Exercise 2.3

Is Appropriation Appropriate?


Read Geoff Dyer’s article on photographers using Google Street View by searching “ How Google Street View is inspiring new photography ” on The Guardian Website. You can also read blog posts on the weareoca website by searching: “ Appropriation: photography into tapestry ” and “ Who’s Afraid of Appropriation? ”…

LP&E, p.83

Here’s the Guardian link https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/jul/14/google-street-view-new-photography

And here are the OCA links:
1. https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/archived/photography-meets-textiles/
2. https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/archived/whos-afraid-of-appropriation/

This is a typical Dyer piece, providing a vehicle to demonstrate his knowledge of photo-world highlights through name-dropping. He claims, “I only became aware of this breakthrough when Michael Wolf … received an honourable mention in the 2011 World Press Photo Awards for work made sitting in front of his computer terminal, photographing – and cropping and blowing up – moments from Google’s Street View” and, who knows, it might be true. In any case, Dyer provides an entertaining romp through the field and covers the same ground as the cmat (my standard abbreviation for “course material, used throughout these notes).

Box A
Michael Wolf, from
The Transparent City (2008)
img: LensCulture

Dyer also mentions Wolf’s The Transparent City (2008) where he photographs high-rise buildings looking for windows framing interesting contents. Dyer wonders whether they were all happenstance or some might have been organised with “an element of Doisneau-esque contrivance”. See also LensCulture, fig. A1. The project calls to mind Gursky’s Paris, Montparnasse, 1993, the image that brought me back to photography, and also Merry Alpern’s Dirty Windows, 1994

Dyer goes on to mention
Rafman, Dyer writes, “One gets the impression not simply that he lacks Wolf’s formation as an old-school photographer but that he has, quite possibly, never set foot outdoors, that his knowledge of the world derives entirely from representations of it” and quotes Rafman, “By reintroducing the human gaze, I reassert the importance, the uniqueness of the individual.”
Rickard – Dyer writes, “Any doubts as to the artistic – rather than ethical or conceptual – merits of this new way of working were definitively settled by Rickard’s pictures.”

Box B
Marc Quinn
The Creation of History (2013)
img: Metro

The first WeAreOCA link, Appropriation: photography into tapestry is available as an archive but the links within the article are dead. It concerns a piece by Marc Quinn (also known for a sculpture of his own head made from his own frozen blood, and the Fourth Plinth statue of disabled artist Alison Lapper). After the 2011 London riots, having obtained the rights from the photographer Kerim Okten, Quinn printed a well-known photograph as a tapestry (paintings and sculpture too) and called it The Creation of History (2013, fig. B1). Photo-derived tapestries from Chuck Close and Pae White are also mentioned.

There is only one student comment on the article posted in 2013, commenting on the stitch → pixel connection and grain could be inserted between the two.

My two views on the Quinn work are: 1. he was wise to pay for the reproduction rights; 2. there is not much creativity evidenced on Quinn’s part, although his other works mentioned suggest scope and purpose.

The second OCA link Who’s Afraid of Appropriation? garners more comments. It is a more general piece that mentions artists’ efforts since C18th to protect their intellectual property; how Harvard Referencing seeks to control plagiarism; how the internet has loosened control and enabled a profusion of appropriation.
Amongst artists, there are centuries of precedents of influence → borrowing → theft, “Andy Warhol, Damian Hirst , Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, Glen Brown and Richard Prince , are particularly good at using other peoples images, without permission and have often ending up in court as a result. The defence of ‘fair use’ is often sited [sic]”.

wrote about fair use at some length in I&P, centring on Richard Prince and a Patrick Cariou image from Yes Rasta, 2000 – that case was in progress while the OCA piece was written. I note that the UK equivalent of the US’s ‘fair use’ is ‘fair dealing’, defined in Sections 29 and 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
A (then) forthcoming Roy Lichtenstein show at Tate Modern is mentioned, noting that Lichtenstein has never acknowledged his debt to comic artists “Tony Abruzzo, Russ Jeath, Ross Andre, John Romita, Joe Kubert and Milt Kaniff”.

There is a flurry of discussion, all from 2013. Three topics are covered: 1. Artists’ use of assistants to make their work for them; 2. the OCA’s rights and approach in displaying students’ work; 3. various, sometimes conflicting, opinions on the workings of copyright.

… Have a look at the artists mentioned who appropriate images taken by other people and write around 300 words describing your response to artists and photographers working in this way.

Whether or not you feel appropriation is something you might work with at some point, the mapping resources available for free on the internet are an invaluable practical tool for planning landscape shoots of any kind.

If you haven’t yet done so, read ahead to the brief for Assignment Two. Write down your preliminary thoughts and ideas for how you might approach this assignment. Use Google Maps and/or any other mapping system and print off, photocopy or save some maps of the journey you’re thinking about documenting for this assignment. Use the map(s) to help identify any details or aspects of the place or route that might (or might not) be of interest.

LP&E, p.83

[13Jan22] To start with a personal anecdote, in C&N Exercise 2.3, illustrating a poem, I wanted to photograph a flower in a gun barrel (a reference to Marc Riboud, to illustrate Henry Reed’s Lessons of War: Naming of Parts) and visited the Imperial War Museum with a daffodil. All their barrels – from the smallest to the massive naval ordnance, too large to fit inside – are sealed. I decided to fake the image with a flower and gun found online, but I could not bring myself to do so, much to my own surprise.

There must be limits to my self- and intuitively- imposed strictures, because I fully intend to construct an OCA Assignment entirely of screen grabs from World of Warcraft™. It will be interesting to test where these limits lie.

On the wider stage, I have no problem with Richard Prince stealing advertising images from Marlborough, what I do not understand is why anyone would pay $1,248,000 for a copy (Christie’s, 2005). Incidentally, Hacking (2018) raises the question of whether the unit of exchange for the photograph (pre-digital, at least) should be the negative rather then the print. It is a very good question, which she ducks, but let’s return to that at another time when we will consider where the equivalents lie in digital images and NFTs.

The artists mentioned in the second OCA piece are Andy Warhol, Damian Hirst, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine and Glen Brown.
Warhol pretty much invented modern print appropriation (albeit silk screened), took the world unawares and got away with it in his lifetime (until 1987), although post-mortem litigation continues.
Koons suffered a loss last year on a blatant theft of imagination which was, to my mind, a step too far.
My opinion of Hirst’s work is so low that I don’t regard him as worthy of consideration in this context.
Glen Brown , I was not aware of until now. He is described by his gallery as, “Mining art history and popular culture, [he] eschews categorization, fusing a wide range of time periods and pictorial conventions through reference, appropriation, and precise attention to detail” (Gagosian, 2022). His work is of no relevance to photography.

Box C
after Richard Salkeld … and Levine … and Rodchenko
Apr 2020

Levine is an interesting case. To the extent that she was originally seeking to demonstrate the absurdity of the prices paid for famous photographs by famous photographers as part of a Postmodern vanguard backlash then her copies are a valid artistic statement. But when Levine sold any principles she may have begun with and joined the gallerised elite minority, her true values were revealed. Grundberg (2021, p.176) quotes Yve-Alain Bois who said of Levine and Barbara Kruger that they had “abandoned themselves to the seduction of what they claim to denounce”.
Salkeld (2018) discusses Levine’s copies and describes her aim as “a critique of the notion of originality in modernism”. Perhaps inevitably, he photographs one of Levine’s (a Rodchenko) in exhibition and produces his own After Sherrie Levine, 2012. Equally inevitably, I photographed that page of the book to give the world After Salkeld … After Levine … After Rodchenko, 2020 (fig. C1)

One aspect of appropriation that is not considered in the course material (perhaps because the term had not become mainstream at the time) is cultural appropriation. My own view is that the whole notion is absurd, especially when applied to literature, and I was pleased to note during C&N Part 3 the comment by Bernardine Evaristo, the first black female winner of the Booker prize, “that whole idea of cultural appropriation is ridiculous” (Sanderson, 2019).

In conclusion, appropriation has my personal approval when used by others to produce something worthwhile, meaningful or interesting. I am less inclined to use it myself, but I’m sure there will be exceptions

LPE Exc 2.3 References

Alexander, J, Conroy, A, Hughes, A, & Lundy, G (2019) Landscape, Place and Environment [LPE]. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Gagosian (2022) GLENN BROWN [online]. gagosian.com. Available from https://gagosian.com/artists/glenn-brown/ [Accessed 13 January 2020].

Grundberg, A. (2021) How photography became contemporary art. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press.

Hacking, J (2018) Photography and the art market. London: Lund Humphries.

Salkeld, R. (2018) Reading photographs: an introduction to the theory and meaning of images. London: Bloomsbury.

Sanderson, D. (2019) Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo writes off ‘cultural appropriation’ [online]. thetimes.co.uk. Available from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/booker-winner-bernardine-evaristo-writes-off-cultural-appropriation-bklfsqhgk [Accessed 5 March 2020].