Class Activities

Appropriation Show and Tell: Countdown (Snuggie Version)

For our appropriation show and tell, I chose a video made by YouTube user Ton Do-Nguyen. He performed a full rendition of Beyonce’s “Countdown” music video wearing a snuggie. The video, and a comparison to the original, can be found here:

I chose this video to showcase appropriation, as it is transformative, yet not so much so that it parts ways completely with the appropriated work. In the video, Do-Nguyen replicates not only Beyonce’s actions but also copies the editing of the original video perfectly. This presents the viewer with a very recognizable work, which allows the contrasts between this video and the original to shine through. The fact that the subject of the video is a boy in a snuggie sharply contrasts with the iconic pop star of the original. The backgrounds of Do-Nguyen’s version look very much like a basement/parts of a house, giving the video a charming, homemade look, as opposed to the vibrant, polished backgrounds of the original. I think this video is an excellent example of how to appropriate a work and make it your own while still giving tribute to the original.

Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph” vs. Matt Cardle’s “Amazing”

My choice for the appropriation show and tell ended up being the use of notes and rhythms by Ed Sheeran in “Photograph”, copying Matt Cardle’s “Amazing.” In it, you can clearly hear the same note pattern from Cardle’s song in Sheeran’s, just sped up and an octave higher.

Here is a video playing the chorus side-by-side with each other, and you can clearly hear the resemblance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDJVOMmh5nI

I’m very interested by this because it seems to be one of those “big fish vs. little fish” battles. Matt Cardle, a former X-Factor winner, is not nearly as big as Sheeran is. Sheeran can easily win this battle popularity wise, as people won’t pay nearly as much attention to Cardle’s song. A lawsuit was filed over this by Cardle, which was settled out of court for $20 million.

This, to me, seemed suspect. Sheeran has the resources and the money to fight this and probably win out of sheer money and power alone, but he decides to concede. In my opinion, this seems to be an admission of guilt by Sheeran. It also sort of makes you wonder: did he expect a lawsuit out of Cardle? Did he include the bit knowing full well that he had the money to pay whatever Cardle wanted and still turn a massive profit off of it? These sort of situations beckon these questions, questions that likely will never be answered.

Appropriation Show and Tell: Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons is an artist who regularly runs into plagiarism lawsuits. The contrast of the outcomes of two lawsuits helps illustrate the difference between plagiarism and transformative appropriation.

The first example of this from the Roger v. Koons suit:

Koons exactly copied Roger’s personal photograph in a sculpture, which sold for a high price. Roger wasn’t credited or given any of the profits. He lost the lawsuit on the grounds that his “parody” argument was weak and that the work was not transformative enough to qualify under a free use creative license.

Meanwhile, this painting by Koons was deemed transformative, because even though he copied another photographer’s work, the collage element and possible cultural statement fell under free use in the eyes of the court. There’s a thin line (at least legally) between appropriation and outright plagiarism, and Jeff Koons walks that line even if he often crosses it in some people’s eyes.

Images from: https://www.owe.com/resources/legalities/30-jeff-koons-copyright-infringement/

Appropriation Show and Tell: A Bad Lip Reading of Catching Fire

I chose the youtube channel Bad Lip Reading to represent my example of appropriation for the class. More specifically, the video “OBSIDIOTS: Live From District 11” — A Bad Lip Reading of Catching Fire” the artist takes this strategy of appropriation and explores the concept to a whole new level. The idea of bad lip reading in its core strips footage of humans talking and dubs new and usually comedic dialog. This specific video pushes the ideas audio and video potential to new heights. From the appropriated footage, Bad Lip Reading produced a full song which the hunger games characters performed through various editing techniques. Clips were repeated and played back and forth discreetly to keep the viewer immersed and the new footage believable. The creators introduced new visual elements, and slight warm color grading, to transform the original melancholy stage to a pop concert. Image 1 shows a side by side of the original footage to the appropriated piece. The notable differences are, the guards were given instruments, a concert banner was hung, and a mic was added for Katniss. These unextravagant changes established a new sense of environment vastly different from the original intention. The creators also brought to life the performance of the main characters by adding new moving body parts which can be seen in Image 2. 

Image 1

Image 2

Pop Music Mashup (Appropriation Show and Tell)

My choice for the Appropriation Show and Tell was the music video made by currently deactivated YouTube account TopperMusic15, in which they too snippets of pop music videos created by famous artists and combined them all together into one singular piece.

The appropriation in this piece is obvious, the scattered and broken up parts of songs by artists like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Fifth Harmony, Nick Jonas, Selena Gomez, and many others. The fragments of songs are picked apart and then sewn back together into a new song. It doesn’t make too much sense, lyric-wise, because it’s a Frankensteinian mashup, but the sound flows well between snippets and the video fits the song it came from, unless an action is being performed in the video clip that extends past the end of the sound.

This song is entirely appropriated from other sources and it is the best example of it’s kind that I have found.

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.

https://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/news/richard-prince-wins-major-victory-in-landmark-copyright-suit/

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?”

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.

Indie Game: Hyper Light Drifter

The game I have chosen to present is the indie game Hyper Light Drifter, This game is made by the studio Heart Machine. It is a 2d top view platformer game. The Art style is pixelized style. What really caught my attention of the game is the ambiance, the music, and just the overall experience, it is something you must experience for yourself, for that reason being I will not talk about the story as it is best to play through it and experience it.