Designers Who Read

The Image Plunder: Understanding Cultural Appropriation by Ari Dyball

3109 words
18 mins
Originally published 1/4/2014

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This article was originally commissioned for 'desktop' magazine in the aftermath of the online furore (in a teacup) that surrounded the art:broken v. P.A.M. controversy. It was too late to add to the blogger outrage at the time, but the indiscriminate plundering of cultural imagery and artefact by designers is nothing new.

Ari Dyball wrote this piece for the magazine based upon a humble reflection of his own cultural stumble: the tattooing on his arms of El Lissitzky's 'About 2 Squares' — a piece of Russian Suprematism — and the realisation of his ideological 'mistake' when on a visit to post-Soviet occupation Latvia. 

The controversy eventually petered out with a more measured call for sensitivity, yet the story is a common one: often the original connection between an image and its surrounding culture is either unrealised by the designer, or reappropriated in an effort to seperate image from culture or political ideology. Ari explains that this often isn't, nor should be, possible.

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