appropriation (in the arts)

Appropriation in this context means taking some else’s creative work and reworking it for your own purposes.

  • Cultural appropriation The adoption, borrowing, or theft of elements of one culture by members of another culture.
  • Style appropriation Taking over another culture’s style or way of expressing itself for your own purposes.
  • Creative appropriation in general Taking something created by another person and making it “your own.”

Folk culture

Middle Ages – 1800s (participatory)

  • created in a collaborative way
  • “Jes’ Grew”
  • ordinary people

Appropriation tends to be natural and organic – creation is collaborative and anonymous and individual ownership is comparatively rare and insignificant.

Ex. Ethnic dancing at a wedding, drum circles.

High culture

Renaissance – present (non-participatory)

  • created by professionals for patrons (later for the public/cutural institutions)
  • extraordinary artists and extraordinary audiences

Appropriation tends to be  frowned upon – individual originality is important and appropriation is relegated to emulation, allusion, adaptation, and edition.

Ex. Beethoven’s symphonies, Michaelangelo’s art, Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost

 Mass culture (consumer culture)

19th – 20th century (non-participatory)

  • created by professionals for the public (for corporations)
  • gradually replaces folk culture as a shared, artificially manufactured popular culture

Appropriation is normal, but licensed. Whatever “works” (sells) is recycled for profit. Knock-off is very common. Creation tends to be collaborative (but by small groups of professionals) and ownership tends to be corporate.

Ex. Films, tv, music industry, advertising)

Digital culture (participatory culture)

21th century (participatory)

  • created by anyone for anyone
  • gradually starts to compete with, repurpose, and replace consumer culture

Appropriation is rampant, usually not strictly legal, and poorly policed. It is frequently critical of the material appropriated or recasts it with emphases different from the original. Ownership is impossible.

Ex. YouTube video mashups, Soundcloud orginal tracks, blogs, etc