First, go read this:

“Appropriation” is not the problem.
“Misrepresentation” is.

Appropriation was coined as a postmodern concept. Maybe our most immediately recognizable examples in that era that helped define the concept are Warhol’s screen prints of a Campbells’ Soup can and reproductions of Elvis and Marylyn Monroe. In those works you see an appropriation used, it re-contextualizes a its source to contextualize its new narrative. Simpler put, you tell a story and through appropriation you borrow meaning and symbolism from that pre-existing subject to inform attributes and identities in your story. Or if Warhol’s not ideal, think of the way Quinten Tarantino has borrowed recognizable attributes from other genres of film for his own. Or how musicians sample in their tracks.

The writer is generalizing about “appropriation”. They’ve limited how they’re exploring and attempting to explain the concept by looking at examples of good and bad “types” of appropriation, through an exceptionally pedestrian reading of art history.

It is in the exercise of creating that new narrative where an appropriated source is intentionally or accidentally “misrepresented” and/or “misinterpreted.” So, the resulting work is dismissive of the integrity of the original.

The Washington Post writer cites Iggy Azalia’s appropriations from a Black American/Hip-Hop cannon. But first, let’s lock this in… It is in the culture creator/artists scope of responsibility to appropriate with intention of preserving the integrity of their source. So, Iggy’s music was critiqued as a white-lensed corporate commodification of Hip-Hop… i.e. “misrepresentation.” The issue of her misrepresentation worsened publicly when she was asked about the critique of her work. Her response further white-washed the origins of the Black American culture she was appropriating and has been profiting directly from ignorantly. Doubling-down on both her misrepresentation of Hip-Hop and denying the social responsibility she has an artist using appropriation in her works.

A quote I love…

“The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity.”
– Walter Benjamin

Our Washington Post friend touches on this briefly…

“It makes sense to permit behaviours that encourage empathy and genuine interest while discouraging those that caricature or mock a sampled-from culture.”

Then, they undermine that sentiment. Ending their piece encouraging people to “appropriate on,” but doesn’t suggest to do so thoughtfully or responsibly. Their piece denies the existence and influence of post-colonialist marginalization. This happens of course, because their experiential “lens” is as a caucasian and doesn’t hasn’t been subjected to racial re-contextualization or identity fragmentation through the obvious colonialist White Gaze. So, their resolution lacks empathy because it’s dismissive of environmental and historical context informing the concept they’re telling the story of.

Misrepresenting the concept of appropriation.

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