To Err Is Human, to Appropriate Divine / Hyperallergic

A sampling of images from the Appropriator app

A sampling of images from the Appropriator app

CHICAGO — To steal, to remake, to remix, and to appropriate are all part of being a creative human being. We are inspired and influenced by the works of art we encounter. Imitation is arguably the best form of flattery, and thanks to the internet we can obtain images a whole lot easier. Copyrights be damned — didn’t pop art teach us that anything in visual culture can be appropriated?

With that in mind, Berlin-based, San Francisco-bound developer Dianna Mertz created theAppropriator app. Anyone who can tap a screen can bring together art history and a contemporary smartphone photograph. The Appropriator offers users a way to take a photo that lives on the iPhone camera roll, or one shot on the spot, and layer it with pre-selected snippets from mostly art historical works of art. Tap to select a basket of fruit from Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593), the nude lady from Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1863), the leaves from Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve (1553), the monstrous lobster from Albrecht Durer’s Lobster (1495) or a tangle of legs with a great-horned owl mounted a top it from a detail of the Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1510), and then drop them onto your photograph. The share that image via email, Twitter or Facebook, and hashtag it with #Appropriator.

Aside from just a fun, quirky photo sharing app for art history nerds and art tourists alike, the Appropriator offers a subtle commentary on our smartphone-obsessed culture of documenting paintings that already exists on the internet and in the public domain, and the new ways in which we choose to experience art.

“We are being pounded with all these Facebook images and people doing these botched Photoshop jobs, and at the same time people are getting really excited about that kind of thing,” says Mertz when we talked via Google+ Hangout from her co-working space in Berlin. “My main goal with Appropriator is to enable people to become more active with artwork and create their own allegory through their photos.”

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