Episode 8: Appropriation & Copying
November 25, 2020.
In this episode, “Appropriation & Copying,” I take a look at the ways in which artists refer to the work of their predecessors through copying and appropriation. Art instruction uses copying as a method to learn. In addition, artists refer to their predecessors in a myriad of ways by quoting or remaking existing works of art. We can think of the history of Western art as a conversation between works of art, past and present. Appropriation differs. Appropriation art takes a known work of art and uses it in a way that reveals something about the original, but also creates a new work of art. Sometimes the differences between the original and the new work of art are theoretical, yet not visible. As a form of cultural critique, appropriation can reveal sublimated meanings in a work of art, political meanings, or socio-cultural meanings. While the verb “appropriate” has various meanings, in this episode, to appropriate means taking a work of art and re-making it in a way that reveals the original’s meaning and simultaneously creates new meanings for the appropriation. This episode will briefly consider the modern work of Manet and Duchamp before turning towards contemporary art by Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, and Yasumasa Morimura, all of which appropriate the content or forms (or both) of the canon of Western art.
Sources + further reading:
Detroit Institute of Arts, “Officer of the Hussars,” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015), https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/officer-hussars-98007
Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q.,
Alexxa Gotthardt, “The Japanese Photographer Placing Himself in Art History’s Most Famous Scenes,” Artsy, October 18, 2018, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-yasumasa-morimura-places-art-historys-famous-scenes
“Rijksstudio,” Rijksmuseum, https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio.
Tate, “Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus – Look Closer,” Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/kara-walker-2674/kara-walkers-fons-americanus
Kara Walker, “I’m an Unreliable Narrator,” Tate, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV_L3fceGNA
“Kara Walker,” Kara Walker, http://www.karawalkerstudio.com
“2019,” Kara Walker, http://www.karawalkerstudio.com/2019
“Kehinde Wiley Studio - Brooklyn, NY,” https://kehindewiley.com/
Mimi Wong, “Ego Obscura,” Art Asia Pacific Magazine, http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/WebExclusives/EgoObscura
Unboxing the Canon is hosted and produced by Linda Steer for her course “Introduction to the History of Western Art” in the Department of Visual Arts at Brock University. Brock University is located on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.
Our sound designer and editor is Devin Dempsey, who is also reading these credits. Our logo was created by Cherie Michels. The music for this podcast has been adapted from “Night in Venice” and “Inspired” by Kevin MacLeod. Both are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0. Additional music in this episode is from Bach, “The Well Tempered Clavier,” Book I, BWV 846-869, musicians unknown.
We are grateful to Alison Innes from the Faculty of Humanities for her sharing her podcasting wisdom and offering support.
This podcast is funded by the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University.