Publication Details

McLean, I. A. (2013). This belongs to me, the one dollar note: the eternal returns of appropriation. Broadsheet, 42 (1), 18-22.

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The dictionary meanings of appropriate and misappropriate are the same: to take something for one’s own use without the owner’s permission. Appropriate also has an additional dictionary meaning: to use something for a purpose that it wasn’t originally intended for. Poetic appropriation is quite different. It does often use images without the owner’s permission and often for an unexpected purpose, but its practice descends from hermeneutics (from Hermes, the ancient Greek messenger of the gods): the ancient art of interpreting the world’s speech. Its methods derive from theories of mimesis and simulation that can be traced well beyond Plato to shamanistic practices of form shifting—of becoming animal through the use of dance, painting and masks that mimic the animal in question. To dismiss poetic appropriation as theft is to miss its purpose.