On appropriation, acknowledgement, tribute, dialogue: an apology

Where does inspiration end and appropriation begin? How explicit does one need to be in acknowledgement? I’m thinking of this because Amanda Earl has called attention to some of my recent photo works which are in conversation with the work of Dona Mayoora and Kate Siklosi. For example, I made an image of a hand with a small twig on it. Amanda rightly points out that Dona has a series of images featuring images of her hand. (Indeed, Dona and I have a chapbook forthcoming where we incorporate these images into new images.) And Kate has been making exquisite images with leaves and other natural objects. Amanda notes that I did not acknowledge their influence in this work and that too often men appropriate work or approaches of women and women of colour. I absolutely take her point and—which is why I’m writing this in the middle of the night—would be horrified to participate in such an appropriation. That certainly wasn’t my intention but Amanda is right that I should have been much more careful in being aware of the process and acknowledging my debt, that ensuring they were acknowledged and that these works are implicitly or explicitly in conversation with Dona’s and Kate’s work which I know and love. 

I do make many works in response to many people’s work and in fact, collaborate directly with many writers and artists. However, I think Amanda is right in that in some part of my conversation with their work (this time, not a collaboration or direct response) I might have obscured or neglected to note their influence. I apologize for that. I value the syncretic and the dialogic, the conversational and sharing and intertwining of interests and concerns but I would never want to obscure, overlook or appropriate someone else’s work, especially those who that has historically happened to (e.g. women and POC) and certainly not Kate and Dona’s, who I both value and respect greatly. 

I guess i thought I was obviously in conversation with them and was clearly both influenced by them and paying homage, but clearly upon reflection (thanks, Amanda) that it doesn't read that way, that it obscures a large history of appropriaion (particuarly by men with regards women and POC and more) and that I was not careful about it. I will endeavour to be so in the future. 

I should note that these recent works of mine are also in dialogue with work by Geof Huth (his various object poem assemblages) and Eric Schmaltz (he did some beautiful leafy work a while back.) 

Thanks, Amanda, for calling all of this to my attention—and for doing this with grace and sensitivity. And if anyone wants a great resource to appropriate from wildly, um, I mean, to have one’s mind blown and see the great riches of recent visual poetry by women, I would suggest checking out Amanda’s fantastic recent anthology Judith (Timglaset Press). Also, Dona's work is here and Kate's is here.


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