Kesi Mortley and Ramon Knight talk about Plagiarism

Ramon Knight:
 I think we trivialize plagiarism in art a lot. Mostly with arguments about influence and inspiration, saying things like "it's the age of the internet" and "there's nothing new under the sun". But artists are really out there ripping off other artists. Some people even say when others copy you it's how you know you're great. Isn't that sad? I am supposed to feel great because somebody ripped me off.

Kesi Mortley: I often find that people also quote Picasso a lot when he said "Good artists copy; great artists steal". I feel like people are always just trying to justify their incapabilities. They're always just trying to find some form of an intellectual excuse as to why they're shit. You are right. Plagiarism in art doesn't usually get the forefront. It's pretty fucking pathetic when I see so many artists supporting an artist that is just so okay with it. But at the same time, I don't think enough is said on plagiarism in the arts. Granted, that information is probably out there on the internet if they wanted to educate themselves on the matter. But usually what happens is if it doesn't affect them directly then it doesn't matter, it's not important. I'm usually not too hard on the locals because they don't know any better. I refer to 'locals' as persons who are not intellectually inclined to the art world. They often time just praise anything that looks pretty. But I cringe big time when I see artists supporting plagiarism.

Ramon Knight: I imagine plagiarists reading the Picasso quote and feeling assured like, "see, Picasso does it too". But I wonder if he was referring to himself as a great artist or he was just making an observation. I always hear that creative industries thrive off of innovation, but with all the politics surrounding whose innovations are celebrated, what is the real reward for trying to do something different anyway? 

Capitalism puts so much pressure on art. People are always trying to get more for less, trying to maximize their investments in some way and are so afraid to take risks. You think somewhere along the way artists just threw out all the rules, like, "bitch fuck morals, I'm trying to survive!".

Kesi Mortley: 
I would not be surprised because he has been accused of plagiarism before. But yeah, there is a structure within itself and I sometimes find that people tend to latch on to artists who are doing great on social media. And I say social media because for the most part that's our platform in this generation. You know you want to latch on onto those artists that are doing well because after a while you kinda start to know the system a little bit more and you know what sells and what doesn't. And yeah you trying to survive, art is what pays the bills, you won't necessarily have that leisure time on your hands to experiment with first finding and developing your style and then testing it to the public. The way how everything is set up there is a small hole for original and fresh innovations to come through. Which is why you may sometimes find artwork today that is reminiscent of popular artists whether back in the day or present day. There is comfort in that familiarity when you see an artwork that reminds you of something great. You know, you see something and you say "ahhh, this reminds me of Basquiat" or it reminds you of Gorky or whoever it is. And sometimes it makes you feel a little more inclined to the artwork. Some people are great at taking inspiration and leaving it at that. They know how to merge elements from their favorite artist into their own artistic style to create something seemingly new. But definitely, capitalism probably pushed some artists to say 'fuck it'.

But personally, I haven't felt the effects of capitalism when it comes on to my artwork. I haven't thought about art that far. My parents and sister provide me with anything I need. I've never had to come to a decision like that before where its surviving or staying true to my morals. The only thing I worry about is school work and planning out exactly what I'm gonna do when I leave Edna you know. I have that privilege of not having to delve into that kind of conflict.

When it comes on to capitalism do you think it shaped your artwork in any way?

Ramon Knight: I think it did. My art is on mugs and pillows now. I'm selling prints too. I wish I could live off my originals but they don't sell fast enough. I don't know if it's that they aren't very good or it's just people who are poor. The brokenness of my peers definitely influences how I price my work. I'm not trying to make something within a specific budget but I'm kinda forced to. The work is more than material but I have to use what I can afford. Honestly, I wish I could just give my art away, and I do sometimes. It's like Mavado says in Money Changer (2009)"make money / but doa bow feeit". He's saying work hard but do it with dignity and live in your truth. He's saying these things are important.

We're pushing close to 1,000 words. That last bit felt like my closing. Unless you have questions or more to say?

Kesi Mortley: Yeah what you said is good. We can close it there.

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