Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Amy Ge, I do graphic design, illustration, zines and animation and I love to dabble in new mediums and styles all the time.
What drew you to these?
I’ve always loved drawing; having the power to show other people how you’ve seen the world. I like how there is always huge variety of styles/mediums/stories to explore, so I never get bored. Drawing just makes me happy.
Do you think it is the creative practitioner’s responsibility to be conscious of ethical art making?
Definitely — we take responsibility in choosing how and what we bring into the world, and to what ideals and ethics we need to stick to when we’re doing so. I don’t tend to go very political with my work, but I make a conscious effort to depict different people, different scenarios, and to do research before I create.
As my practice is mostly illustration, and often PG at most, the place where I try to be as careful as possible is referencing and crediting. If I reference, I use my own photos or I try to use public domain/credit if there is nothing else I can use.
Also, an issue I want to touch upon is fanart, a community which I come from and which I still very much enjoy. It’s something that is definitely a little bit problematic, and after tabling at a convention and selling fanart myself, I realised that it really wasn’t for me: financially profiting off another person’s IP, no matter the community-building elements it has or the excitement it can bring to fellow fans — it’s not right to me. Of course, I recognise that I am still active in liking other people’s fanart, and still produce fanart (with no intention to sell it). It’s a community that I love dearly and a huge part of my life, but the ethics around making a living selling fanart are definitely a little dodgy (AGAIN let me say that so many of my friends are fanartists, I buy their works and support them; it’s an problem that I do still participate in and I recognise that).
Sorry, that went on longer than I intended haha.
What are tips that you have for other artists / creative for ethical art-making:
I think it’s just about figuring out your personal boundaries, doing your research, and sticking to your own morals as much as possible in any scenario; no one is perfect and everyone can still learn. Also, accept that everyone is different, everyone has their own ideals and ways of behaving in the world. Your ethics aren’t always everyone’s, and while you may not be able to change everyone’s minds, you can still live and practice the way you want to.
How does culture interplay into your practice? (be it your own heritage or other inspirations):
Like a lot of other ABCs, the feeling of being between cultures is always very strong — the history you learn at school is never relatable, the history you learn at home is just as distant.
Heritage is something that has come up in my works many times, and is what makes me actually very lenient when it comes to the stuff that people often call out as cultural appropriation these days. As someone who owns very little ‘culture’, who never feels authentic in a ‘culture’, whose ‘culture’ was taught over the internet or television, I’m always hungry to learn history and culture even though there’s very little that’s immediately relatable. I think that as long as you do your best to credit, to recognise and admit the stems and influences in your work or the way you portray yourself, then it’s okay to express yourself in that manner. Culture is never set in stone, everyone is different and in an increasingly global and digital society, the make of culture and communities is very different to the more homogeneous groups we existed in one hundred years ago.
Do you actively aim to avoid cultural appropriation in your work? If so, how?
I’m actually not sure? Honestly, sometimes I wonder myself — am I pretending to be more Chinese than I feel when I use Chinese characters in my work, despite only being able to read a few characters? When I use Japanese kana (which I can read) or their aesthetics, I don’t particularly think of them as indicators of culture but Japan is one of the most homogeneous countries in the world, despite their huge soft/cultural power and influence. Is that appropriation?
Basically, I draw what I like; I use whatever tools are in my arsenal. But I do always do research, a lot of research, before I attempt to include elements I know are unfamiliar to me.
What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation in creative fields (fashion industry, fine art work)?
Does the artist admit it? Who owns culture? Do people in the culture you’re from all live the exact same way, share the exact same ideals?
Recently, there’s been an artist (young, white, female) who has been blatantly tracing and getting into exhibitions using these traced, uncredited works lifted from a Japanese artist’s work. The Japanese artist’s works originally had a variety of different aesthetic influences, but the tracer just lifted and remixed/collaged the work together without mention of the Japanese artist at all.
I don’t mind finding beauty/influence/inspiration from someone else’s work. I don’t care if you’re collaging/remixing/etc. But the moment they don’t acknowledge the source, they’re in the wrong.
Love Amy’s graphic style? check out her work @amenumpha
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