Appropriation

Appropriation in art is the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them The use of appropriation has played a significant role in the history of the arts (literary, visual, musical and performing arts) In the visual arts, to appropriate means to properly adopt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of human-made visual culture Notable in this respect are the Readymades of Marcel Duchamp

Inherent in our understanding of appropriation is the concept that the new work recontextualizes whatever it borrows to create the new work In most cases the original ‘thing’ remains accessible as the original, without change

Appropriation has been defined as “the taking over, into a work of art, of a real object or even an existing work of art” The Tate Gallery traces the practise back to Cubism and Dadaism, but continuing into 1940s Surrealism and 1950s Pop art It returned to prominence in the 1980s with the Neo-Geo artists

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In the early twentieth century Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque appropriated objects from a non-art context into their work In 1912, Picasso pasted a piece of oil cloth onto the canvas Subsequent compositions, such as Guitar, Newspaper, Glass and Bottle (1913) in which Picasso used newspaper clippings to create forms, became categorized as synthetic cubism The two artists incorporated aspects of the “real world” into their canvases, opening up discussion of signification and artistic representation

Marcel Duchamp is credited with introducing the concept of the ready-made, in which “industrially produced utilitarian objectsachieve the status of art merely through the process of selection and presentation” Duchamp explored this notion as early as 1913 when he mounted a stool with a bicycle wheel and again in 1915 when he purchased a snow shovel and humorously inscribed it “in advance of the broken arm, Marcel Duchamp” In 1917, Duchamp formally submitted a readymade into the Society of Independent Artists exhibition under the pseudonym, R Mutt Entitled Fountain, it consisted of a porcelain urinal that was propped atop a pedestal and signed “R Mutt 1917” The work posed a direct challenge to traditional perceptions of fine art, ownership, originality and plagiarism, and was subsequently rejected by the exhibition committee Duchamp publicly defended Fountain, claiming “whether MrMutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance He CHOSE it He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view—and created a new thought for that object”

The term appropriation art was in common use in the 1980s with artists such as Sherrie Levine, who addressed the act of appropriating itself as a theme in art Levine often quotes entire works in her own work, for example photographing photographs of Walker Evans Challenging ideas of originality, drawing attention to relations between power, gender and creativity, consumerism and commodity value, the social sources and uses of art, Levine plays with the theme of “almost same” Elaine Sturtevant (also known simply as Sturtevant), on the other hand, painted and exhibited perfect replicas of famous works She replicated Andy Warhol’s Flowers in 1965 at the Bianchini Gallery in New York She trained to reproduce the artist’s own technique—to the extent that when Warhol was repeatedly questioned on his technique, he once answered “I don’t know Ask Elaine”

Since the 1990s, the exploitation of historical precursors is as multifarious as the concept of appropriation is unclear A hitherto unparalleled quantity of appropriations pervades not only the field of the visual arts, but of all cultural areas The new generation of appropriators considers themselves “archeolog of the present time” Some speak of “postproduction”, which is based on pre-existing works, to re-edit “the screenplay of culture” The annexation of works made by others or of available cultural products mostly follows the concept of use So-called “prosumers”—those consuming and producing at the same time—browse through the ubiquitous archive of the digital world (more seldom through the analog one), in order to sample the ever accessible images, words, and sounds via ‘copy-paste’ or ‘drag-drop’ to ‘bootleg’, ‘mashup’ or ‘remix’ them just as one likes Appropriations have today become an everyday phenomenon