Adobe’s latest “Imagination Challenge” in the UK asks students to “remake” a famous work of art through photography. Apparently, the people at the blog Boooooom! thought it was such an original idea, they decided to hold the exact same competition. Originality, what’s that?
Of course, there is nothing new about appropriation, as its use is commonly regarded as one of the primary facets of Postmodern art. The only problem is, it’s been done. In the late 70’s, Re-photography practitioners like Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, and Sherrie Levine, each employed appropriation in their art. Richard Prince is probably most famous for his early 80’s “Cowboys” series, in which he re-photographed Marlboro advertisements straight from the magazine. These photographs were then hung in a gallery, completely changing the context of the image. One could also argue that Marcel Duchamp accomplished a similar task of questioning the role of art in the 1920’s, with his “Ready-Made” pieces. You might recall, “Fountain,” a urinal turned upside-down.
The problem, then, with the Adobe project is context. Re-using, or re-purposing art in the context of a competition – especially when the event is being held by a company whose products are used for commercial design — leads to very little insight. The competition becomes merely an exercise. And judging by the submissions on Boooooom!’s web site, an amateur exercise at best. This sort of experiment is to be somewhat expected from Boooooom!, but higher standards should be held at Adobe. Don’t get me wrong, unlike Apple, I love Adobe. My workflow, and hence life, is made infinitely easier with the help of their software. Might I suggest that the competitive platform they employ to showcase the Adobe Suite of product be more appropriate? It should be design-centric, in my mind, and of course, it should charge its competitors to be, yes, more original. Maybe then the participants can truly showoff their talents and, in turn, understand why Adobe is at the forefront of creativity and innovation.