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.
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.
Published March 28, 2006
aesthetics , ambition , comics , creation
(11:58:27 PM) me: i have been having really strange thoughts about visual art this year
(11:58:32 PM) madeline: ?
(11:59:03 PM) me: sometimes it seems like i am much more impressed by art than most people
(11:59:14 PM) me: and not just visual art.
(11:59:22 PM) me: there’s like this essential mystery that blows my mind
(11:59:45 PM) me: somebody can put a few lines together, or a few words together, and suddenly it is this extremely meaningful thing
(11:59:57 PM) me: and it communicates so much
(12:01:37 AM) me: maybe it’s because i’ve never been a creator myself
(12:01:50 AM) me: so it seems like this magical act
(12:01:54 AM) madeline: I think you think too much about never being a creator
(12:02:12 AM) madeline: I think you need to just forget worrying about whether you can create and whether it’d be perfect and do it
(12:02:19 AM) me: but i mean, a while back i sat down and sketched out some ideas for comics stuff
(12:02:25 AM) me: and i was impressed at the things i was able to make
(12:02:30 AM) madeline: *nod8
(12:02:31 AM) me: i was like “it’s this easy?”
(12:02:34 AM) madeline: er
(12:02:34 AM) madeline: *nod*
(12:02:35 AM) madeline: heh
(12:02:44 AM) me: i guess i have written songs
(12:02:56 AM) me: but they were silly and easy
(12:03:01 AM) me: like the Pope song from 24-hr theater [essentially: an acoustic guitar, a chord progression, some witty lyrics, an ordinary melody, and a repetitive chorus, that I continued to get compliments on for weeks after the show]
(12:03:13 AM) me: that doesn’t feel like real creation
(12:03:37 AM) madeline: heh
(12:03:45 AM) me: http://www.invinciblestudios.com/ape05/images/ape05_39.jpg
(12:03:46 AM) madeline: “real creation”? What is that?
(12:03:53 AM) me: but i’m sure that’s how Jaime Hernandez feels about that sketch
(12:03:56 AM) me: took him five minutes
(12:04:07 AM) me: and somebody will treasure it forever
(12:04:09 AM) madeline: I think that term is, inherently, a little bit insulting for just the reason you said
(12:04:33 AM) madeline: to yourself, to everyone who does create
(12:04:46 AM) me: i don’t understand the “economics” of art
(12:04:54 AM) me: how can something be so disposable and so valuable at once?
so unlabored, so unintentional, so accidental, and yet so meaningful?