While there were many artists that, throughout the 20th century (especially in experimental settings), made use of appropriation or appropriation-adjacent techniques, it wasn’t until the dawn of the internet and the arrival of figures such as “creators” that the legions of those devoted to appropriation truly exploded.
As we have already seen, creators are individuals who almost never have related technical or theoretical training or education behind them, let alone professional experience in the field. Moreover, they are individuals who complete their work for personal interests rather than a career.
Ostensibly, the two figures (“professional” artists and creators) will begin to merge in the near future. It just may also happen that the main players in the fine art scene (i.e., artists) will be joined by these new creatives, who are part Naïf and part outsiders.
Linking these DIY creatives and professional artists is the use, by both of them, even if via different methods and in different forms, of the same creative strategy, i.e., that of remixing and altering material taken from third-party sources (mass media, the internet etc.).
I’ve defined this strategy as “copy-paste creativity,” an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of appropriation-based practices that extend from classic collage to assemblage, from photomontage to screen-printing, from video pastiche to video clips and even memes and looping gifs.
While images captured from the world of mass media and advertising were once the bread and butter of copy-paste artists, today the web that is the magic bullet for these compulsive image remixers.
When it comes down to it, techniques such as copy-paste creativity are giving rise to a sort of online circular economy. Like biological organisms, the internet could be seen as a “closed cycle” or “self-regenerating” system, one in which the enormous quantity of materials on the web today can be taken as fuel for the internet-remixes of tomorrow. As a result, like a classic circular economy, that of the web will be founded on key words such as recycling, sharing, salvaging, and reusing.
After all, just as it rings true for biological or economic systems, Antoine Lavoisier’s maxim also fits the web to a T: nothing is created and nothing is destroyed, but everything is transformed.