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Scripted Convo: Appropriation


Art + Design, College of Art & Architecture, University of Idaho


Conversation points for instructors



Acknowledgements, if applicable






Course Level


Conversation points for instructors

I have long been frustrated with that entry-level student belief that regurgitation from established creatives will be enough to pass as academic research.  Find someone important who said something relevant, copy, paste, and BAM, you've got proof of concept.  In an attempt to help students fight their problematic reliance on block quotes in their essay writing and establish more confidence in expressing a complex, possibly not yet fixed perspective, I offer them this assignment challenge. 


By having students produce a script that shares their perspective instead of a typical research paper, I see their own opinions come out more clearly in their writing and as an added bonus, I have more enjoyment grading. 

I use this assignment for a 100-level Integrative Design Thinking lecture course for first year students in the College of Art & Architecture at the University of Idaho. It could be an added written challenge to a variety of courses where issues of appropriation come up. 



Project Prompt / Challenge

For this assignment, you will use the frame of written dialog/script to share your opinions (and any lingering questions you may have) about use of appropriation in creative design while also sharing some of your research on the subject. 

Share your own understanding of creative integrity by selecting at least one designer/maker and creating a script that could happen between you and them. 


  • to communicate a clear and confident stance on a complex issue
  • to integrate research into your own writing without defeating your own voice in the process.

  • to cite the words of others correctly

  • to provide memorable, critical content for your reader to ponder further


Barbara Kruger’s response to Complex in regard to Supreme Bitch lawsuit, 2013 (via



Suggest the setting quickly and then take on the main challenge here: provide discussion content that can answer questions such as the following.

How do you really feel about creative works built from someone else’s idea?  

Do you appreciate it?  ...dislike it? ...get frustrated in a good way?  

When is it okay to use someone else’s work? When does someone’s creative approach cross a line for you? What determines that line? 

What “stance” do you take when appropriating imagery, text, form, etc.? ...?

Your final text should be at least 500 words of enlightened conversation that also shares your research— however, your research should be presented through at least 3 statements not from the person you're pretending to have this conversation with. Their words can inspire some of what they say, but other voices must be spliced into your conversation.  To do this, you can incorporate a statement from the person you've chosen to interview, but you should also included text directly quoted or restated from others not speaking in your script.


For example:  You may choose to create a conversation between you and Dana Schutz, but also imbed statements from Sam Durant, Barbara Kruger & Claudia Rankine into your script. Their statements would be "spoken" through Dana Schutz's or your constructed voice.


Find at least 3 informative sources— news articles, interviews, essays, artist statements, etc.— offering in-depth, relevant content and use statements from each— either used directly or adapted for tonal fit— within your own text. All sources should be cited appropriately. MLA and APA citations are acceptable for this assignment. You must cite & connect all sources used within your text to pass this assignment.



Your discussions may be inspired by case studies/incidents shared in class (see examples below) or other issues you discover that deal with issues related to intellectual property, creative ownership or originality.

The main objective of this assignment is to craft other’s researched words into your own without defeating your own voice in the process. 


Many students struggle when adding quotations to their own text. They can neglect to thread it together in ways that allow their own opinions to be supported by those that they find; instead, added quotes seem to "float" in their text and come across as more valued than their own writing. Challenge yourself to edit your writing further to get beyond these typical issues.  In this assignment, you are challenged to embed found text into your own in ways that showcase YOU as a confident writer.  Clearly present your ideas and provide something memorable for your reader… while avoiding plagiarism in your written output.


Students work on this outside of class over 3 weeks.


Student Examples:

Student Work Example 1: Mariel
Student Work Example 2: Shoolroy
Student Work Example 3: Carson
Student Work Example 4: Brie


Case Studies / Incidents:

Information on how these incidents have unfolded overtime can be discovered in a variety of ways.  Links provided here (as of April 2021) and keys players involved are meant to help to you get started in finding situations to spark curiosity on the broad topic of appropriation.  Titles for all incidents are products of my own invention.


the "Supreme Bitch, Barbra Kruger Silent Response" incident

the "Bittersweet Sweet Symphony" incident (and perhaps a little redemption?)

the "Luc Tuymans (im)proper use of a source photo" incident

(use this link to access a fair use document that was made following)

the "Rauschenberg neighbor dumpster diving almost court case" incident

the "Ai Weiwei 'just following his lead' Florida Man" incident

the "Black Death Spectacle questioning of who can express what" incident

the "Jeff Koon (is kinda creepy) Snapchat intervention" incident & Bonus Video

the "Gone with the Wind Prolonged Vanessa PlaceTweets #canceled" incident

Additional Tips: 

In the past, I have asked students to share only 1 other voice beyond the person they are talking with in their script. This has worked well enough, but by forcing more outside perspective into their research, I have found that their opinions become more clearly pronounced. The invention necessary to thread more ranging ideas together forces them to clarify their stance with more authority.

It may be worthwhile to consider what widely available quotes about appropriation or top 10 sites are easily found on the internet when you give this assignment. I suggest that you establish more rules to get them to dive further with their research.  After a few years of giving this assignment, I now tell students they can't get anything higher than a "B" if they include the often misquoted line of "great artists steal," and I've now vetoed any conversation with Van Gogh, Vanilla Ice or "Weird Al" Yankovic. Protect yourself from disappoint where you can.


I highly suggest to students that they avoid having a conversation with their favorite artists, designers, musicians, chefs, etc. When students do, they often don't create a conversation; instead they create a one-sided interview.  More successes come in this assignment when they have something to disagree about or at least clarify within their scripts.

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