Although Appropriation Art is often used to illustrate how freedom of speech can be constrained by expansionist copyright, such a framing oversimplifies the complex and often contested ways visual culture is used, borrowed, and stolen. Using Canadian examples to unsettle the centrality of US-centred copyright debates, the authors examine Appropriation Art from three interlinked perspectives: first, as a historical phenomenon within the Euro-American, and specifically the Canadian, art world; second, as a term that came to prominence during the Canadian copyright debates of 2006, and became entangled with a history of artist activism as practiced by Canadian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC); and third, as a heretofore unexamined tension between appropriation championed as an act of resistance to the US entertainment industry and government, and appropriation vilified a decade earlier in Canada during controversies about cultural appropriation and “appropriation of voice” from Indigenous and racialized people. Ultimately, appropriation, whether as an art practice or an object of potential copyright regulation, is not the same in Canada as it is in the US, or for that matter, in theory. It has a history, which must be recognized if the interests of the various parties involved are to be accommodated or at least adequately described.
Laura J Murray
Laura J Murray is Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. She is co-author with Samuel E Trosow of Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide (Between the Lines, 2007; second edition forthcoming 2013), and, with Tina S Piper and Kirsty M Robertson, of Putting Intellectual Property in Its Place: Rights Discourses, Creative Labour, and the Everyday (forthcoming, Oxford, 2013). She has published in Indigenous studies and American literature; current research interests include history of reading, the nature of the newspaper, creative economies, and cultural policy.
Kirsty Robertson is an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Museum Studies at Western University, Canada. Her research focuses on activism, visual culture, and changing economies. She has published widely on the topic and is currently finishing her book Tear Gas Epiphanies: New Economies of Protest, Vision, and Culture in Canada. More recently, she has turned her attention to the study of wearable technologies, immersive environments, and the potential overlap(s) between textiles and technologies. She considers these issues within the framework of globalization, activism, and creative economies. Her co-edited volume, Imagining Resistance: Visual Culture, and Activism in Canada, was released in 2011.