Appropriation within the context of art (which is where we are focused today) is basically the re-use of an existing thing with slight or no modifications. Adoption, if you will. Or theft might sound better. There are long debates on this issue ranging from entire cultures being ‘borrowed’ for use as sports mascots and costumes, and famous artists kinda just adding their name to something (DuChamp and that urinal, which turns out to have really been done by someone else) or giving an image a slight crop and calling it your own (Richard Prince vs.The Marlborough Man).
You can’t really simply take another piece of work and call it your own. That’s stealing. It’s plagiarism, lip-synching and many other things we won’t get into. However, the biggest era in our world to witness this stuff was the during late 1980s and early 1990s when you were in college or on spring break.
There are so many of these things. Every beer company logo, every cigarette pack, and damn near most every pop-culture logo or piece of iconography was knocked off for some cheesy event or party. Take these two above from our inventory – on the left you’ll see the worlds most well known beer logo slightly modified to represent a college party. On the right you’ll see a well known Sunglass and sports company’s logo slightly modified for the celebrations during Spring Break in Panama City Beach, FL.
These are dumb. And by dumb I mean funny because they represent a goofy time when this was all the rage. However, not so dumb for copyright and legal reasons. But who’s really to say what kind of impact a little bit of mimicry could possibly have had to huge companies back then? In fact, this is a little bit of free advertising in some ways – logos look the same, same colors, same sizes and placements, just different wording. Are they as effective on product placement as the real deal? Does going to Iona College make you want to drink Budweiser? Does partying in Panama City kinda drive you to buy a pair of Vaurnet Sunglasses?
Man, who knows. And really, who cares. This is probably a debate for the art world and not for the good-hearted folks who wore these things 35 years ago. They were just trying to have a good time. Imagine being so culturally inspired by a product as to adopt it for your own advertising? You certainly can’t get away with this today. Something to think about for sure.