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Steal Like an Artist

As part of the first term we looked at the concept of appropriation and the arguments it feeds. I chose this topic to feature on my end of term 250 word visual essay.

The act of appropriation can take on many forms, some more flattering than others. Artist like Jacqui Kenny and Doug Rickard use direct copies from Google Street View to create something new, the ‘newness’ is derived from the story and concept behind the image.

Kenny’s foray into photography is born out of a desire to explore destinations shut off to her due to agoraphobia, she uses screen grabs from Google Street View to produce beautiful galleries from around the globe. Without having to leave home the world comes to her.

In an article by the Design Observer, Art Collector John Foster explains that Rickard would “use Street View as his camera and, working from a room in his home, travel the roads of neglected American cities and neighbourhoods in a 21st-century ‘road trip’”. This suggests that rather than literally lifting images from Google Rickard places himself within the virtual experience like a player in an open world video game, using his camera to capture his selected scenes.

Appropriation can also be used to reference social issues; in Childish Gambino’s video for his 2018 hit “This is America”, film Director Hiro Murai uses set design, wardrobe, posture and gratuitous violence to address the state of race relations in the US.

The act of appropriation has always incited heated debate; is it just copying? Where’s the imagination? But how much originality is out there? We are victims of influence, our identities are partially formed by our surroundings, experiences and encounters even if subconsciously. It can therefore be argued that art is influenced in the same way.

Art, like History, has a habit of repeating itself.


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