/richard-prince-sued-copyright-infringement-rastafarian-instagram. Last accessed 03/08/2016.

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