Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I am really struggling today with the whole idea of appropriation. I feel surrounded by people who appropriate everything from weaving and painting techniques to spiritual practice. All the work and ideas feel so false and exhausting to me. Expected and done...over and over and over! The technique and practise so taken out of context as to become meaningless cliche. And constantly edging or crossing the line into plagiarism.

An image of Shelagh... miles from an ancestral home in Wexford, Ireland. Am I appropriating or does this image belong to me?
Historically there are whole movements of art based on this culture of  theft and oversimplification. Both the Dadaists and the Surrealists cop to this. Rauschenberg cops to this. But they are honest about what they are doing. It was a challenge to existing convention then. But they all learned and benefited from traditional knowledge. And constantly defyng defied convention is no longer rebellious ...it is adolescent. Dated. Lacking in imagination.

I know this sounds cranky but if you are not a folk don't call yourself a folk artist just because you make cutesy, sloppy work. Folk artists carry on traditions that are generations old and people who are classified as art brut are doing their best to communicate and express challenging realities with whatever materials are at hand. Nothing cute there! Genuine struggle and amazing original accomplishment.

I want people to stop stealing!

I looked up a definition for appropriation.It means the act of taking another's imagery, cultural expression or faith without permission. Out of context, without understanding or tradition. And years and years of practise.

I swear if one more effing blond  blue eyed person says Namaste to me this week or imposes a healing practice that defies and disregards my own cultural reality and healing tradition I will scream the loudest and most vile curse in Gaelic. I will call on Shelagh-Ni-Gig to chase them away with her scary and intimidating crone genitalia. My healing tradition isn't sweet gentle flowers painted in soft cobalt blues and fuchsia.

Stop dressing up and pretending you are a sweet pixie ala Disneyland. Pixies aren't sweet. They spirit away your babies and do terrible mischief. They are soft blue because they are made up and ready for a terrible war.


arlee said...

OH P, so well said. I'm sick of "whimsical", "art journals" and "quilties" all labelled as art---the names alone give away the level of skill--and those who appropriate and rename a stitch in their own honour, their cloud cult sycophants and their fake earth mother proprietary attitudes.

material witness said...

Gotcha there. I attended an art talk this weekend in Penticton and heard the artist Eliza Fry descrbing her horror at having her sculptures called whimsical. Her birds carry burden but they are birds and therefore classified as cute.

I, for one, want to ban the colours cobalt blue and magenta for just a month. Just to see the crisis that would create.

arlee said...

Obversely there are those who think they have "invented" something and want no one to do it any way but theirs, to not teach after they experiment with it, or to share---some "appropriation" is necessary in educating ourselves, don't you think?

I'd ban running stitch--it's not always Kantha!!!!!--and the use of birds (not Fry's birds :) )and "sacred symbols".

material witness said...

I'm terrble about sharing. I try to give credit where it is due and try hard not to steal. No doubt there are things I learned in passing that forgot where I got them. but you and I have both had stuff rpped right off. Once a whole artsts statement ncludng the spelling mistake. I just fumed. I wanted to tear it apart.