Is appropriation always appropriate?

Coming from a pretty rigorous art background, I am no stranger when it comes to understanding the pros and cons of appropriation. Some of my favorite pieces of art are actually irreverent “retellings” of classic paintings. Monet, Duchamp, heroes. Especially when it comes to the postmodern reworkings.


But I wonder if when you appropriate from someplace, does the inherent meaning from the original source translate– does it have to? Is it necessary?

When do cultural events lose their relevance and even more so,  their emotional impact?


Jake and I have gotten to a place with the Kubrick research where themes and devices seem to congeal to a ‘bigger picture’ place. A common theme of dismissal is shown in SO many places: parents no longer treating traumatic events taking place in their home as serious, citizens no longer view a history of slaughter of indigenous people as horrible, and people in 2012 have a foggy view of the movie as “scary”, but rarely intellectually stimulating– and even that, it’s not treated as anywhere near deep as it “should be”


But then Kubrick’s Shining could be considered an appropriation of Stephen King’s story. There are plenty of examples where Kubrick pulled out what he read between the lines in Kings source, but that is a WHOLE other ball game.


The actual point of the post was to talk about something that crossed my path today: An appropriated illustration using Picasso’s Guernica.

I love this painting– the original.  It’s a goal of mine to see it live, and it’s not an easy piece to swallow. It’s a visualization of struggle and pain, destruction and tragedy, depicting when Germany bombed Spain during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.

The appropriated piece in question looks like house party Guernica, and to me is created solely on the dynamism of form, rather than intended message.


I get that people might not necessarily connect with the inherent meaning of a piece right off the bat, or maybe even at all– but with the huge ability to access A VAST AMOUNT of information at our fingertips, across a number of different platforms– look it up. Read a bit about it. Build upon the idea, but don’t arbitrarily pick  a superficial aspect of a piece and pretend that it’s some irreverent statement.

I have a hard time justifying arbitrary choices paraded around as intelligent considerations. Visually the appropriation playful, but it’s so dismissive of the original intent of the piece that I really have to wonder if there are invisible lines through our postmodern lens that we shouldn’t cross. Or at least be open to questioning them when they pop up.


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