As the article states, cultural appropriation becoming an issue for popular singers is very common. The biggest problem is that these celebrities are very influential. When they create something of not their culture without actually understanding it, such misrepresentation would be spread to others who also does not have much access to that culture, thus creating a widespread misconception of it. Just as Meiselas in the Molotov Man pointed out, understanding the context of the material is crucial when one is using someone else’s creation as a resource. Especially in this case, because a culture, religion, or a custom of one of these, includes far more content and background story than one work of art, there should be more effort to understand exactly what each representation entails and how it would be received by different audience.
Response to Theft and Artistry
Date: October 22nd, 2018
This article discusses and debates different views of cultural appropriation in music and pop culture. Beyonce, Coldplay, and Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and many other artists borrow and adapt cultural elements from other parts of the world, often without much consideration or thought. The basis for cultural appropriation is that it is a form of theft caused when a corporation or person imitates a minority culture. I don’t completely agree with this interpretation, but this article brings up a good discussion on the difference between theft and adaptation. While these artists are certainly borrowing elements from other cultures, they do not blatantly copy styles, but rather adopt it with a western interpretation.
The exchange of culture is not equal, but it doesn’t have to be. Many believe that western influence is spreading across the world and destroying local culture, but I feel like the opposite is happening. We are understanding and appreciating other people’s cultures, and bringing them to the west. This is generally a good thing. The issue I found concerning is that the media industry can reinforce racial stereotypes and generalize cultural norms by accident. As responsible individuals, we should be more observant of what the media industry is feeding us. If it weren’t for this article, I wouldn’t have seen the negative aspects of popular culture borrowing elements from other minority cultures. This article has broadened my viewpoint of the culture industry.
In “Theft & Artistry: Coldplay, Beyonce In India Spark Discussion On Appropriation,” reported by Eyder Peralta on All Things Considered, Peralta discusses the topic of cultural appropriation within music and pop culture. Specifically, he speaks of the then (2016) recently released song “Hymn for the Weekend” by Coldplay in which the music includes the artists performing before a backdrop of a stereotypical India and Beyonce dressing and dancing in a similar style. While the film shots and scenery are beautiful, the piece itself feels ugly watching the artists take center stage, using India’s culture merely as an aesthetic for their business.
While I think it’s possible to explore other cultures, to live in different places, and to learn about people from all over the world and express this in artwork, I also think there is a clear line between cultural appropriation. When artists mimic patterns, designs, musical themes, etc. from specific cultures, it’s important not only to be educated on the roots of such themes, but also to ensure that such themes are used in a sensitive and appropriate way.
Furthermore, I think it’s important also to be sensitive to using certain elements of different cultures for profit. While engaging with different culture’s art or music that’s existed for who knows how many years, I think it’s possible to explore or experiment with these themes (as long as the artist is appropriate and educated on them). However, when an artist remarkets them for profit it doesn’t quite seem fair. Yet this happens all the time.
Which then, all things considered, it seems very difficult to create any form of art or to create a career as an artist. Yet, I think what’s most important is education on the material and genre’s that you’re working with and sensitivity towards these themes.
I was astonished when I first read “Theft and Artistry”, which criticized the song of my favorite singers. I think neither their song brings any “honor” to India culture, nor it contains as much stereotype as the article describes. As explained in “Theft and Artistry”, singers learn by imitating and gaining inspiration from others, which implies that appropriation is inevitable in songs. In the case of Justin Bieber, “he is drawing from Black and Brown cultural formation (with the track and the dances) absent the full presence of Black and Brown people and can do it just as good as they can”. For “Hymn for the weekend,” Indian people “just become a backdrop with no voice and context, no humanity.” Is that true? As I see it, people may be too sensitive in this case. As we know, the whole world is in the process of modernization, a tendency that approaches to Western countries, thus everything is becoming more and more similar. We don’t want to become the Other, emphasizing the significance to preserve our own culture. At the same time, we refuse to admit that what the Other presents about our cultural elements is us. What is the distinction between stereotypes and uniqueness? It’s hard to define. And that’s why cases in ” Theft and Artistry” are so controversial.
The reading focuses on the issue of the works of artists and imitation. Through many of the examples brought up by the author, it could be seen that it is actually very common that artists, singers, for example, get inspirations as well as certain ideas from existing pieces of music and sometimes build upon these to produce their own pieces of music. Under such conditions, it would be likely that the borrowed piece of music is presented in a very hollow way, lacking the deeper content the original piece aims to present or has as its features, which accounts for some of the dissenting voices. Although just like Tate said in the reading that the feedback of such works may usually depend on the fact that if most of the people think that the work is good or not, this is a problem worth thinking of that whether it is appropriate to “re-make” some pieces of artwork while abandoning their original traits and connotations.
This particular topic is always really hard for me to discuss. I feel for most of the article I am very conflicted. For one I agree with the overall idea that cultural appropriation is something that very much exists in the music industry, and many other industries for that matter. I think the only way to improve the issue of cultural appropriation is to spread as much awareness as possible. However this is where my confusion begins. Obviously it is wrong to take someones culture, that you are not a part of, and misrepresent it in a way that allows you to gain profit from it. On the other hand, how can I be arguing that the only way to fix this is to spread these very cultures, eliminating ignorance, at the same time I’m saying it isn’t ok to show these cultures by people who are not a part of them? Often the ways other cultures are spread is by people of their own culture explaining another. This isn’t the best way, but it really is the way the people typically hear about another culture, from one of their “own”. This means that whatever culture is being showcased is often stereotyped or misrepresented because the person spreading it, doesn’t fully understand it. I don’t think participating in cultures other then your own is wrong, I even would encourage it, but the problem arises when you then choose to spread your very basic understanding to the world. If people would be more carful with the ways in which they choose to present these cultures, and actually take the time and effort to really learn and understand them then appropriation wouldn’t be a thing to talk about.
In “The Medium is the Message,” Mcluhan describes medium as an extension of the human ability. He gave the example of the railway in which he says “the railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions” (152). Furthermore he goes on to describe how the message of a medium is not necessarily the content of the medium, but rather it is the medium itself that contains the ‘message.’ The different medium used strongly impacts the way a message is conveyed. Similar to “The Machine Stops” Kuno wanted to talk to Vashti in person rather than through the Machine even though Vashti thought there was no difference. Although on the surface the ‘message’ was the same whether Kuno told Vashti face-to-face or through the Machine, but in actuality the medium had a heavy impact. Therefore Kuno was insistent that Vashti go visit him.
Long live the Web
I think it’s interesting to think of the contrast between Tim Berners-Lee’s view of how the web should be used versus how the web is used in China. He says The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous world-wide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium.”
However, in China, the web is highly monitored by the government. The Chinese government uses the web to essentially control information flow and filter out what they want or don’t want the Chinese people to know about.
He also points out another problem with the web. ”A related danger is that one social-networking site—or one search engine or one browser—gets so big that it becomes a monopoly, which tends to limit innovation.” I do agree that a lot of social-networking sites have become some sort of monopoly which limits innovation, but of course people who use these social networking sites contribute to this monopoly. I think in most cases people are just so used to the social network that they already use. So, even if there is a new site, there won’t be a enough people who would switch unless it’s drastically different and better. For example, a few years ago there was a new app called “peach.” From what I remember it was a combination of Instagram and Twitter. At first quite a lot of people started using it but in the end it pretty much died down. Of course, this is also the result of the monopoly of social media sites that already exist such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and etc.
As We May Think
I think it’s really interesting that how even though the article was written in 1954 Bush was able to predict the future of technology. He mentioned how maybe in the future people will just cease to write with a pen or typewriter and instead directly speak to the record, which in fact it is possible today. It’s also interesting to think that the process of “selection” that the author describes is the same process that happens when we search something in a search engine. It narrows down and filters out the searches to include only the key words we typed in.
The Machine Stops
The sense of the world in this text reminds me a lot of the utopian world in “1984” by George Orwell. The Machine is this sort of system that regulates the humans and their lives, making them think that there is no other “correct” way. It controls their perspective and way of life even as far as to make their bodies incapable of adapting to the atmosphere on Earth. There is a strong contrast in Vashti and Kuno’s perspectives of their sense of the world.
The Garden of Forking Paths
The drafts and the book that Ts’ui Pen wrote contained multiple, parallel and alter universes. In a sense he suggests that a person can have some control of what will or can happen because of the countless possibilities that can arise from a situation.
Culture is art and in an increasingly interconnected world, we are moving closer and closer to a global culture that takes the most palatable aspects of different cultures and meshes them together, forgetting their context and history.
I think that this is an important aspect of appropriation to focus on. As the Northwestern professor, Nitasha Tamar Sharma, says, “the question is not what’s acceptable. Instead, it’s about the effect of thoughtless appropriation.”
So what is the effect? Misrepresentation of a culture to the masses, disrespect for valued and storied traditions, and in some cases, it may even approach a sort of cultural colonialism in which cultures are pillaged and left trying to defend themselves against all the ways they have been mis-portrayed in the name of “art.”
While art as theft is deeply ingrained in society, I do believe that when an artist chooses to steal, they should be aware of the consequences of their actions and take moral responsibility for whatever happens.