Month: October 2018

Appropriation Show and Tell: “Canal Zone” by Richard Prince

The example I chose was one of Richard Prince’s paintings from his 2008 collection “Canal Zone”, which “featured” several pictures from French Photographer Patrick Cariou’s 2000 book Yes, Rasta.

One of the questions that defines Richard Prince’s career is “When does something become art?” Prince has made a career of straddling the boundary between appropriation and straight-up theft of other’s work in pursuit of an answer to this question. While Untitled (Cowboy), Prince’s 1989 work, remains his most famous, I think that the above work from “Canal Zone” (Original Photo on the left, Prince’s work on the right) is the most daring.

Unlike Cowboy, which is interesting in its own right and could easily be confused for an original piece, the above piece from “Canal Zone” is so interesting because it is transformed so very little. It’s so brazen, and it seemed so obvious that this was copyright infringement that Cariou sued Prince and won his case in 2011. However, in April of 2013,  when another court overruled the 2011 ruling on five of the ten pieces from “Canal Zone” and paved the way for the five other pieces to be re-evaluated for fair use.

Many people may not like Prince for essentially taking the work of others, transforming it very little, and selling it for massive amounts of money, and I totally understand that. But what I really appreciate about his work is his focus on the legality of appropriation, paving the way for other artists to follow in his footsteps without fear of lawsuit, and his focus on the “Ship of Theseus”-esque question “When does something become art?”

Harsh Critique

Rules, restrictions, and aspirations are established.

Everyone is an artist and a judge.

All artists create a work of art.

All judges choose their favorite.

The artists or artist with the least support is no longer an artist and their work is destroyed.

Repeat until all artists are destroyed.

Artist Statement

With Harsh Critique I tried to create a score that could serve as an abstracted metaphor of the art world in addition to a real activity. While I have a great respect for slower, more methodical scores, for this score I wanted to focus on rapid creation and destruction.

For this piece I took inspiration from works such as BarSk’s DELETE, Conrad Shawcross’ Paradigm (Ode to the Difference Engine) and Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York.  I love the idea of Auto-Destructive art generally, and especially appreciate the the wide variety of forms it takes. BarSk’s game jam event is all very sudden, sporadic, and immediate while Shawcross’ and Tinguely’s machines were very methodical in their destruction, Shawcross’ tying and untying string while collapsing under its own weight, and Tinguely’s machine lighting itself on fire seemingly urgently. One of my favorite parts of this project was seeing how people chose to destroy their works, with the ideas behind the method of destruction almost taking priority over the creation over the original work.

Overall I was extremely happy with the score upon completion. I loved how individual artistic styles and patterns emerged. I am very happy with how the idea of rejection and a lack of support reflects the destruction of an artist’s motivations, and I was also surprised with how well the score worked in practice, with the destruction alleviating a lot of the nervousness that would come with doing art in large groups, especially among those who don’t normally create at all. The destruction actually added an uplifting atmosphere and level of urgent excitement that I believe would be hard to recreate otherwise.


Students draw their artwork on the chalkboard.

A student constructs a tower out of paper.

The initial trial of the score was relatively unsuccessful but an important learning experience. Four of my classmates volunteered to be the artists and judges while everyone else looked on. This created an awkward power dynamic with them referencing me for how to interpret the score, with myself wanting to remain an onlooker but also obviously having an ideal intention of how it would run. I hope the idea that everyone is a judge an artist and is actively participating will solve this in the future though, as any decisions or suggestions by the group would reflect their own artistic community, mirroring that of a much broader and more abstract art world.

For the second trial we created art in 8 minute rounds, with the “losing” artist then choosing how to destroy their own creation. The agency of choosing for your own art proved extremely valuable, with people getting excited about how they were going to do it rather than discouraged by the destruction itself. I was very happy with how much the destruction was incorporated as a part of the process, with equal if not more thought being put into the methods. I also loved how even people who would never identify themselves as artistic developed their own styles and themes. Jalyn encorporated the Star Market ‘See What Makes Us Shine!” slogan from a receipt into her landscape painting for an uplifting piece. Julia’s multimedia pieces depicted food both in actuality and in her simplistic geometric recreations. Both of Jasmine’s pieces were extremely heartfelt and personal cards done expressively with sharpie and all of my pieces were multimedia utilizing trash that all were revealed with scissors.

Overall I would highly recommend recreating this score, although it might be worth shortening the rounds as they progress or limiting the rounds in some way as we found our three rounds to be almost too long. The affordances given by the destruction of the work were extremely valuable though, and created a much more lighthearted and collaborative experience with the actual destruction of everything.

Transit Piece

Get on the train, in the direction it will go the furthest

Fall asleep, or space out; lose awareness somehow

Wherever you wake up, get off

If there is a connecting train, get on and repeat

If there is not, choose to continue or exit

Once you leave

Find another way home

Artist Statement:

Trains have always been a point of interest for me, as has the general concept of being in transit. Something about liminal states really resonates with me, especially as someone who’s always felt like I fall in the middle of something, rather than on a specific side. This comes up a lot with my identity, as well as my physical location, notably once I started moving between sides of the country for school. Therefore, I’ve always been drawn to subway stations and have, in the past, taken days to just explore them and find the little details that people tend to miss and the beauty in something very normal and, oftentimes, annoying and unpleasant to people and their everyday lives. Even the aesthetics of them have always appealed to me, particularly the worn down look of a lot of them due to constant use by so many people and the eerie feeling of looking down the tracks or catching a glimpse of something out the window while underground. The theme of dealing with the mundane in the Fluxus movement and in Ono’s work really inspired me and brought this interest back to the forefront of my mind, so I knew I wanted to do something with train stations.

Though I based this piece on subways, specifically the MBTA, it changed quite a bit based on location and type of train. In my context, it was very localized, but in other contexts it could be much more spread out, and perhaps expensive. I would’ve loved to perform this here as well as during my trip to Chicago (which I had never been to before) to explore how it works in a different, unfamiliar setting, but I didn’t have the time. Still, performing it was relaxing, and allowed me to take some time for myself to space out and enjoy the process rather than the end point. This is what stood out to me about scores; they’re more about the steps and the in-between rather than the final product (if there is one), emphasizing the experience, which reminds me a lot of how I view travel.


I started at the orange line in Tufts Medical Center and boarded a train to Oak Grove. I got off at Community College, which has no connections, but I didn’t want to end this soon, so I boarded a train going back in the direction from which I came. I then changed the score to provide the option of getting back on if one wants to. I then got off at North Station and boarded the first green line train that came, which took me to Park Street. From there, I transferred to the red line towards Braintree. I ended at Broadway, where I got out and looked around for a while before walking about an hour home.

Richard Prince’s Cowboy (Appropriation Show and Tell)

A picture of a Marlboro advertisement beside Prince's cropped photo

I chose to talk about Richard Prince’s 1989 ‘rephotograph’ of a Marlboro advertisement. Prince’s photograph was named one of Times 100 most influential photos of all time, and sold for 1.2 million dollars at auction, but the authorship of the photograph is debatable. The photograph was legally determined to be fair use, with Prince transforming the photograph and the meaning behind it through purely subtractive means. Despite this many people, especially photographers, see Prince as nothing but a thief, profiting off of other’s work and calling it his own.

While I believe Prince himself had questionable intentions, claiming he thought all advertisements were public domain when he took his photograph, I believe the photograph itself has an immense amount of value. Prince calls into question the idea of advertisements, the idolization of the masculine and mysterious cowboy, and the ownership of art, all by cropping an image most people wouldn’t think twice about when presented in its original context.

Prince has continued his adversarial challenging of fair use with numerous collages and the display of Instagram posts in a gallery setting. While many many people view Prince’s work as derivative and question the classification of it as art, I believe the questions Prince raises through his photography are extremely valuable. What is America? What do we idolize? How are we manipulated?  What is ownership? What is art?

Crashed Ice (Appropriation Show And Tell)

Link to the slides

Crashed Ice is a combination of Speed Skating and Snow-cross, which in it’s self is a combination of Downhill Skiing and Motocross.

Basically, it’s been 400 years since a fully original sport was created. Crashed Ice is an extreme example of the constant appropriation in sports. No one owns a sport, so everyone can do whatever they want with it*

*If the sport requires a giant frozen obstacle course it might be the case that any company with the rights to the major leagues essentially owns the sport. (Looking at you Redbull)

Scott Pilgrim and Trope Appropriation (Attropriation?)

I decided to talk about Scott Pilgrim because it represents one of my favorite forms of appropriation: use of fantasy elements as stand-ins for real-world issues.

None of us have actually engaged in an epic combo-punching video-game fistfight (though, if you have, I want to hear all about it). However, most of us have ended up in positions similar to Scott’s in this clip, in which our competition with a rival devolves into a no-holds-barred duel, at least in a metaphorical sense. Although the “rivals’ duel” trope does not actually apply to any of us, in its appropriated sense, as metaphor for interpersonal conflict, it applies to all of us.

Fantasy stories are often (and often correctly) accused of escapism. However, fantasy can also tell real stories, and in subtler ways than nonfiction. Scott Pilgrim is mostly fluff (though very stylish fluff), but  this sort of trope appropriation can be turned to more noble ends. Through the use of trope as metaphor, we can discuss issues that could be too difficult to address outright. The video game Celeste excellently uses the “evil twin” trope to discuss mental illness, for instance. I’ve even made a video game myself that puts the “chosen one” trope to work in an examination of anxiety. These narrative ideas have power, especially when their meanings are appropriated, examined, and, often, inverted.