Members of Open Source Culture recognize that "appropriation" is a loaded term which traditionally holds a negative valence. However, various artists, critics, and scholars have attempted to overcome that negativity by showing the ways in which artistic appropriation can lead to innovative cultural creation. Yet other uses of the term have not undergone such a transformation, and it remains somewhat of an open question whether or not they should. Cultural appropriation, for instance, tends to mean use of some aspect of one culture by a member of another who uses that element outside of its original cultural context. For many people, this practice is particularly offensive when the piece of culture being used is one holding religious importance, and when cultural artifacts are used in consumer products. Cultural appropriation is often tied to other forms of oppression based on race, nationality, and culture. How does this meaning of the term overlap, or not, with "cultural appropriation" as artistic work - the work of appropriating pieces of culture, presumably any culture, and using them for artistic purposes? What makes appropriation OK, and what makes it an oppressive practice? These are unsettled issues. This project attempts to bring out the tension between different uses of appropriation by placing them side by side and sometimes suggesting both forms at once - where I have artistically appropriated instances of cultural appropriation. For this project, I went to Youtube, where many of the lines dividing different kinds of appropriation begin to blur, and searched for videos that somehow included the term "appropriation." By doing this, I got a cross-section of works that addressed appropriation in a variety of ways. All works used are appropriated - are they participating, also, in cultural appropriaiton? Or working against it? Can we tell the difference?
As someone who feels fairly comfortable with ideas of artistic appropriation and fairly uncomfortable with issues of cultural appropriation, I wanted to express some of the discomfort form that tension in this work. Cultural appropriation and artistic appropriation are not just separate uses of the same word - many critics of cultural appropriation use a lot of the same language and stylistic arguments as those against artistic appropriation, and many people who undertake cultural appropriation deploy the rhetoric and values of artistic appropriation to justify what they do. How strong is the line between different types of appropriation - and what makes one form acceptable and even celebrated while another is not? I tried to keep the work bumpy in style in order to emphasize the ambiguity surrounding these issues and to try to encourage people to draw their own conclusions instead of imposing one reading onto the work. The labeling text makes use of the definitions of "appropriation" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Personally, I find these definitions inadequate for such a fraught and complex term - do they map on to how appropriation is used in practice? Are they distinguishable from one another?
Ironically, perhaps, I do not see this work as technical appropriation in William Wees's sense. It does not particularly have a postmodern aesthetic bias. But is one leveled on the work through its title? Does this affect the way the work is read?
I hope people will finish watching this project wondering what it means to mark something as appropriation - and what resonances that term might hold.