Appropriation | esse arts + opinions


97 - Automne 2019

Contemporary art practices are constantly going outside the field of art to appropriate the codes, gestures, and mechanisms of other social and cultural spheres. However, appropriation also involves the question of social responsibility with regards to artists and curators, particularly in recent debates around cultural appropriation. The aim of this issue is to take some distance from the polarization of the controversies so as to try to better understand what these various forms of appropriation show us about current artistic creation at the aesthetic, ethical, and political levels.


Articles à la pièce

Jean-Philippe Uzel
Oli Sorenson
Shauna Jean Doherty
David A. J. Murrieta Flores
Dominique Sirois-Rouleau
Johanne Lamoureux, Stéphane Martelly, Caroline Monnet, Jean-Philippe Uzel
Eddy Firmin
Caroline Nepton Hotte


Borrowing Without Giving Back
Sylvette Babin


Artistic Appropriation Versus Cultural Appropriation
Starting with the first definition of the act of appropriation, “to take something that does not belong to us,” the author compares the approach of appropriation artists (David Krippendorff, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and others) with that of visual artists accused of cultural appropriation (Sam Durant, Dominic Gagnon, Dana Schutz, and others). The aim is to show that although the act seems similar on both sides, the motivations and consequences are diametrically opposed. One side tries to reveal relations of power, while the other tries to deny them.
[Translated from the French by Oana Avasilichioaei]

Jean-Philippe Uzel

Against Innovation: Appropriation and Disruption in the Age of Immaterial Bondage
Appropriation is defined here as the praxis that combines knowledge involved in making a work of art, activating its ideas, and engaging with the reactions they trigger. In Cannibal Culture, Deborah Root outlines the Western tendency to commodify difference in Other cultures, an idea that is enhanced through Rimbaud’s project to be absolutely modern and through fetishized innovation in today’s immaterial economy and art markets. In conjunction with plans of disruption, innovation expands corporate profits by privatizing public services and monetizing previously free amenities. As new creations benefit from limited copyright protection, entertainment firms such as Disney continually re-launch their titles so that their content never enters the public domain. Which begs the question: where exactly is culture?

Oli Sorenson

Art in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
In this article, the author considers the intersections of artificial intelligence and art production by looking at works by AICAN (Ahmed Elgammal), Obvious (Hugo Caselles-Dupré, Pierre Fautrel, and Gauthier Vernier), Mario Klingemann, and Adam Basanta. The author examines the impact of AI on conventional art world concepts of artist attribution, ownership, and creativity, while questioning whether algorithms may one day become so advanced that machine artists could replace human artists altogether.

Shauna Jean Doherty

Expropriation as Art Practice
Through the example of Adelita Husni-Bey’s White Paper series, the author approaches appropriation as an art-historical concept that cannot be dissociated from its economic and political backgrounds with regard to property. Given its direct impact upon the meaning of property, it is fruitful to relate appropriation to and distinguish it from the concept of expropriation. This concept may also serve an art-historical purpose when it comes to works such as White Paper, in the sense that questions of property are as relevant as, or even more important than, traditional questions concerning authorship and the institutional framework of art.

David A. J. Murrieta Flores

Art: Whose Legacy?
Presented in the exhibition The Radical Imaginary: The Social Contract at Centre VOX in Montreal, Jill Magid’s The Proposal overturns the usual discourse on appropriation by taking a non-transgressive approach. By following extremely restrictive copyright laws to the letter, the artist reveals the breaches and abuses authorized by the law. This radical subjection to excessive authority places the economic interests of copyright owners above patrimonial needs and exposes the blind spot of arts law: the survival of artworks in the cultural landscape.
[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]

Dominique Sirois-Rouleau

Appropriation. Panel discussion
Johanne Lamoureux, Stéphane Martelly, Caroline Monnet, Modérée par Jean-Philippe Uzel

Cultural Imperative, Appropriationist Regime and Visual Art
Afro-Caribbean visual artist Eddy Firmin discusses cultural appropriation not as an issue that is specific to our times, but as the questioning of a discursive regime of Western art—the appropriationist regime. At the same time, he posits the notion of the cultural imperative in order to underline the intimate rationale supporting the dispossession of local aesthetic resources of Southern artists. This notion forms an antagonistic pair with the appropriationist regime, which relies on the logic of extraction and appropriation of aesthetic resources from around the world.
[Translated from the French by Oana Avasilichioaei]

Eddy Firmin

Kanata… Appropriation or Erasure?
This essay, which falls within the scope of critical Indigenous and intersectional studies, is in continuity with postcolonial and feminist reflections. The author reflects on the movement denouncing the creative process that resulted in the play Kanata by Robert Lepage and Ariane Mnouchkine. She reminds us that Indigenous peoples have shared and exchanged food, ideas, dances, rituals, art objects, and other things for thousands of years. These exchanges have been inspired by core values of reciprocity upheld by numerous Indigenous nations. Today, Indigenous peoples are reaffirming these dynamics using their own language as an act of sovereignty and of resistance to concepts arising from “Western” epistemologies but also present in art. In the context of femicide in Canada, the author argues that the resurgence of (re)appropriation in the imaginary territories of the performing arts is part of a movement reaffirming the presence of Indigenous women, their bodies, and their voices in Canada.
[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]

Caroline Nepton Hotte



Joseph Tisiga
Mark Mann

Moridja Kitenge Banza
Anne-Marie Dubois

Michèle Provost
Catherine Sinclair



Why is the Arctic Always White? Circumpolar Indigenous Artists in the Age of the Anthropocene
Chris J. Gismondi


Le vol du siècle
Catherine Lavoie-Marcus


Arts visuels

Anna Torma, Galerie Laroche/Joncas, Montréal par Dominique Sirois-Rouleau

Life of a Craphead, Centre Clark, Montréal par Adam Lauder

Kiki Smith, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Palazzo Pitti, Florence par Julia Skelly

Contre-vents, Le Grand Café, Saint-Nazaire par Vanessa Morisset

Maria Berrio, Caroline Walker, Flora Yukhnovich, Victoria Miro Gallery II, London, U.K. par Emily LaBarge

Vincent Meessen, Galerie Leonard & Bina Ellen, Montréal, par Jean-Michel Quirion

Mark Dion, MOCA, Toronto par Jill Glessing

Hannah Kaya, Studio XX, Montréal par Renata Azevedo Moreira

Arts de la scène

Maude Arès, Boris Dumesnil-Poulin & Jaha Koo, OFFTA & FTA, Montréal par Julie-Michèle Morin

Camille Rojas, Critical Distance Centre for Curators, Toronto par Heather Rigg

NIC Kay, Abrons Arts Center, New York par Didier Morelli

Padmini Chettur, Anandam Dancetheatre, Toronto par Fabien Maltais-Bayda


Yann Pocreau. Sur les lieux/On Site, Musée d’art contemporain des Laurentides & Expression, Centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinthe par Sophie Drouin

Karine Payette. Point de bascule/Tipping Point, Maison des arts de Laval par Sophie Drouin

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