Reviewing the complexity of the current moment refers us back to a scenario different to what was previously imaginable for the first decade of the XXI century. The different processes initiated in the last quarter of the last century, among them and in a remarkable manner was the incursion of the alien as a fitting material in appropriationism, generally derived in a generating of different forms of expectation in relation to a situation of fragmented heterogeny. This new space of events has seen the triumph of new systems of mediation among the spectators and the context of art.
The most extensive model did not manage to eliminate the author, although it has sunken him in the blur of the thematic proposals inherited from the dialectic model established by Documentas and Biennials. This model spread in a natural manner to many museums and contemporary art centres keen on being able to generate their own accounts. These proposals and their resulting languages are no longer only organised according to the author/spectator binomial, but rather from a hypertext induced towards the set of people who elaborate the final product, with the spectators being the more or less active part within this proposed process of elaboration.
The art institution increasingly generates a localised model carried out following a defined pattern that responds to the surrounding socio-political context in varying manners. Although the author hasn’t died, he has discreetly moved away towards somewhere sharing authorship and protagonism, all of this facing a public that although it more than ever consumes products coming from the contemporary cultural industry would find it difficult to name only a few artists from its own time. In a contradiction to this process, there is a coexistence of exceptions of individuality and authorship in the twinkling glitters of Damian Hirst or the golden shine of the American Jeff Koons, becoming what is left to us of the former “deus artifex”.
This scope of event in the art institution was already foreseen by George Dickie in the late sixties. In his article “Defining art” he already drew up the bases of what would be a valid theory on which to set out and define the art institution and the whole complexity of relationships since, in 1914, a urinal was raised to the category of an artistic object. Dickie considered art as an activity that could only be understood within the institutional practices of legitimisation, and those practices could be understood nowadays as a contextual whole. On this case in particular, particularly clarifying is the position proposed by the artists who have wandered along the limits of the institution and the museum as spaces that are the same time a frontier for and a relationship between the artistic objects and the spectators. This dialectic is reconstructed over a language which is at once unable to be disconnected from its attachment to a medium; the exhibition space and a support; the artistic object. Both fields are not neutral, and their positions are determined by multiple factors. Author and authorship act as one more element within a set of actions and reactions in the context of art.
In the eighties, the American artist Sherry Levine, with her different “After... ”, leads us into a reading that is very different to that carried out in the style of the Duchampian Giaconda carried out in 1919. Levine, like other artists of her generation, begins a process that goes beyond mere contrast between contexts opposed to Duchamp’s work. The term “appropriationism” coined at the beginning of the eighties by American critics would have placed an imperceptible and vain barrier in its meaning in today’s viewpoint, in which the appropriation of objects or images alien to the field of the artist or high culture. In no way would they refer this act of appropriation to that of a literal appropriating of the work of another author. From then on and until nowadays these barriers have become more diffused, appropriation is no longer a borrowing, an act of transitory otherness or alterity, and we may simply think that it has stopped being an anomaly.
Each image appropriated by another author has set up grave doubts about the reality of a closed meaning, making it a part of a wider set, with which it can be reinterpreted as artistic material and with which in its final point may generate a new message. This position of opening is without doubt an heir to Foucault’s statement on the history of art from the discontinuous, the threshold or the borderline, in opposition to the historical discourse of modernity about tradition, influence or originality.
These new limits have become an amalgam of new artistic behaviours and derivations outside the frontiers of art, provoking an absolute inflation in the appropriation of the formal and conceptual elements of other disciplines, which are now legitimized as products appropriated for the artistic context. Appropriation functions in several fields and involves different spaces of action, making it possible, as Derrida states, for this action to be impossible within the bounds of the context and the text without taking into account its own characteristics, spaces and limits. On the other hand, in referring to the mobility of the structure from the outside, Derrida proposes that action is the fact of cohabitation in the same structures as the only possibility. Today’s appropriationist acts within this process of dialectic on different strata of meaning, and in a practical sense the term has stopped having its original meaning. The Derridian statement reconstructs it, making it valid given the impossibility to create a stable mark of legitimacy, a limit or a visible frontier between the text and the context.
Progressively, all the elements that make up the artistic context are at the same time the material for their own ontogeny. The action goes beyond the reference and the quotation in order to be involved in a wider work. The relationship has turned into a whole made up of parts with different natures, no longer with a traditional author/authorship relationship between them, but in ramifications that make it impossible to establish relationships of ordered pairs. Thus to go on talking about an appropriationist language or about appropriation is to limit the future possibilities of conjugation between the different contexts that are at play.
1. George Dickie, Defining Art, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 15, No. 3, Special Issue: Aesthetic Education Conference 1980. Roehampton Institute, Southlands College
2. George Dickie, El círculo de Arte, Una teoría del arte. Paidós Estética Barcelona 2005, p.160
3. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1976, p. 24
4. This argument is repeatedly set out by Jacques Derrida in his writings on the visual arts. See “Parergon” and “Restitution de la vérité en peinture” in La vérité Hem peinture, Paris, Flammarion 1978. On the impossibility in Derrida to differentiate text from context, see: Derrida “Signature, Event, Context” in Marges de la philosophie, París, 1972. Taken in turn from chapter VI of the bok by Juan Martín Prada, La apropiación Posmoderna. Arte, práctica apropiacionista y teoría de la Posmodernidad. Ed Fundamentos.Madrid.2001