Exploitation now!


Eddie Campbell is pondering Lichtenstein, particularly the recent mini-furor over Lichtenstein’s use of comic book art without crediting or consulting the original creators, which is the entire source of his fame. Johnny Walker in the comments links to this piece, on general trends of plagiarism in fine art and how the situation is treated differently than in, say, pop music.

I respond:

This Lawrence Alloway comment from Johnny’s link is revealing: “Future research will no doubt come up with the names of the people who drew some of Lichtenstein’s originals, but so what? He was not engaged in mutual collaboration but acts of annexation.”

There was a time when a respected entity was considered perfectly within its rights to commandeer a foreign, “primitive” entity and either seize its assets or remake that entity in its own image, in the name of “ennobling” the “savage.” The White Man’s Burden and all that. Nowadays such imperialism is condemned, and we emphasize indigenous sovereignty. I’m not surprised that people are seeing elitism and exploitation in Lichtenstein’s work; I’m sort of surprised that it took this long.

Another metaphor: Lichtenstein as P.T. Barnum, putting the freaks and primitives on display for the amusement of the good white folks? Hmmm.

I’m writing a thesis this year on the translation of Greek poetry, so I’m quite interested in this topic of art, appropriation, and imperialism. In many respects I think a concern for faithfulness and authenticity has crippled classical translation for the last fifty years, and it’s time for the pendulum to swing back…

Obviously I’m still kind of ambivalent about all this.

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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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