25 September 2010

Appropriation in Art

A modern example of appropriation in art by Shepard Fairey

What is 'appropriation'?
"...a deliberate act of acquistion of something, often without the permission of the owner."

"To take possession of another's imagery ..., often without permission, reusing it in a context which differs from its original context, most often in order to examine issues concerning originality or to reveal meaning not previously seen in the original.  This is far more aggressive than allusion or quotation, it is not the same as plagiarism however."

A few appropriation artists...

Sherrie Levine
Levine photographed Walter Evans' photographers and held an exhibition using these 'new' images.

Website with more information and images:

Sarah Charlesworth
In this series, Charlesworth removed everything from the front page of newspapers, leaving just the pictures.

Barbara Kruger
Kruger's work uses old advertisements to express feminist ideas.

Richard Prince
 Original Marlboro ad by Jim Krantz
Prince's appropriation

Interview with Prince: 

Jeff Koons
From Koon's series of work where he appropriated the stories of Popeye.
(More info and image from: http://www.jeffkoons.com/site/index.html)

Andy Warhol
(Image and more images from: http://www.warholprints.com/Image.Gallery.html)

Cindy Sherman
"Sherman reveal gender as an unstable and constructed position, which suggests that there is no innate biological female identity."

Artist's website: http://www.cindysherman.com/

Before researching this post, I did not realise how often appropriation is used in art.  Yes, I had seen people 'copying' ideas of images or using 'reinventing' someone else's image to make a new one, but I had never heard of the term 'appropriation' or really fully understood what the 'copying' and 'reinventing' could produce.  Upon looking at these artists and some others, and although their works are appropriations, I would call each of these artist's works original.

Unlike within other genres of photography, the work from most of the artists I have looked at varies greatly within the 'genre' of appropriation.  Each has a unique and original way of copying and reproducing their work.  For example, while Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince copy other artists work and call it their own, Barbara Kruger and Sarah Charlesworth reinvent other artists work.  However, all use their appropriation work to express various different meanings.

I think that artists use appropriation in their work as a way of helping to emphasis the statement that they are trying to make.  Most have a statement that is relevant to society, so by being able to use imagery that the public recognises, they are able to get the attention and the message that they wish to make across to the viewer.  For example, Barbara Kruger uses old (e.g. 1950s) advertisements and then 'reinvents' them to make her, usually, feminist statements known.  Another example is the work of Sherrie Levine.  She 're-used' Walter Evans images in order to get the audience to reconsider the nature of photography.  I think in these cases, and most other appropriation works, the use of other artists' work in your own work is justified.

Further reading:
An article on the topic of appropriation:

A list and review of eight post-modern (some appropriation) photographers' works:

Blogs on appropriation in art:

Slideshow with information about appropriation in art:

Article - "Great Artist's Steal"

24 September 2010

The upside of Appropriation...

While researching my next couple of posts about Appropriation, I found this letter which was sent to Andy Warhol...

Although he was sued for other appropriation work, it seems the appropriation work that Warhol produced (using the Campbell's soup tins [example below]) had an upside... FREE SOUP!

23 September 2010

Laura Sackett: Liminal Portraits

One contemporary issue within the world today is the growing use by teenagers of internet social networking sites, such as Facebook, Myspace and other internet applications, such as Instant Messengers, etc. This is just one of the many possible issues which I could choose to look at for my practical project...

As explained in her artist statement, Laura Sackett saw this issue occurring and decided to document it photographically.
"My project, Liminal Portraits, chronicles my investigation into the teenage world of social networks and video chatting by creating remote portraits with teens using iChat on multiple computers.  I am interested in how the ichats are uniquely narcissistic because one sees a picture of oneself talking into the 'camera', and how this might affect issues surrounding identity, especially for teens.  During this highly transitional time in life, when teens are experimenting with and forming their identity, they have the opportunity to create multiple virtual identities - every time they log on to a computer.  My project explores a new form of portraiture, one that crosses social networking technology with the project of photographic portraiture to investigate this new form of the virtual self, which, like my adolescent subject, is liminal - and constantly changing."
(Artist statement from artist's website)

I think that this issue which Sackett raises is a very important contemporary issue but I'm not sure whether I agree with the way in which she has documented it.  The way in which she has chosen to photograph this issue does make 'sense', but personally, based on the images, it seems a bit like the issue is more about the dangers of the internet, rather than the identity of teenagers using the internet.  To me, I feel like I am invading their personal space.  I feel like I am also 'stalking' them, suggesting that the theme should be about the predators on the internet instead.

The quality of the images are also really low which, I think works with the theme, but I don't think that it is a very good technique to be using as a fine art photographer.  Overall, Sackett's ideas and concepts are very inspirational for my own practical project but, personally, I don't like the way in which she has executed these ideas.

The Practical Project

Create a portfolio of images that investigate a contemporary issue.

  • The number of photographs is open.
  • Photographs are to be presented digitally.
  • Research two of the listed artists and analyse their work.
  • One page proposal of ideas, inspirations and techniques that will be used.
  • 500 word artist statement.

22 September 2010

Contemporary Korean Photography: Bae Bien-U

Earlier this year, a new exhibition debuted at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston called Chaotic Harmony: Contemporary Korean Photography.  According to the Museum's website, the exhibition showcases "...photographs by 40 artists born between 1965 and 1984 and representing two distinct generations."  The exhibition also "...reveals the extraordinary work being created in South Korea, as well as a shifting sense of Korean identity as expressed by artists who witnessed the monumental cultural and social changes in their country over the past 45 years."

One of the 40 artists represented in the exhibition was Bae Bien-U.

Bae Bien-U lives and works in Seoul, South Korea.  Currently, he is a professor of photography at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.  He received his own education from the Hongik University in Seoul and the Bielefeld University in Germany.  He had held many solo exhibitions in Korea and in other countries before becoming a part of the Chaotic Harmony exhibition.

Extract about artist's intentions:
"...the artist’s intention is to champion the presence of nature in a world increasingly defined by technological change. To do so, he makes use of various artistic devices. Going out to take photographs on misty days, Bae Bien-U uses lengthy exposures to achieve the sensation of a longed-for eternity... 
For Bae, the forms and outlines of the pine tree offer an image of absolutely spirituality. While their strong, straight lines reflect the “solemnity and resolution of the Korean people”, the curving lines symbolise their “resistance in the face of a turbulent past”."
(Extract from Absolute Arts website)

Bae Bien-U's work is very smooth, unique and vivid.  Upon looking at his work, I believe that Bae Bien-U is trying to create images with soft imagery, high contrast and a modern simplicity. Although he uses an uncommon setup, Bae Bien-U's work has a good use of the 'rule of thirds' and has really good balance.

The meaning of his images are not obvious but this, I think, works in his favor.  On the artist's website, underneath his name, there is a quote which I believe thoroughly sums up Bae Bien-U's intentions; "A point of contact between the heavens and the earth".  Without looking at the artist intention's, I just thought Bae Bien-U was just another landscape photographer.  But, as seen in the quote from above about the artist's intentions, the purpose of his work was more complex than that.  He has been inspired by the people around him in Korea and this is probably who his work is intended for, as a celebration of their strength.  However, I think his work would also be intended for people outside of Korea, as a way of showing how far Korea has come.

Personally, I find Bae Bien-U's work very appealing; it is original and creative.  I think his work romaniticises the Korean landscape but I don't think that this is intentional.  I think that he has unconsciously made the Korean landscape appealing to the world while trying to express his own intentions.  Before reseaerching this artist, I did not know a lot about Korean culture or their landscape.  But now, thanks the Bae Bien-U's work and intentions, I know a bit more about what the Korean culture has been through within the last sixty or so years.   

Because of his panoramic setup and choice of subject matter, Bae Bien-U's work reminds me of the work of Australian nature photographer, Ken Duncan.  Duncan's work is colourful and it too romanticises the Australian landscape.  The two artists' basic ideas and concepts are both very similar but the way in which each executes these ideas is where the variation between the two can be seen.  However, in comparison to Bae Bien-U's work, Duncan's landscapes are more colourful, detailed and complex, in terms of subject matter.  Maybe this difference between a Korean photographer and a Western photographer can demonstrate a visual difference between the way Eastern and Western cultures observe and interpret different aspects of their varying cultures and the world. 

Questions I should consider when analysing an artist's work...

~ The photographer's use of the design elements and principles
~ The intended purpose of the work- why did the photographer create it?  When was it created?  How was it created?
~ Your personal response to the work.  Do you find it appealing?  Why/why not?
~ Does the work appeal to a particular audience?  How do you think the photographer has done this?
~ Does the work remind you of anything? 
~ Do you think it was a response to something in particular?  For example, a cultural issue, an icon, a particular social/political need or issue?

20 September 2010

Contemporary Photographer: Simon Norfolk

Simon Norfolk was born in Nigeria in 1963 but was educated in England, finishing  with a degree in philosophy and sociology at Oxford and Bristol Universities.  After leaving a documentary photography course, Norfolk worked as a photojournalist, specializing in work on anti-racist activities and fascist groups.  However, in 1994, he gave up photojournalism in favor of landscape photography.  Norfolk has won numerous awards for his work and has published many books too.

(Edited extract from National Geographic website)

Thoughts on his work by another photographer:
"Simon Norfolk is a very talented driven young photographer who is pursuing one of life’s big questions with intensity and focused intention. He is studying war, and its effects on many things: the physical shape of our cities and natural environments, social memory, the psychology of societies, and more.

He is examining genocide; imperialism; the interconnectedness of war, land and military space; and how wars are being fought at the same time with supercomputers, satellites, outdated weapons and equipment, people on the ground, intercepted communications, and manipulated and manipulating media."
(by Jim Casper, through Lens Culture website)

Har Homa, one of the newest illegal settlements built to encircle Jerusalem. The settlements almost always occupy the hilltops.

Path leading up to the mass grave site at Crni Vrh. To deter anyone from examining the site, the Serbs seeded the area with landmines. War crimes investigators have cleared the path and grave site so that they can recover the bodies, but the forests are marked as a still active minefield.

Military hangers containing spares for planes and helicopters at Kabul Airport, destroyed by American bombs.

The River Drinjaca between Kladanj and Vlasenica. The Serbs separated women and children from the other Bosniac captives and bussed them to Bosnian Government-held territory. Near this location the buses were stopped, the men were separated off and then killed in an isolated field.

I really like Norfolk's photojournalism work! It is insightful but not necessarily direct, in that it doesn't actually show the war or the devastation of a war, but it shows the impact and the aftermath that that war has had on that society.  His work tells a story but indirectly...  I think the thing that makes his work so interesting is the subject matter and the stories that his photographs tell, rather than the composition and other technical qualities of the images.  Its a bit unfortunate that he has now left the photojournalism genre, moving instead into landscape photography, as I think he had a real talent for documentary contemporary photography. 

Artist's website: http://www.simonnorfolk.com/
Images, descriptions and Casper's thoughts from: http://www.lensculture.com/norfolk.html
Biography from: