Appropriation and assessment


Plagiarism is, of course a real and constant concern. But in art is gets a little complicated.

For one thing, artists frequently copy a technique as carefully as possible in order to LEARN that technique.

For another thing they can show off their knowledge of other art forms by re-contextualization and/or appropriation (or is that plain old copying in other words?).

Appropriation (TATE ONLINE)
“As a term in art history and criticism refers to the more or less direct taking over into a work of art of a real object or even an existing work of art. The practice can be tracked back to the Cubist collages and constructions of Picasso and Georges Braque made from 1912 on, in which real objects such as newspapers were included to represent themselves. Appropriation was developed much further in the readymades created by the French artist Marcel Duchamp from 1915. Most notorious of these was Fountain, a men’s urinal signed, titled, and presented on a pedestal. Later, Surrealism also made extensive use of appropriation in collages and objects such as Salvador Dalí’s Lobster Telephone. In the late 1950s appropriated images and objects appear extensively in the work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, and in Pop art. However, the term seems to have come into use specifically in relation to certain American artists in the 1980s, notably Sherrie Levine and the artists of the Neo-Geo group particularly Jeff Koons. Sherrie Levine reproduced as her own work other works of art, including paintings by Claude Monet and Kasimir Malevich. Her aim was to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image. Appropriation art raises questions of originality, authenticity and authorship, and belongs to the long modernist tradition of art that questions the nature or definition of art itself. Appropriation artists were influenced by the 1934 essay by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, and received contemporary support from the American critic Rosalind Krauss in her 1985 book The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other”

Sherrie Levine has created a version of Duchamp’s notorious urinal, made this time of precious bronze. What we see here is contemporary art’s bottomless interest in itself: not Kinship but Narcissism”.

Waldemar Januszczak

March 16, 2008
Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, Barbican (THE SUNDAY TIMES)

Sherrie Levine reproduced as her own work other works of art, including paintings by Claude Monet and Kasimir Malevich. Her aim was to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image“…So – Sherrie Levine just copies stuff?

How would the DP assessment criteria cope with students who build their exhibition solely around the concept of appropriation? Did I hear someone whisper ‘that’s just a fancy form of plagiarism’?

But if we take our students to exhibitions where they see a variety of forms of appropriation, isn’t it then rather hypocritical to tell them that they cannot also explore this technique?

  • Theresa Shetler Logan
    September 28, 2017

    I have a question. I have a student who wants to use Hello Kitty in his IB exhibition. This is my first year teaching IB. Is this acceptable? He wants to use Hello Kitty but then create a message about social issues so it would have a deeper meaning. Any ideas?

    • Andrew Vaughan
      September 28, 2017

      Hi Theresa,
      My understanding is that there is nothing wrong with incorporating commercial imagery in artworks for the exhibition provided that this is explained and every source/reference is clearly acknowledged.
      Ideally this information would go in the exhibition text but it could also appear in the Curatorial Rationale.

      If it’s your first year I strongly encourage you to attend a DP visual arts teacher training workshop (face to face or online) and at least visit the new ‘My IB’ site and/or the old Online Curriculum Centre while it still exists.
      Your DP Coordinator will be able to provide you with log in/access details.
      A lot of useful ideas and helpful information can be found there.

      By the way, you are referring to a blog I posted seven years ago (in March 2010), and a number of things in visual arts have changed since then, including of course, a very different visual arts programme.

      I hope this helps.

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