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Art without ownership

September 30, 2017

I am interested in the problems created through the removal of the author-figure in written or visual art. One issue lies in the potential for a lack of accountability in the dialogue. Several weeks ago, following the lecture by Larry Bob Phillips, I sparked a debate in my Foundations class regarding the issues that came up during his question and answer time. The debate revolved largely around the topic of cultural appropriation. Most of the class agreed this was a serious consideration for artists and a territory to be traversed very cautiously. Two guys in the room however disagreed entirely. They insisted that interpretation of the artwork is entirely up to the viewer and the artist has no responsibility to their research; that culture and experience should have no bearing on what one chooses to reference in their work. I was satisfied to let their fellow classmates do the chastising of their perspective and stood in silence listening. Art as a landscape of boundless freedom of expression without consequence or accountability is an attractive philosophy and one that seems relatively common for lazy thinkers.


The idealized potential for a read on art or literature which is entirely unclouded by the context of authorship may seem like a limitless dream of conceptual potential, but there are so many factors related to that authorship which then lose as much richness as they open the door for. If we lose authorship, don’t we also lose the time period a work was created in? Don’t we lose the cultural context? When an artwork becomes subject to every viewer’s first read, devoid of any deeper understanding of the time, place, and experience which has created it, how can the viewer be removed in any way from their own personal biases to see another perspective. All interpretation becomes introspective and bound by the parameters of that person’s own experience. To me, art without author is art without depth.

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