The only noticeable difference
between Sanborn’s piece and the installation in Toronto was the content written
on the cylinders (Nunes, 2015). Sanborn expressed that he would have charged $200,000
for the installation if he were asked, but he stated that he “wouldn’t have
done it for something as intellectually un-stimulating as a sporting event” (as
cited in Nunes, 2015).

Versus Borrowing an Idea

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In discussions to clarify the
distinction and define appropriation
and plagiarism, these acts are commonly
referred as stealing and borrowing. To further address and
analyze the advice “Steal it—Don’t borrow it. Make it your own,” stated above,
I ask whether one can genuinely borrow an idea. The underlying definition of borrowing
is to use something and give it back. Thieves, on the other hand, steal, or illicitly
take ownership of a stolen object—they do not borrow. The word borrowing signifies that something will
be returned by a due date. How is a borrowed idea returned? Perhaps the word borrowing is fitting if the proper
credit is given to the source. However, the core
issue with copying, borrowing, or stealing an art form is that, in time, the
process replicates answers, and it is essentially a shortcut that eliminates
questions unless the act of borrowing creates an intentional form of content.
In any case, the danger in the act of borrowing is that it teaches
dependency—not creativity or the thought process behind how a result was
produced: “The
immature artist imitates. Mature artist steals” (Kleon, 2012). With the
correction that the word in this context should be changed from steal to borrow, perhaps focusing on copying or borrowing the questions rather
than the answers (i.e., the artwork) is the key, as questions can produce
myriad ways of creative thinking that could ideally result in improving upon, internalizing,
and materializing an idea until it essentially becomes an adaptation.


I define adaptation as an action of remodeling, redesigning, reworking, and
reconstructing. I am not discussing the mass-media culture in which Hollywood
movies are said to be adaptations of original literary works. Julie Sanders
(2006) stated that adaptation signals a relationship with an informing source text
either through its title or through more embedded references (p. 35). To
Sanders, adaptation comprises many things: version, variation, interpretation,
continuation, transformation, imitation, pastiche, parody, forgery, travesty,
transposition, revaluation, revision, and rewriting (p. 22). The German philosopher Walter
Benjamin viewed such acts of cloning, borrowing, and appropriating as part of an
adaptive process to fit into a mass-produced world. In his 1934 essay, “The
Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Benjamin confronted
aesthetics in an attempt to identify the underlying changes in the production
of art. Benjamin (1936) also suggested that adapted art
loses its authenticity and is perceived in wholly new ways. Benjamin spoke primarily
about visual art, and much has been written since about the ways that photography
and film alter the audience’s perception, deprive the work of its static being,
and transform it into a series of moving images. In sum, I argue that
adaptation is essentially evolution
through material culture, symbolic inheritance, and social learning.


Prince, Levine, and Kruger all
believed that, by borrowing existing imagery or elements, they were re-contextualizing
or appropriating the original imagery, allowing the viewer to renegotiate the
meaning of the original in a more relevant or more current context (Rowe, 2011).
Kruger stated, “I’m interested in coupling the ingratiation of wishful thinking
with the criticality of knowing better.” (Kruger, 1987, as cited in Rowe, 2011).
For Kruger, art appropriation was a device to get audiences to look at the work
and then to displace the conventional meaning that an image usually carries
with a number of other readings (Rower, 2011). I argue that this art movement reached
its pinnacle in the 1980s when Prince, Kruger, and Levine used art
appropriation as a medium. Art critics now consider this use of appropriation
as a pure art form to be almost irrelevant in today’s ever-changing art world. Moreover,
Gemmell (2012) stated “although the foremost institutions of art have given
appropriation their nod of approval, the legal system has not been as forgiving”.
The use of appropriated imagery in art has been the subject of numerous
high-profile lawsuits. In Claire Fontaine’s (2015) exhibition, Stop Seeking Approval, a text below her
work reads

if you are not an ignorant and
know how much social movements, technology, and ultra-liberalism have
transformed authorship during the past 60 years . . . then you must take action
and make wonderful, extraordinary, and frightening artworks that will change
people’s perception of reality and will touch their world like no political
speech can. (Fontaine, Stop Seeking Approval 

this could be best termed adaptation,
not appropriation. Proper
appropriation (or simply, adaptation) should be encouraged, as this means
taking the original idea and improving upon, internalizing, or materializing it—thus
perhaps changing people’s perceptions without violating the original artist’s copyrights
and authorship.

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