So Im currently working on a piece for a group exhibition to take place during fringe festival. I’ve written a rough draft of the group intent and thought I would publish some of it here as it it talks to the idea of cultural ownership of designs and artwork. We are still working on a show title but I think you should get the gist.
To either unintentionally or intentionally take, steal or borrow from one or various sources and re-present it as ones own
To intentionally take, steal or borrow from one or various sources and present as ones own
To reclaim or take ownership of what was taken
Re-Appropriating from the Appropriators (working title) confronts western ideas of identity, religion, historical and contemporary visual representation in the context of post-colonial cultures.
Each artist brings their own perspective on the dichotomy of living in two cultures through their artwork. First addressing the appropriated source, image or idea then twisting or re-presenting them from their own experience and reactions to them. Each artist was given the (working title) then asked to respond with a piece that reflected their interpretation of this.
Somali/Australian artist, Susan Forrester re-appropriates what was once an object born from an era of racist attitudes, the golliwog. By taking what was once seen as a harmless stereotype and childs toy, Susan readdress’s its underlying history of bigotry and fear making her golligwogs menacing and aggressive as seen from her own personal experiences growing up as both an African and imigrant in a western environment. Susan’s golliwogs do not lie passively as a grotesque reminder of their origin, they will tear your eyes out.
The idea of appropriation creating hybrids of the original is nothing new to various other art forms. For example the world of hip hop (in its many guises) straddles the line of legitimate and illegitimate uses of referenced resources to create brand new sounds and art forms that formerly never existed. Cultures succeed and progress with new and adopted ideas. A stagnant culture is one that has not learnt to adapt or willing to embrace the ‘new’ into its own. This is not appropriation in the perjorative, this is appropriation as a tool.
Samoan/Australian artist, Maryann Talia Pau’s work utilises modern materials and casts a western aesthetic on the tradition of weaving in the pacific, particularly of her own culture. By utilising her own direct influences and experiences, Maryann has manged to create works that can be seen to cross both cultures she moves across here in Melbourne. Her work elevates the art form from its sometimes utilitarian origin and purpose to a place of high fashion in some instances, as is evident in her body adornments being used by fashion designers.
The cultures represented originate from as far afield as Africa to the Pacific’s Polynesian community and finally to our own backyard with Aboriginal Australian. Each artist sharing both directly and indirectly their common experience with colonial history and its repercussions in the 21st century.
These are just some of the ideas behind appropriation and it’s place in todays indigenous cultures. While not presuming to solve the question of the legitimacy of appropriation the show hopes to keep the coversation alive about the issues surrounding its usage.