strunken white February 13, 2015 at 12:32 pm

It’d be interesting to hold the thing with Diplo and Rebecca Mock up to the recent argument between Jamian Juliano-Villani and Scott Tepin:


Juliano-Villani said in that case:

“It’s important to realize that all visual culture is fair game for artistic content, ‘appropriation’ isn’t a ‘kind’ of work, it’s almost all art. When making a painting or a print or a sculpture, it’s nearly impossible to make something without thinking of something else. A good reminder that when dealing with images 1) once an image is used, it isn’t dead. it can be recontextualized, redistributed, reimagined. 2) It should have several lives and exist in different scenarios”

…which, at the time, I found a little coldly self-serving given the source material. And the language is a little bit exaggerated (Tepin isn’t calling the image “dead”, exactly, nor is he saying you can make something without thinking of something else).

It also brought to mind an analysis of Kanye West’s sampling that I ran into at a lecture from Jace Clayton. To paraphrase, sampling has allowed those who are disempowered to compete with those in positions of power and influence, but when you hear a sample of Nina Simone on a Kanye West song, you’re just listening to a conspicuous display of consumption (he has the money to pay for its use and you, my friend, don’t).

So I end up thinking that, when you’ve got money to credit and compensate (as do Diplo, Villani and West) you should do it, regardless of how “free” what you’re taking feels. But doing so also isn’t a moral get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s still worth thinking about your relationship with your source material, even if you’re paying for it.

Paddy Johnson February 13, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Yeah, I thought Juliano-Villani’s position was a little self-serving as well, but it’s interesting to see the depth to which that informs a belief system. Joy Garnet, for example, paints from media images, and that prompted a Cease and Desist from Susan Meiselas (Garnet appropriated the Molotov cocktail photo). I’ve never felt that Garnet’s painting practice is so deeply rooted in media consumption—she’s just painting images she found on the internet—but her online presence since Joywar has been deeply influenced by the suit and internet campaign. Basically, she wants to be able to paint what she wants, and has developed an ideological frame work from which to defend that position, that’s almost indistinguishable from Juliano-Villani.

That’s fine, but generally speaking, I’m with you on compensation and credit. If you can afford to pay someone for the work you’re drawing on, then you should do it.

strunken white February 13, 2015 at 3:40 pm

I think the issue for me that has always made Garnet’s (and Villani’s) argument seem thin is that recontextualization isn’t apolitical. Meiselas is a documentary photographer who went to the site of a revolution in collaboration with two journalists, not a dilettante artist who google image searched for something (which actually kind of reminds me of the Carr quote above). It sort of exceeds “it’s mine, so you can’t have it” and bends more toward “it’s not yours to use independent of its context”, which is an ethical/political question. Things don’t become yours merely because you want them and “just painting images she found on the internet” is really “just” that. Nothing is added when the framework around them is as basic as that. The argument of recontextualization is only decontextualization in preparation for temporary housing in a white room with the intention of being sold.

strunken white February 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm

also: Diplo’s apologetic-ish statement is kind of nice in at least showing that he didn’t intend to wrong anyone and at least tried to do the right thing (his pretty inflammatory twitter persona notwithstanding): http://pitchfork.com/news/58471-diplo-semi-apologizes-to-gif-artist-im-sorry-i-have-trollish-tendencies-and-i-like-to-fight/

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