The Stolen Pot
Art words for stealing: lifting, appropriating, borrowing, sampling, drawing from
Use at your own risk.
With the unprecedented access afforded by the internet, it's never been easier to steal. I prefer the word 'steal' over its euphemistic brethren, maybe the implication that we are now outside the law allows me to live out an innocent anti-establishment fantasy. But I also like it's honesty, it's brazenness. Unlike art speak innuendo, it does not imply we should be ashamed, because we should not be.
In 'Deconstructing Old Stories to Tell Them in New Ways', Daisy Johnson writes about retelling as a way of reclaiming, inserting ourselves aggressively into a canon that might exclude us: "Perhaps this language, this way of writing does not yet belong to us, but we shall take it in both hands and wring it and wring it until something that does flows out." And symbolically stealing from the rich to give to the poor might cast textual thieves as a kind of cultural Robbin Hood, even if it does amplify the same stories, the same originating voices, it simultaneously claims to tape over.
But we can frame this stealing as not about its origin at all, dealing with a particular kind of curiosity that is not about where something comes from, but where it might be going. Taking something from elsewhere provides distance between the work and the artist. It's a way of being indirect, of being sneaky, of hiding.
It's this but it's not. Look here but look away.
It's defensive in that way, but maybe for good reason. I'm more interested in work that opens questions than provides answers, and a question unanswered can never settle. Maybe, if we were to look directly at them, they or we would turn to stone.
This distance also means there is more space.
Space or a viewer to inhabit.
Space for association,
f o r g e n e r a t i o n,
f o r s l i p p a g e
t o o c c u r.
With recycled images, as with recycled material, the possibilities are endless.
@whos___who on Instagram collects artistic similarities, from serendipitous similarity to deliberate reference, but these posts are met with comments like "Yikes" and "shockingly brazen" or "Why is blatant plagiarism tolerated? Ramsey and all the others should be laughed right out the door." Along with frequent requests for the account to inform us of who came first, so that the thief may be exposed.
At whom should we direct our outrage, our ire, our huffs and tuts?!
But these requests thankfully go ignored, because plagiarism has no place here.
Unless Damien Hirst is plagiarising Phil Collins' bald head.
And so the question of who came first plays out as its own paraphrasing of Abbott and Costello.
Who came first?