Occupied Territories: Working hypothesis on appropriation in pop culture: response to Occupied Territories
The stuff in bold I find really interesting.
An argument could be made that, historically, the vibrancy of any given pop scene can be measured by the amount of appropriation going on.
So maybe the question I’m really after…
As a matter of interest, does anyone reading know when the term “appropriation” actually entered the art crit lexicon as a shorthand for an analytical-political theory? Who popularised it with its current valence?
(1) Don’t know for sure when “appropriation” became a buzzword of choice (and doubt the analytical-political theory ever actually existed, though of course that’s how shorthand often works, substituting for something that doesn’t exist in the long-hand), but equivalent concepts (“concepts”) go back at least as far as Dada, not to mention the Surrealists’ and the Situationists’ citing Lautréamont’s “Plagiarism is necessary. It is implied in the idea of progress. It clasps the author’s sentence tight, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, replaces it with the right idea” (1870) — which, by the way, Luc quoted in issue 1 of Why Music Sucks. There was a “Plagiarism Festival” in SF circa 1990, possibly in conjunction with an “art strike,” plagiarism being celebrated. A panelist thought “Pump Up The Volume” was a great, significant thing, and of course everyone was down with Public Enemy and the Funky Drummer.* Btw, K-pop comment threads are awash with charges of “plagiarism,” used as a pejorative, on the basis of the slightest resemblance in sound or style.
(2) In my experience, which is not all that broad, “appropriation” has been mostly used as praise, in contrast to “co-optation.” So when black DJ’s and producers incorporate other people’s work in hip-hop, that’s appropriation and to be lauded, but when the Man or white people in general lift something from black popular culture, that’s co-optation (or “stealing” or “ripping off”). The mainstream using stuff from indie-alternative is co-optation, indie-alternative using stuff from the mainstream is appropriation. I have a tendency to get sarcastic here, but how you use what you lift does make a difference, as does who gets compensated and who has the power to restrict other people’s use, whose voices are loudest, etc. But everybody lifts; it’s how you get acculturated. I’ll say I’ve never seen a clear or even useful discussion of the issue. But one reasonably intelligent point that someone tried to make at the Plagiarism Festival was that for plagiarism to be a big deal, ownership has to be a big deal (“ownership” in both the literal and figurative sense). And I’ll add that authenticity is made much of because inauthenticity is felt to be the norm, in most people’s gut. And inauthenticity is felt to be complicity in injustice.
As for when “appropriation” turned into a pejorative, I really don’t know, probably no more recently than the last half-decade, and maybe it’s not a pejorative outside of this particular Tumblr pit.
*Actually, I don’t recall that anyone at the festival said anything about the “Funky Drummer,” but you know what I mean. “Pastiche” was also praised. At one point I got up to say that I didn’t think there was any more pastiche than in the past — I said the Stones’ “The Last Time” was something of a pastiche — but that what’s changed in mainstream Anglo-America (as opposed to, say, reggae, where it’s long been business as usual) was that people were putting PASTICHE on display in capital letters. See Chuck’s “Everything Rock Vs. Collage Rock” in Accidental Evolution.
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