Art Needs Rules

Aliyah Gibbs

Staff Writer

Art is not original if it is “derivative.” If a work of art reminds me of anything other than the original artist, it is work produced by proxy of [famous inspiration]. I wonder though, how much does this matter? Is it relevant to the value of an artists’ work? While I believe art is not one hundred percent original if it is derivative, I also follow the notion that what matters most is who did something better, not first. So, what effect does this have on a artists’ production? The mental pressure of creating a completely original work can be unhealthy, but the wiggle room supported by the dismissal of true authenticity is alarming for the progression of art. A familiar argument or statement regarding the nature of art is that “All art is based upon previous art.”  This statement is a fact; however, I worry that people will stretch this fact to absolve themselves from true original expression. It also feels more gratifying, creating a work free of attachment to any previous artist. 

 The main disturbance is the possibility of the cheapening of art. I don’t mean a financial sort of cheapening. I mean the philosophical or moral degradation of the field. Art is a limitless form, and much of it lies in the eye of the beholder, yet I’m wondering if we should be more strict on the parameters concerning the definition of art. A few of the parameters are as follows: 1.) The artists’ work should follow the established themes/patterns of their previous work. Even if the artist deviates from their typical work, there should be a traceable line back to the original artist. 2.) Derivative work is only validated if it is as good or better than the inspiration. 3.) No parodies or 100% samples. The goal of these parameters is to ensure the purity of art. If artists choose to completely ignore the aforementioned rules, that is fine. They have simply subjected themselves to a subclass of art production, in my opinion. If this writing piece is considered derivative or similar to anyone else’s, I recognize my position of being in a subclass of art production.

This line of thought applies to music as art production as well. One of my least favorite things about the current direction of mainstream pop, r&b, and rap music is its lack of original authenticity. Most of the contemporary music I hear is a remake of a previously released song. Not even a sample; it’s usually a full re-do complete with similar baselines, lyrics, and overall musicality. This is not pure art, according to my perception of it, and is pretty much a cop-out.

This theory of art originality relates to brand production as well. Brands like Yeezy by Kanye West or Fear of God by Jerry Lorenzo. Most of the items from these brands are simple sweatsuits or hoodies. Now, I’m not even complaining about the price of these items. I understand exclusivity and how that affects the value of the brands. I don’t understand how the lack of physical creativity is so widely accepted amongst these brands. I don’t follow the notion of “art is art” in this instance. What these brands do feels more like a smart business move. It doesn’t seem to value original expression. Both West and Lorenzo’s brands carry a theme of religion, but this doesn’t feel particularly original or creative. That’s the problem I’m targeting. I feel like people are stretching the concept of art as a whole. And, according to my previous assessment of art, Jerry Lorenzo and Kanye West would belong in the subclass of art production.

Another example of the lack of originality in art is Jerome Stumphauzer’s rendition of a classic Salvador Dali painting, “The Persistence of Memory.” Stumphauzer’s version is a sort of parody in which he changed the clocks that are in Dali’s painting to pizzas. Referring back to the three aforementioned rules, Stumphauzer broke rule three. This is a prime example of why rule three is necessary. Stumphuazer may be commenting on the unimportance of rules in art, but it just reads as cheap and only kind of funny for me. This is not a shot at Stumphauzer. I enjoy some of his other work. However, his pizza clock painting served as a clear example of why originality is best when it comes to art. I know that this is upsetting and rather unconventional, but art needs rules.

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