Reflection - Authorship : Ownership / by Ally McGinn


One of the words that has often been associated with my practice (occasionally by me) is authorship.


Collecting the detritus and the traces of actions made by other artists brings another author's voice into the work.

Many of the qualities of these objects remain as when they were discarded, however through a formal reconstruction they are extended, into more than their defined purpose.

Showing that purpose is a shifting entity.

They are not without purpose, not once claimed by me.

A collaborative or questioned authorship creates tension. Where are the lines drawn? Can I simply claim an unwanted tool or material and nominate it as art? Can I claim unwanted artworks and challenge notions of value through that reconstruction?

In an age where anything can be art the answers to these questions can only be yes.

There are no lines, only nominations.

When authorship or ownership are called into focus the idea of value is never far behind. The division of labour and deskilling question the value of these objects as artworks. Questioning the value we place on artworks, and the reality of the societal factors that increase the cost of art.

Simultaneously rejecting and celebrating the artists ego, and therefore the artist themselves.

I've done a blog post (which here can be seen as a period of contextual enquiry) about the subject of authorship, and a few other related ideas. So I won't go into depth here about the contextual theories and some of the issues most iconic artists. However I will end this current articulation with a new bit of contextual information.

I attended a lecture by Angela McRobbie today at Bath Spa. She is a professor of communication at Goldsmiths University and she came to speak to us about some of the sociopolitical theories surrounding the creative industries.

Her lecture was fascinating, and potentially a blog post all it's own, but an interesting point was the link to theories around authorship, or at least my reasons for exploring it.

McRobbie spoke about the nature of the individual in cultural industry in the era 1997-2017, a post-labour change. In this time people have been pushed more towards a sense of individuality, the self-motivated and self-actualised being romanticised as the ideal state of working.

The reasons for this were briefly introduced in the lecture and covered more thoroughly in her book, ‘Be Creative’.

The implication however is a workforce that is both willing and required to see others as competition. It is a workforce who all strive for the positions few attain, especially in the creative industries.

The reality is that few excel through this model, and those who do are often a combination of lucky, charming, intelligent, well-placed and occasionally talented. The rest are left with a romanticised dream that doesn't fit the reality.

One of the strategies to combat this reality is a more collective mindset and working model. While individuality is important, and I say this as a fine artist who relies upon my individuality, the individual now needs to encompass the full range of skills found in a company. Logistics, marketing, economics, personal relations, public awareness, these are all things an artist must be able to work with. Artists collectives can help balance the roles, because one of the facts of an individual society is that we aren't all good at everything, in fact the adverse is true. We are deeply flawed, and yet brilliant. And it is when we work together that we can form lasting employment, which is vital for most, and hope to achieve lasting change.

To return to the practice somewhat I should note that this is not to say that all art, or other creative endeavours, should be collaborative. What it means though is a sharing of ideas, a sense of community and working together in the social, political and economic reality of our country. Collaborative individuality.

And to return to the practice fully; I have seen evidence of the individualistic tendencies of artists, we are all guilty of it however, when it gets too extreme it can destroy what is being created.

Using materials that contain choices by other authors, or exclusions in many cases, expands the communication through my work.

Given that this connection is a recent one it's impossible to say this is a driving force behind authorship in my work, but it is a connection i am better able to see.



While authorship is a concern within my work, it is no longer one of the primary concerns.

I use the discarded elements of practice not because they are made by others but because they are discarded. It is their purposes that defines their inclusion in my work, not their history.