Contemporary art and pop culture are well accustomed to
the references and adoption of sense and ideas. We see tons of projects
containing some intellectual games featuring achievements of the previous art
era, or the appropriation of the commercials and other phenomena of mass
culture. But how did it all start? Where do we get the idea of borrowing and remastering
art works, and what does this tendency mean for the cultural discourse?
It all begun from the Pablo Picasso. This phrase is
relevant to many tendencies in the world of art. He and Georges Braque were discovering
the collage technique in the early 1920s, just like many other modernists.
Later, the collage and similar techniques were picked up by Dadaists and
Surrealists, but Picasso and Braque had done two remarkable things. Firstly,
they had combined collages with oil paintings; and secondly, they had engaged
real-life objects into their work (like a piece of cloth, newspapers, etc.) Thus,
these materials gained a totally new meaning and were seen in the new
Dadaists were also trying to appropriate regular
objects and cultural symbols, but their aim was to deconstruct them and turn
into irrational and bizarre work of art that symbolized the post-war attitudes
of European avant-gardists. Surrealists tried to change the meaning of “found
objects” by implying them to the unusual contexts.
And, of course, when talking about “found objects” we
cannot forget about Marcel Duchamp and his readymades. He basically had
launched a new discussion about the position of an author and ownership
question. "My intention was to get
away from myself, though I knew perfectly well that I was using myself. Call it
a little game between ‘I’ and ‘me,’“ Duchamp said.
With these processes the appropriation art was born.
Artists started to use and recycle the meaning not only of the real-life objects,
but of the previous art works. Let’s think again about Duchamp and his
mustached Mona Lisa.
Huge part in the popularization of appropriation
played Andy Warhol. If Marcel Duchamp was a mastermind behind the idea, Warhol was
probably a flesh-and-blood embodiment of the appropriation art. He used new
areas to derive his inspiration from, such as advertising industry, mass media,
and consumerism. He continued the discussion about the relations between author
and his creation, as well as the issue of copyrights and ownership.
Appropriation art focuses on the perception of cultural heritage and usage of new media. It is usually a very convenient tool to research certain topics within the art piece itself. For instance, Sherrie Levine is best known for the series After Walker Evans, which consists of the re-photographed and unaltered works of the famous photographer. Through this popular touch, she raised the question of the gender in art, social influence, and usage of art in modern culture.
Appropriation art is aimed at raising questions and
creating special kind of intellectual games between a viewer and an author, between
the meaning and an impression. These things are fundamental to the postmodern
era, as well as to our world, which certainly has a strong connection with the pursuits
And here is a good example of this statement.