Research - Andy Warhol by Ally McGinn

Considered one of the most glamorous figures in contemporary art. Warhol was an eccentric figure, he became infamous for his eccentric way of seeing and experiencing the world. As I find is often the case, Duchamp said it best - “What's interesting is not that somebody would want to paint twenty-seven soup cans.  What’s interesting is the mind that would conceive of painting twenty-seven soup cans.” (Tompkins, 2013)

Fascinated with commerce and celebrity Warhol bridged the gap between the art world and the art market. (Warhol, 2007)

One of the basic tenants of commercialism is the wanting of something more. The purpose of advertising and other marketing strategies are to convince the viewer that they want something they don’t have, and that they must work hard to get it. This constant desire for more lies at the heart of our materialistic society.

For Warhol, this idea was something utterly fascinating. Working both against and with the idea of commercialism, Warhol worked with everyday materials as a way of showing that the things around us are worthy of as much respect, admiration and time as those we are taught to desire more. (Warhol, 2007) The things we already have can be as interesting as the things we don’t have, and therefore want.

The most famous example would be the soup can series. (Warhol, 2007) Highlighting the simple form, elegant design, and purposeful existence.

Andy Warhol (1964)  'Campbell's Soup Can' . Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Campbell's Soup Can'. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

In 1964 Warhol produced ‘Brillo Box (soap pads).' (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) An accurate reproduction of a commercially available product, the boxes show his interest in the everyday commercialist world we live in.

What I find most interesting about the work is that it is the container for the commercial object that has been reproduced. The ‘viewer,' or buyer, in this case, see the cardboard ancestor of this artwork not when they are buying or using it, but when it is being shipped to the shop for them to purchase.

Acknowledging mass production, both in the making of the box and the meaning of it, the work was criticised for “capitulating to consumerism, ” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but that certainly wasn’t the prevailing opinion.  

Arthur Danto, an influential art critic, found Warhol’s Brillo boxes intriguing and wrote about them in an essay ‘Beyond the Brillo Box.' (Danto, 1998) In it, he surmised that it was Warhol, as the artist, that made these boxes anything more than what they were. Calling them “pretty good pieces of carpentry” (Danto, 1998) Danto speaks about them being indistinguishable from commercial brillo boxes, the only difference in them is the declaration from Warhol that they are art.

Warhol himself was a believer that anything an artist did was art, once they had become an artist. (Warhol, 2007)

It was this examination of the Brillo Boxes that led Danto to conclude; that it is the intervention of the artist and the invocation of artistic context that defines an artwork. This invocation of artistic context is what he termed, ‘The Artworld,' without which the artwork could not exist. (Danto, 1998)

Works like the box reproductions (Brillo pads were not the only source of influence in the 100 strong series that Warhol worked on) (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) blur the lines on authorship, primarily because of the way Warhol ran his practice.

Andy Warhol (1964) ' Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'.  Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'. Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Working with a team, Warhol often delegated tasks, creating a near conveyer belt for artists and technicians, all working as part of a collaborative authorship.

In the first retrospective of his work in 1968 the entrance of the gallery was filled with 500 Brillo boxes, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but which boxes did Warhol work on himself, or even touch? And does that even matter? The art now exists and has become an autonomous entity in its own right, with inbuilt, ever-evolving meaning and message.

Warhol often gave plans of work to be made to the manufacturer's (in this case meaning individuals) who would work away from the originator of the idea. This reproduction, authorised as it was, can be considered a controversial topic.

In answer to the above questions – aside from the point made – is that in this case none of the boxes were made by Warhol, and none of them we even made of wood. In 2007 it was revealed, by someone linked to the exhibition, that there were no wooden boxes in the show.  Short on time and money someone (an unknown entity) purchased 500 cardboard boxes, directly from the factory in New York, which were shipped to Stockholm and displayed. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

I have to note here that Warhol would probably love the fact that his work has been increasing in value at a higher inflation rate than gold, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) considered the most glamorous and valuable of commodities. In 1994 they sold for £3,700 each, by 2000 one sold for £50,000, in 2006 one reached £120,000. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

There has since been an air of controversy surrounding the authenticity of the boxes. It is the authentication board of the Andy Warhol Foundation, which has the final say on what is and isn’t authentic. Any work authenticated by the board achieves artistic fame, and a catalogue number, those that don’t make it through the process are crudely stamped with the word ‘denied’ in red ink, defining and marking it as unwanted and useless.

The controversy over the Brillo Boxes in the 1968 exhibition has since been explained. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) A rather entrepreneurial curator Pontus Hulten, twisted in the controversy throughout, had claimed to make the boxes at Warhol's request before the retrospective. It has since come to light that the fabrication of the boxes was done in 1990, three years after Warhol died.  His reasons for this have been argued and defended. A staunch critic of the consumerist art market Hulten did not need the money involved in a fraud like this. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) I hesitate to use the term fraud. As an art student, I feel a sense of freedom to speak about this controversy regarding what it means for art.

Regardless of the financial or moral implications of a ‘fraud’ like this, it brings up more questions about authenticity, providence and the falsity of the art market.

In fact, this ‘fraud’ could more accurately be considered a piece of performance art itself.

As Thomas Anderberg, a Swedish art critic, said: “I believe Hulten decided to show up the entire Warhol industry.” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

The fact that the authenticity of Warhol's works is so complicated questions the validity of the entire process. In 2003 a print was denied by the foundation, even though its provenance was solid and it even had Warhols signature on the work. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) The defence for this rejection was that Warhol didn’t make the work, he only signed it. A disappointing response considering the way Warhol worked.

Who is the artist? What is the art? Does the artist have to touch the art? If the works are a series of reproductions why does it matter which one Warhol touched? The notion of artistic genius is at the forefront of the argument once more. The authentication board has defended itself by stating that its purpose is to clarify the distinctions between what he did make and what he didn’t make. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) Personally, I think the more important consideration is why there is a difference in value between the two.

Sadly the integrity of the Warhol authenticity board has been called into question, and it faces an extended period of uncertainty. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

It doesn’t, however, negate the totality of Warhol's work; it only questions some of it.


Warhol was someone who believed that the world could work in a better way and that the way to do that was through the clever manipulation of the truth and our understanding of the way we see the world. (Warhol, 2007)

Rather than have a studio he called his space a factory. A contradicting conversation between art and production, Warhol argued that the two are inextricably linked. (Warhol, 2007) The lesson he saw in the factory is that we can produce things, things called art, in a different way than history would suggest. Traditionally, and in general terms, art is something that is created by an individual and enjoyed by an individual. The creation of 'Art' happens on massive scales, but the commercial side of the art world means that the final position for each piece is most often eventually either disposed of or owned by a single individual.

For Warhol a way around this was reproduction.  Which explains his interest in soup cans, screen printing, and Brillo boxes.

After reading that Picasso had made 4000 masterpieces in his lifetime, Warhol decided that he would create 4000 in one day. A goal he quickly failed, he did make 500 in a month, a feat Picasso probably didn’t achieve. (Warhol, 2007) (Although that does beg the question – what is a masterpiece?)

Warhol wanted to apply the notions of commercialism and mass-production to the ‘good’ things in life. (Warhol, 2007) Things he saw as necessary to the continued development (as opposed to the current stagnation) of the human race. The issue that is in evidence through his attempted record-breaking printmaking goals, as well as other aspects of his life, is that art remains partitioned from mass production. (Warhol, 2007) That the art market exists and is the foundation for the continued existence of art is common knowledge, although still argued tremendously, it is a very different creature from mass-market commercialism, which Warhol arguably edged towards.

Warhol was interested in large-scale impact. He could be argued to be one of the most prolific artists when it came to trying different things. He tried drawing, painting, printing, audio recording, photography, sculpture, magazine editing, clothing manufacturing, advertising, band management, directing, he even planned a chat show. (Warhol, 2007)

Warhol’s legacy challenges future artists to change the world, in a mass populist way, through the medium (or message) of art.  


The implications of Warhol's work, and perspective are far-reaching, including into my own practice.

I am a maker at heart, and it is through that production that I can question our assumptions about art and process, and hopefully inspire those questions in the viewer.

Warhol did this, extremely successfully, in his own, unique way, I can only hope to do it in mine.


Danto, A C. (1998) Beyond the Brillo Box: The visual arts in post-historical perspective. California: The university of California press.

Levy, A. and Scott-Clark, C. (2010) ‘Warhol’s box of tricks.’ The Guardian. [Online] Available from: [Accessed - 20.11.17].

Tompkins, C. (2013) Marcel Duchamp: The afternoon interviews. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited.

Warhol, A (2007) The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : From A and B and Back Again. St Ives : Penguin Books.


Research - Authorship, creation, originality, appropriation, authenticity and ownership by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2016)  Kenneally.  Artists rag with oil and acrylic. 134 x 91 cm.

Ally McGinn (2016) Kenneally. Artists rag with oil and acrylic. 134 x 91 cm.

The idea of authorship is so interlinked with other ideas that it’s hard to isolate it without touching on a few other things. This post is a relatively brief exploration of the notion of authorship and associated concerns – originality, appropriation, ownership, authenticity, and creation.

A few of these ideas were discussed in my dissertation, and the following is a more in-depth view of these ideas.

Beginning with the beginning – Creation

Dissertation excerpt “The concept of ‘creating’ is highly contested.  Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin questioned authorship in the 20th century. (Barthes, 1977) Both discussed whether there is an author at all and how much has to be in place for authorship to happen. Barthes wrote about the death of the author, suggesting that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” (Barthes, 1977: 148) Michel Foucault agrees, arguing that the concept of the author allows for an almost tyrannical rule that restricts the free-thinking of the reader, and by extension the viewer. (Foucault, 1984: 121)

Exploring the work of people like Derrida and other philosophers, we can see how interconnected and dependent the internal and external are in any artwork. In any piece of art, how much of the creation is due to the artist and how much to the ‘Artworld’?

The question is not one that necessarily needs (or can be) to be answered, but its existence must be acknowledged to better understand the idea of authorship.

Can we claim authorship over anything? It wouldn’t be difficult to argue that if there is no creation, then there is no authorship, that everything made is re-contextualising or re-presenting.  However, that argument would change the perspective of ownership in the modern world and its history. It does beg the question, how can you claim ownership of an idea?


An artist creates. This is one of the fundamental principles of art, whether contested or not (and it is highly contested). (Marriner, 2015) At the heart of this creation is the idea of originality. Modern society and the human condition seems to continually imply and reject the notion that everything has already been invented.

There can be no entirely original inventions because even the smallest part of the whole has elements that have already been designed, made or explored.

Is it only in the combination of existing things that originality is found?

It is arguably true that total originality is a myth. As humans, we are combinations of genetic, historical and societal events and attributes that combine to form the person we become. Artworks, especially the good ones, are remarkably similar to people in this regard. Take any artwork, made anywhere in the world, and it is merely a matter of knowledge to be able to find the links to other artworks throughout history, as well as links to various different themes, issues, and ideas that exist in our world.

Maybe there is no original art, just varying degrees of transparency?


What is it that makes an artist the author of an artwork? If the ideas of creation and originality are questionable, then the question of authorship is even more muddied. It is generally agreed that art can be anything, or that anything can be art. This inclusion means that the question of the author becomes a complicated one. Is the manufacturer of paint an artist? The question then becomes one of language. What is the definition of an artist, and who gets to decide which people fit the bill? One crucial factor seems to be that the author has the ultimate responsibility to whatever objectives they choose to pursue through the work.

Marcel Duchamp is the foundational figure of these ideas in art. His readymades, which were selected through “visual indifference” (Tompkins, 2013) and with a sense of irony and humour, epitomise nomination as an art form.

If we take Duchamp's assertion that readymades can be art, which I most certainly do, then the tools that an artist uses are already art. If Michael Landy’s art bin (Bishop, 2005) is art, then so are the artworks artists deem non-art. Performance, environments, social change, and any other action or object that an artist chooses to nominate can be, and are, art…...but then who is the artist?


A word must be said on appropriation; a word that is synonymous (in the art world) with authorship. Appropriation can be said to not only be a modern idea. Defined as the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images and objects, appropriation has been considered a legitimate tool for artists as long as there has been art.

Appropriation is defined as the art of using pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them, which can be one description applied to both my process and some of the pieces created recently.

In art terms to appropriate is to adapt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of human-made visual culture (although it can be argued that appropriation from naturally occurring visuals is also appropriation).

Appropriation is accompanied by the re-contextualisation of the object or image.  Even if this is just the artist saying, “it is art.”

Appropriation can be explained as "the taking over, into a work of art, of a real object or even an existing work of art." (Tate, Undated) The Tate traces the practice back to Cubism and Dada through to Surrealism, pop art and Neo-geo artists in the 1980’s. (Tate, Undated)

What is considered the first piece of appropriation in art was done during the Cubist movement, although who did it first is still in question. (it was either Picasso or Braque) By adding a piece of oilcloth onto the canvas and later working with newspaper and other materials appropriation began through collage. The two then used appropriation to explore ideas of the significance of realism. Showing that appropriation, like creativity, can be considered a tool for the artist to examine broader questions.

The practice of adding appropriated imagery has been expanded to include entire works of other artists, claimed by someone else, in blatant and defended plagiarism, Richard Prince being the prime example. (Richard Prince, Undated) Who famously appropriated images from Marlboro cigarettes, re-photographing them and presenting them as art.

I've discussed the implications of Duchamps readymades in more than one other blog post, so I'll dispense with that here, other than to say that here again Duchamp intersects visual culture. The readymades were appropriated objects, as well as nominated ones. (Tompkins, 2013)

Appropriation was continued and developed by the Dadaists and collage artists like Kurt Schwitters. (Tate, Undated) Found objects had become a recognised material, and a tool artists began to think with.

A link to another post can be found in Schwitters’ “Merz”, which is a precursor of the development of installation art.

Surrealism took found objects and subverted our expectations of them to form new meaning.

Robert Rauschenberg made what he termed ‘combines,' literally combining readymade objects like tyres or beds, painting, silkscreens, collage, and photography. More on Rauschenberg in another post. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

Later artists like Klaus Oldenberg (Evans, 2009) and Andy Warhol (Evans, 2009) appropriated commercial images and images from popular culture. To both artists pop culture is accessible to all, regardless of class, or education. No matter who you were, it meant the same thing.

In the 1960’s appropriation artist, Elaine Sturtevant created works that were copies of other artworks, with little interaction, nominating them as art. (Evans, 2009)  Created using the same techniques, occasionally with advice from the artist being copied, each work had a mistake in creation, to distinguish between the copy and original. This process, and the resulting ‘new’ work, openly acknowledges its status as a copy; challenging the concept of the author.

When Duchamp nominated his readymades, and Warhol appropriated popular culture they chose certain objects to become art. The work of Sturtevant, and mine eschews this level of decision, by allowing other artists to determine what is worthy to be treated as art.

One of the best-known artists, who work with appropriation as a subject as well as a tool, is Sherrie Levine. I recently saw some of her work at the David Zwirner gallery in London. (Sherrie Levine, 2017)

Levine is primarily a photographer, popular in the 1980’s for reproducing, through photography, recognisable works of art.

Through this change in medium, she questions the author of the artwork and the very nature of authorship.

Sherrie Levine (1996)  Fountain [Budda]  Cast bronze. 30.48 x 40.32 x 45.72 cm. 

Sherrie Levine (1996) Fountain [Budda] Cast bronze. 30.48 x 40.32 x 45.72 cm. 

Levine explored this idea in sculpture, recreating ‘fountain’ by Marcel Duchamp in bronze (The Broad Gallery, Undated) (which is arguably as ‘real’ as replicas seen in galleries today - see my post on the Dali/Duchamp exhibition at the RA for more context around this comment) among other works.

One of her most famous series were photographic reproductions of photographs by Walker Evans. Levine took photographs from the exhibition catalogue and presented (or maybe nominated) these as her work. (Sherrie Levine, 2017)

Artist Michael Mandiberg took this idea one step further in 2001. (Maniberg, 2001) He created an online archive of the images (taken from the same catalogue) which could be accessed and, with precise instructions, printed by anyone with access to the internet and a printer. Viewers can also print a certificate of authenticity (for a Mandiberg).

This work challenges the commodity that Levine's work became, and it would be interesting to find out what she thought of the website -

Artist Mike Bidlo painted reproductions (although he didn't call them that) of works by famous artists, notably Pollock, Warhol and Duchamp. (Evans, 2009)

Often, as can be seen with Levine, Mandiberg and Bidlo, the artists use the original ‘creator’s name in their own titles. Showing that the intention is not to steal, or otherwise claim any of the original skill of the works, indeed it could be said that their content becomes if not irrelevant than at least less important than the fact that they are appropriated.

This is probably most interesting in the case of remade readymades, recreations of Duchamp's works. Arguably the second artist is doing what Duchamp himself did, albeit looking in a different ‘everyday’ for their source material - the everyday of the artworld.

This is an extremely important point in my practice, and a term I often use when collecting materials from around my own, and others, working spaces.

Appropriation has sparked in numerous copyright lawsuits. One of the reasons appropriation is such a controversial subject is the existence of the ‘Artworld’, a term coined by Arthur Danto (explained further in other posts) that describes the foundational context that surrounds any artwork. (Danto, 1964) As the revelation suggests, anything can be art, and art often challenges our assumptions, in which appropriation is a useful tool.

The work of these artists is linked by an inclusion of large components of the work of other artists, from the start. Traditionally the artist is held responsible for all aspects of their creations. Gerhard Richter suggested that art is “ a series of yes or no questions with a yes at the end.” (Richter, 2000)

Even when chance is considered, the artist is still deciding to include or remove something. This is what makes art open to interpretation, in questioning why the artist did something we can interpret the artwork as art.

Total appropriation, or near enough, seems to eschew any responsibility for the details of the work. (Although there are enough artworks in existence, even famous ones, that the decision by these artists arguably comes in the choice of what to reproduce.) Instead, the works reflect the decisions taken by the artist subjects.

My recent works have a similar sense of authorship and responsibility, although certainly on a scale.

These artists are the authors of their work, this point is fact rather than opinion and is repeatedly evidenced. The fact that they are needs no arguing, but the reason is interesting and instead the subject of the work. They are art because they are nominated art, and the artists achieve the recognition of the work as such. That recognition is an important factor when considering the author of the work. Art is only Art with the existence of an artworld, and that artworld is built on a foundation of mutual recognition.

The work of these, and other, artists could be seen as evidence that the author is dead. However, they are closer to comments on the purpose of authorship, and originality, than rejecting it.

Appropriation artists are sometimes seen as undermining notions of artistic authorship and even skill, but the intention is usually far from negative, and in fact, serves as evidence that originality is not all it would appear, and that art has the potential to ask questions we might not typically ask.

The pressure to be original is felt by artists around the world, and yet our very understanding of the term is flawed, we are an amalgamation of influences and experiences, as are artworks. The inclusion of appropriated materials can be done for many reasons, and different artists will have different interpretations of the meaning of these items, as will the viewers, but the inclusion itself has a particular meaning.

One thing that these artists show is that originality is not a prerequisite for art.

I'll end the section on appropriation with three quotes from Michalis Pichler’s ‘Statements on Appropriation’ which contained 24 statements, 6 by the artist, about appropriation, pulled out of a hat. (Pichler, 2009)

“Ultimately, any sign or word is susceptible to being converted into something else, even into its opposite.”

“Plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it.”

“No poet, no artist, of any art has his complete meaning alone.”


Along with the idea of originality comes the notion of authenticity. Primarily associated with the art market, there is an implicit authenticity required for something to be considered ‘Art’. There are of course exceptions to every rule, but generally, we trust that the ‘Art’ that we are looking at is what the artist is presenting it as, even if that is a planned pretence.

There is also an element of trust implied within the art gallery, the level of which depends on the status of the institution. We expect works shown at the Royal Academy or the Tate to be ‘Art’ whether we like or understand it.

Beyond the financial or historical implications, authenticity is, as many of the other terms in this text, a tool in the artist's work. It is used by artists to express ideas and to explore our understanding. Using the notion of authenticity can invoke questions about what we perceive as art.


When an author claims a work as their own, they are claiming a form of temporary ownership.  That ownership is vital for the nomination of the work as Art.

As discussed above, contemporary art is filled with artists who have taken this conversation to its extreme, often resulting in lawsuits and lengthy debates over authenticity (another term intrinsically linked to this subject). If we accept that no work is original, then we are all plagiarists, and plagiarism is a fact of creation, rather than merely something to be avoided.

Ownership, when discussed in the art world, brings the art market into the conversation, bringing with it the truth of the commodity that all artworks are - no matter the intention.

The art market is a symbiotic partner to the art world, so interlinked that they are dependent upon one another. (The worlds most expensive painting, 2011)

Artworks are commodities, and the prices of the most expensive artworks are continuing to rise. Even artworks created to reject the art market, like environmental art, can be commercialised (in that case through documentation and reproduction)

Many of my pieces discus, or inspire, the artwork as a commodity (occasionally unintentionally) and whether that discussion is a rejection or a celebration is mostly a question for the viewer. From my perspective, I consider them both. I dislike the commercialism of the modern world and believe that it could be changed for the better but (in the art world at least) I understand the need for it and the purpose it has.

These works have no internal answer to the question of whether the artwork as a commodity is a positive or a negative, they merely embody the question.

A position I choose for many of my works. They are intentionally ambiguous on opinion. I think that is one of the reasons I always include chance elements and unwanted items, the removal of hierarchy and aesthetic preference negates the idea of opinion and adds to the questions invoked.

Conclusion - sort of

At its foundation, it is important to remember that these ideas are metaphysical conversations. Each is as open to interpretation as art itself, and have inspired thinkers for centuries.

The point, as convoluted as it seems, appears to be that nothing is as simple as it first looks. Authenticity, originality, authorship, and creation are all made complicated when applied to art. There is no substantial formula, nor any rules that cannot be broken. The critical factor in the examination of these issues is the artist. It is not in the creation of the work that these conversations exist but in defence and explanation of them.

Regarding my work, these ideas recur regularly. From the collection of unwanted materials, failed experiments and placed canvases, each of my pieces contains an element of shared authorship. That shared authorship, when combined with other contextual features, seeks to question the definition and reality of art.

IMPORTANT EDIT/REALISATION 10.12.17 - I've come to realise that writing and speaking (or language in general) is a form of appropriation. We rarely make up our own words. The personal element comes in our interpretation or understanding of the words, or gestures, of others.


Barthes, R. (1977) Image, Music, Text. St Ives: Fontana Press.

Bishop, C (2005) Installation Art. London: Tate Publishing.

Danto, A C. (1964) ‘The Artworld’. The Journal of Philosophy, Volume (61): Pages 571-584.

Evans, D. (2009) Appropriation (Documents of Contemporary Art). London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.        

Foucault, ‘What Is an Author?’, trans. Josué V. Harari, in Paul Rainbow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), pp. 101-120.

Kabakov, I. (2000) ‘Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933) on installations’. In: Harrison, C and Wood, P. eds. Art in Theory:1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell: 1175-1180.

Mandiberg, M (2001) After Sherrie Levine. [Online] Avaliable from : [Accessed 05.11.17].

Marriner, R. (2015) Making and the Contemporary. Bath Spa University. October-December 2015.

Pichler, M. (2009) Statements on Appropriation. [Online] Avaliable from : [Accessed 01.12.17].

Reiss, J. (2001) From Margin to Center: The Spaces of Installation Art. London: MIT Press.

Richard Prince (Undated) Richard Prince. [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 04.11.17].

Richter, G. (2000) ‘Notes 1964-65’. In: Harrison, C and Wood, P. eds. Art in Theory:1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell: 757-760.

Robert Rauschenberg (2016) [Exhibition]. Tate Modern, London. 1 December 2016 - 2 April 2017.

Sherrie Levine : Pie Town (2017) [Exhibition]. David Zwirner Gallery, London. 4 October - 18 November 2017.

Tate (Undated) Appropriation. [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 03.11.17].

The Broad Gallery (Undated) Sherrie Levine, Fountain [Buddha]. [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 05.11.17].

The worlds most expensive painting. (2011) [DVD] Russell England. UK: BBC1.

Tompkins, C. (2013) Marcel Duchamp: The afternoon interviews. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited.


The author of many of my recent works is ambiguous due to the different signatures found on the surface and the previous owners (and creators) of the found objects. (although this is only when the context is known, on initial visual inspection the works are assumed to be authored by me)

The critical factor appears to be the moment when the other artist agrees that their action, object or artwork is not useful for them, and the moment I take ownership of them.

The actions captured are those that the artist disregards - without canvas on the floor, wall or table those actions and marks would be lost.

The objects are either finished containers, unwanted tools or 'broken' items.

And the artworks are all either donated or sourced from bins - all regarded by the original author as unwanted.

Once I take ownership of these objects (or objectifications in the case of placed canvases), they become the materials of my practice. Through this filter, they are in turn nominated and presented as Art.

Without that filter they remain what they once were because it is only through the nomination that they are put forward to be understood, questioned and interpreted as Art.

The fact that an object can be collected and presented, without interaction, as art shows that it is the nomination that counts.

(Although that begs the question of whether the nomination counts as an interaction if it does then the interaction is synonymous with the nomination.)

That the nomination is done by me could, arguably, be enough to count myself as the author.

However, I have to note that even when referring to the placed canvases in passing I refer to them as if they belonged to the artist whose actions are collected. This could be because the artist becomes an adjective rather than a noun. The descriptor of these works is the artist involved. This conflict of description only seems to occur when dealing with the placed canvases and unwanted works - materials, tools, and general rubbish seem free of author-dilemma.

The collaborative authorship of these pieces negates some of the automatic personal associations between author and work. Adding to the unintentional narrative of the pieces.

When thinking about the originality of these pieces, I believe they are often more original than the artworks created during their use. They are referencing and collecting process, and in themselves are completely honest, the occasional dishonesty comes through my interaction.

Their originality can be compared to other works about a similar subject of course, but I (as with most artists) can only hope that they are original enough.

Their authenticity is harder to pin down, by intention. They are what they are, they have a reality, as do all objects.

They are authentically what they are, and when questioned I, as the artist, always tell the truth about their origins and process. However if not challenged, or when seen and not investigated further, some of the works (primarily the found or placed canvases) are misleading, pretending to be something they are not. The viewer may assume that the marks are intentional, or created in an alternative way.

I discuss this because many people seem surprised when they hear how the works are made, and it has been suggested that my current interaction with the work is not enough to call it art.

I have found evidence of this when discussing the works with visiting tutors and other students or viewers. When informed of how they were made (especially the piece - Even babies lie) viewers are often surprised.

That the nomination, not the interaction, is enough for consideration as art is evidenced in historical canon. Further actions from me either solidify or negate the nomination.

Research - Robert Rauschenberg by Ally McGinn

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and performance artist who lived and worked in New York.  Rauschenberg didn't identify with the movements at the time, often acting against them. In the case of Abstract Expressionism, the significant art movement of the time in New York, he thought that to be a good Abstract Expressionist you had to have “time to feel sorry for yourself,” something he considered a waste of time. (McEwan, 2008)

Rauschenberg was an inventive figure, he constantly worked at the edge of thinking, working against the norms of the art world at the time. He described his practice as one of “bringing the outside in” (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) a process that involved the use of found materials, images and objects. His practice can be described as re-presenting and re-contextualising the everyday, which could be an argument for what art itself is.

Rauschenberg is an extremely influential figure most famously known for his ‘combines’ created throughout the 1950’s, which as the name suggests combined painting and sculpture.

Robert Rauschenberg (1960)  Pilgrim . Combine: oil, graphite, paper, printed paper, and fabric on canvas with painted wood chair. 201.3 × 136.8 × 47.3 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1960) Pilgrim. Combine: oil, graphite, paper, printed paper, and fabric on canvas with painted wood chair. 201.3 × 136.8 × 47.3 cm.

Rauschenberg positioned his work in the spaces between. Talking about his work, he said, "Painting relates both to art and life. Neither can be made – I try to act in the gap between the two." (McEwan, 2008) Which can be applied to the mediums he explored, he bridged the gap between more than painting and sculpture. No medium was out of the reach of his curiosity, which he saw as one of the most important features an artist can have. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) Rauschenberg was a man who saw interest and beauty in all areas around him and worked with those ideas to form new conversations.

“I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly,” he once said, “because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.” (Kimmelman, 2008)

These gaps are undefined areas, albeit more extensively explored now than in the 1950’s, and that lack of definition gave Rauschenberg the freedom to explore with a light-hearted intelligence that comes through in interviews.

Rauschenberg avoided over-contextualising his works, preferring to deal with the issue of making rather than prescribing meaning. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

Rauschenberg studied under Josef Albers, who had previously taught at the Bauhaus. Albers had a firm view of where he stood in the artworld, and what art is, which was translated into a preliminary course that offered little in the way of freedom. This stable standpoint allowed Rauschenberg to push hard against those ideas, and while Albers might not be considered an artistic influence for Rauschenberg in the traditional sense, he informed the artist Rauschenberg would become. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) (McEwan, 2008) (Kimmelman, 2008)

While Rauschenberg didn't associate with any particular movement he has been linked with the Dadaists; His work was sometimes called Neo-Dadaist.  (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

When asked “what guides you?” he responded with the beautifully dry, “A lack of purpose.” Which highlights his belief in the function of art, which is to say that it has less to do with the artist than the art itself. As he put it “I have a sense that when I'm working well, I'm invisible.”(Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

He had an endless sense of what art is, in that it could be anything. Rauschenberg was asked whether he had suffered from a form of writer's block, the only answer, “no,” because he would “just go do something else.” (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

Rauschenberg was an avid egalitarian, believing in the equality of materials, subjects, and people. There is an honesty in this inclusion, which can be seen in the work. He was a man who was unafraid of challenging the paradigm.

Rauschenberg was an artist inspired by his surroundings and the people he met on his journeys. Reading about him and, more importantly, watching interviews with him hint at the fascinating way he saw the world. His prolific practice becomes more understandable when his perspective is appreciated, to Rauschenberg anything could be art with the right artist to pull strings.

Rauschenberg saw the potential of the materials he was working with, but more importantly perhaps saw the reality of what they already are. He worked with a surface of coloured pages from newspapers so that the painting wouldn’t have a beginning. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016) He already had a surface to work on.  He then added to what was already there. It could be argued that paints already do this to a degree. If you begin with the possibilities of the material, and you then let them do what they want to do.  The artist becomes a bystander.

Robert Rauschenberg (1954/55)  Collection.  Oil, paper, fabric, wood, and metal on canvas. 203.2 x 243.84 x 8.89 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1954/55) Collection. Oil, paper, fabric, wood, and metal on canvas. 203.2 x 243.84 x 8.89 cm.

In his combines, the hierarchy of the materials is questioned and challenged. The use of found objects in his work was far from a new idea (he was working 30 years after Duchamp's’ ‘Fountain’) and was being explored by other artists at the time, however unlike some of the other artists Rauschenberg recognised that it is the relationships of the images he uses that have the most meaning. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

Equally inspiring for Rauschenberg was the work of dadaist Kurt Schwitters, whose collages contained rubbish collected off the streets. (Unnamed, 2013) Rauschenberg combined found objects (often found in his local neighbourhood in New York), with collage and painting. In this approach, he combined the reality of the objects represented against the illusionistic nature of painting. The medium became the representation of itself.

NASA invited Rauschenberg to watch the launch of Apollo 11 in 1969 (The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Undated) and was an artist working with developing technologies. In 1966 he launched ‘experiments in art and technology’ a non-profit organisation to promote work between artists and engineers. (Tate, Undated)

Robert Rauschenberg (1961)  This Is a Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So.  Telegram with envelope. 44.8 x 22.5 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1961) This Is a Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So. Telegram with envelope. 44.8 x 22.5 cm.

As an example that could be considered both condescending and enlightened Rauschenberg submitted a piece to the Galerie Iris Clert, for an exhibition where the subject was the owner herself. Rauschenberg’s offering was a short telegraph stating “This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so.” I have read a few opinions of this piece as one of the signs of the size of the artist's ego, but I think it can be taken to mean far more than that, echoing the opinion of ‘Fountain’ in its original form. Regardless of the artist's intentions, the fact remains, that art through nomination has precedent, and this ‘artwork’ is seen as one because of the very reason stated on it. (Lippard, 1997)

Robert Rauschenberg (1951)  White Painting [three   panel  ].  Latex paint on canvas. 182.88 x 174.32 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1951) White Painting [three panel]. Latex paint on canvas. 182.88 x 174.32 cm.

In 1951 he created a series of ‘White Paintings.'  The antithesis of the emotional and colourful work being done by the Abstract Expressionists, this series has been said to have been a precursor to Minimalism, by a decade.

The works in the series are formed of groups of modular panels, each the same size, shape, and form. Their size is based on a simple mathematical formula; the width is half the length of the height. This is the limit of the prescribed control that the artist has, beyond which the works become something more. Conceptual paintings.

They were first shown in 1953, at which point they were not well received, but by the mid-1960’s, when Minimalism was a more accepted form, they were re-shown and regarded far more positively.  (SFMOMA, Undated)

Rauschenberg was friends with composer and artist John Cage, whose theories of chance were influential. (Painters painting, 1973) The ‘White Paintings’ have been compared to Cage’s musical piece 4”33’, in which the musician plays nothing, and the music is the ambient and other sounds in the space itself. The ‘White Paintings’ can be seen similarly, their uniform surface allows for an appreciation of the space in the gallery, and the shadows cast onto the paintings themselves become a focus, as opposed to any subject within the paintings themselves. These white panels reflect the light of the space and reflect the mute potential of a blank canvas while highlighting the features of the existing surface.

An interesting note, I thought, was that the surface of these works is more important than any historical integrity for them. If the surface were marred in any way then it would be repainted, something Rauschenberg confirmed in a 1999 interview, so they become something beyond nostalgia. These panels have been repainted by some of Rauschenberg’s artist friends, including Cy Twombly and Brice Marden. (SFMOMA, 1999)

In the same discussion, Rauschenberg referred to the works as clocks, a way, if you were a sensitive enough viewer, to read the details of the space around you, using the surface of the paintings, in this sense they are mirrors that encourage the viewer to see beyond the work, to the world around them.

Robert Rauschenberg (1957)    Factum I and Factum II . Combine painting: oil, ink, pencil, crayon, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, and printed paper on canvas. 156 x 91 cm. 

Robert Rauschenberg (1957) Factum I and Factum II. Combine painting: oil, ink, pencil, crayon, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, and printed paper on canvas. 156 x 91 cm. 

In 1957 he created a diptych, which was displayed at a recent exhibition at the Tate Modern. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016) ‘Factum 1’ and ‘Factum 2’ are collages that are identical in size and near identical on the surface. After creating the first, the second was made as close to the ‘original’ as the materials, and the artist's hand would allow. The pieces highlight the importance of the chance elements in the work, the drips that could not be controlled entirely for example. These aspects of the incidental and uncontrolled form a pause of sorts between the two pieces, a visual stutter as the viewer attempts to unpick the differences between the works. The external visuals Rauschenberg has used are identical, but other paint marks are not, which opens an interesting dialogue about the nature of accidents.

Robert Rauschenberg (1953)    Erased de Kooning Drawing . Traces of drawing media on paper with label and gilded frame. 64.14 x 55.25 x 1.27 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1953) Erased de Kooning Drawing. Traces of drawing media on paper with label and gilded frame. 64.14 x 55.25 x 1.27 cm.

The more I look into Rauschenberg’s extensive works, the more I find of interest, but it remains relatively simple to articulate my favourite. ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing.’ Rauschenberg asked himself if there was a way to create something with an eraser.  When he realised that rubbing out one of his drawings was not wholly satisfying, he decided that what he needed was a drawing that was already a work of art.  Although initially reluctant De Kooning was convinced, although he proceeded to find a drawing with a combination of marks that would be difficult for Rauschenberg to erase, it took several weeks for him to complete the work.

The work has been compared to Duchamp’s LHOOQ, in which Duchamp drew a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

While the drawing is sometimes seen as a negative comment by Rauschenberg, the artist meant it as anything but.  Firstly it was done with Willem de Kooning’s consent and is often considered both a performative and collaborative work, the title contained within the frame was written by Jasper Johns. (Painters Painting, 1973)

For me, the work is important on various levels.  The fact that Rauschenberg chose De Kooning, who was possibly the most prominent Abstract Expressionist at the time, that he was able to create something with something normally used for destruction, that the result is minimal, that he is deleting a drawing (which was still and is still seen as the vital prelude to painting) and most importantly for me, that he is questioning what is art.  Was it art before he started??  Is it art now?? Whether both are true, or only one is, the comment and the process remain essential for our understanding of what art can be, and what artists can do.

Robert Rauschenberg was a man who responded to the world around him with clarity and confidence. His works are creative, challenging and deeply communicative. To Rauschenberg art doesn’t come from art, it comes from the world around us, and it should reflect that.

Attempting to quantify the influence of Rauschenberg on the artworld, and the world in general, would be incredibly difficult, and this short text barely touches the surface of a man I find endlessly fascinating, however, it shows a few of the ideas that Rauschenberg worked with and part of his perspective. (it might be better to say ‘the perspective he was’because everything I've read and seen of the man shows that his art was such a part of who he was that he became Art.)

A short note about the Tate Modern Exhibition (2016) made after my visit.

Robert Rauschenberg (1955-59)    Monument . Combine: oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas with oil and rubber tire on Angora goat on wood platform mounted on four casters. 106.7 x 160.7 x 163.8 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1955-59) Monument. Combine: oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas with oil and rubber tire on Angora goat on wood platform mounted on four casters. 106.7 x 160.7 x 163.8 cm.

Being able to see works I have only appreciated either digitally or in print remains indescribable. The rooms are varied, and occasionally the single link between the work is Rauschenberg himself. His prolific practice is explored, though apparently not fully experienced, through a brilliantly curated show, which retains a coherence that is a risk when investigating such a massive and varied archive of works.

This exhibition seems to epitomise the man rather than focus on any single aspect of his work. This exhibition showed the variety and accomplishment of this artist. Rauschenberg is hugely inspirational to me, regarding his fantastic work and the way he worked and lived.

As a retrospective, it is incredibly successful, in my opinion, as it balances the variety and development of his work without losing coherence or contact.

Rauschenberg was an incredibly inspirational man and artist, one who claimed to never experience writers block.  In his work the line between art and life is diminished, understanding the artist it becomes more evident that this line was reduced in his life as well as his studio. Art was his life, and he continued to do it whether feeling inspired and productive or depressed and drinking. A restless, curious, passionate, talented and inspirational artist and figure, the exhibition is one I am singularly glad I was able to go to.


Kimmelman, M. (2008) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist, dies at 82’, New York Times, [Online] New York Times. Avaliable from: [Accessed 18.11.18].

Lippard, L. ed (1997) Six years: the dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972…. London: University of California Press.

Manufacturing Intellect (2016) Robert Rauschenberg Interview (1998) [Online Video] Avaliable from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

McEwan, J. (2008) ‘Robert Rauschenberg: Restlessly experimental artist whose career was a celebration of change’, Independent, [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 18.11.17].

Painters painting: a candid history of the modern art scene. (1973) [DVD] Emille de Antonio. USA: Arthouse films.

Robert Rauschenberg (2016) [Exhibition]. Tate Modern, London. 1 December 2016 - 2 April 2017.

SFMOMA (Undated) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting [three panel], 1951’ [Online] SFMOMA. Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

SFMOMA (1999) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, video interview by David A. Ross, Walter Hopps, Gary Garrels, and Peter Samis, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 6, 1999.’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) ‘Experiements in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (Undated) ‘The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Unnamed (2013) ‘Kurt Schwitters, inspiration of Pop Art’, The Telegraph, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18.11.17].

Research - Brief - Chance and Incident in Art by Ally McGinn

My current theoretical research is mainly focussed on philosophy around what art is, but it would be remiss of me to ignore totally one of the fundamental influences and sources of my work.

Researching about what art is, enables me to explore ways to subvert our understanding of art in practical terms. Using chance and incidental elements in the studio is an act of subversion in itself. Unwanted and discarded elements invoke notions of potentiality, purpose and the everyday.

Many of the materials I use are obtained through or are objects of, chance. However, their use is not due to an interest in chance as a subject, but rather through their disassociation from choice or intention and the resulting dissociation in the artwork.

I am well known in shared studios for collecting unwanted materials, rubbish and works. Using these in my work is an important part of my process. Working with objects, traces or unnoticed elements encourages me to look at things differently. Focussing on things that normally remain unnoticed feeds not only the material of my practice but often ideas within it.

Using materials that are considered incidental extends their potentiality past the purpose they have fulfilled. My practice often juxtaposes these extended materials with those that have had their potential halted, never achieving what they could be, instead being subverted into an artwork (which admittedly then becomes their purpose).

In this way, chance is deeply associated with purpose and function within my work.

I've been looking at artists who use chance and incident in their work and to illustrate the importance of this idea in my practice I plan to explore two of those here.

John Cage

John cage is an artist and composer, known for his work with chance. Cage worked at a time when Abstract Expressionism was a major focus in contemporary art, he had a close friendship with other artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. (Brown, 2001)

In his work 4’33” (1952) he used the ambient noise of a recital hall to create the music. (Inversen, 2010) The performer came onstage, and sat in front of a grand piano. Hands poised he played nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, after which he left without saying anything. The audience did not know what to expect during the first performance and it only highlighted the purpose of the piece. (Inversen, 2010) What he composed was nothing but silence, the composition heard at each performance was made by the audience, by their shuffling, sighing or other noises.  He created a situation rather than a piece of music.  In the same ways, many artists try to create an experience.

This piece highlights the chance nature of artistic materials (in this case sounds) in the world around us and argues the case for the potential inclusion of any chance occurrence in art.

I could easily write a few thousand words on Cage and the implications of his practical research into chance and the unconsidered in the everyday, however, it will do to note here that he created exhibitions, artworks, compositions and ‘happenings’ that embraced the ideas of chance and what those ideas mean.

I’ll end this short note on a brilliant man with my favourite quote about music theory - "Which is more musical: a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?" (Cage, 1961)


Natasha Kidd

Natasha Kidd (2017) Documentary photo of 'Overspill'. Paint Workshop. Bath.

Natasha Kidd (2017) Documentary photo of 'Overspill'. Paint Workshop. Bath.

Kidd is an artist who we are lucky enough to have as a lecturer at Bath Spa University. Her work has been an inspiration and she is the person responsible for the biggest compliment I have ever received about my work - that it made her consider the space we are in differently.

Her work is primarily concerned with painting machines, and working with painting in new ways. The main piece I want to discuss here is ‘Overfill’ which is a series of machines that pump white paint into the space behind a canvas. (Kidd, 2017) This space fills and the paint overspills through small holes at the top of the canvas, before returning to a reservoir underneath each painting.

The painting machines are displayed working, and the results become almost iconic remnants of these industrial explorations of paint. These explorations deny any expressionist or emotional influence. They speak about paint in its purest form and allow the paint to speak for itself. The machines and the resulting canvases are paintings but at the same time they are sculptural forms, and they speak about paint far more than a traditional (or many contemporary paintings) can.

I have been lucky enough to see this work a few times over the last few years. The machines, now dried, are in a few offices around the campus. One of them is currently running in the paint workshop at the university. The small hardened drips that form over months on the canvas had been chipped off, so the machine has been set up once more to reform these chance elements.

In an exhibition in 2000 called ‘Microswitch’ the machines were hydraulic and dipped an entire canvas into white paint and then pulled it up again to allow the excess to drip back into the vat of white. Again and again, the canvas is dipped by the hydraulics, adding layers of paint, covering the old remnants with the new. The show ran for 6 weeks, with the dipping running throughout. (Healy, Undated)

As the layers dry the paint forms inconsistencies and unique forms that cannot be replicated or anticipated because they are true forms of chance.  Each time this work is shown the result is different, the differences might be minute but they are there. Using white paint further highlights these small yet extremely important differences.  Because these differences are only affected by the machine and the paint itself the resulting effects are aesthetically organic.

The viewers are experiencing the creation process, live. In this way, the pieces are performative, with the machine as the performer.  The canvas then serves as a record of the performance.

Natasha Kidd, as the creator of the machine, has control in certain elements, the colour of paint, the timing of the dips etc but the resulting paintings have very little of her personal influence on them. The machine is the artist and the visual form is incidental.


I could easily continue this post, I have conducted a great deal of research into ‘chance’, and there are numerous books and artists who have done the same.

This does not serve as a full view of this subject but instead uses two artists to serve as a note to the importance chance and the incidental in my practice.


Brown, K. (2001) John Cage Visual Art : To Sober and Quiet the Mind. San Francisco : Cambridge University Press.

Cage, J. (1961) Silence : Lectures and Writings. Wesleyan University Press.

Healy, J. (Undated) ‘Natasha Kidd: Microswitch’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 28.11.17].

Iversen, M. (2010) Chance (Documents of Contemporary Art). MIT Press.

Kidd, N (2017) Natasha Kidd, Artists Talk. Bath Spa University. 21.11.17.