Emily Kennerk Plagiarism Debacle

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To all that have been interested in the debacle concerning Emily Kennerk’s work, I wanted to give you an update. The Art Prize organization has decided to allow her to continue to participate in the contest and keep her $5000.00 prize. While this is hard for me to accept it, it is typically myopic from people accustomed to art that does not move. From the standpoint of one who’s almost entire repertoire over the past eight years has consisted of time based sculpture and video it seems that we have a long way to go in considering our works aesthetics to include motion.

I am not making a claim that either the materials or the size and scale are the same, the claim is that the process used in the artwork is one that she lifted from my research, I have tried to prove that it is the process that makes the final aesthetics of the work as the work will move from organization to movement to disarray using sound as the potent kinetic force created with sound in the artwork. The process and outcome of both Emily Kennerk’s pitch and my work are the same.

What is hard for most people to understand, even professionals in the arts, is that they are accustomed to older conventions of aesthetics. Most people think of art conventionally as static, this is the dominant condition of art ( i have made the case that all work is kinetic but that is besides the point and I wouldn’t want Emily to potentially take any more ideas, so I will keep that one to myself).

The hard part is the idea that time based work has its own built in aesthetic, motion is not only a process but an aesthetic. Like a dancer or an athlete, their work has to perform and when you hone a skill the process becomes second nature in visual art a performance and its association to it’s aesthetics is absolutely crucial. My kinetic work has become second nature, I have become extremely close to the process being refined and perfected, similar to how Paco De Lucia, played flamenco. I view the work as a performance whether or not the sound comes from the audience or myself.

She knew and saw my kinetic work, used similar elements, and used the process, that is what makes me feel like I am being robbed of research I have worked on since 2008. Since Emily has never executed an exhibition with this process it is hard to say she simply came up with it one day, knowing that she never worked with sound, and saw my work do it years ago. If she uses my process the aesthetics of the work will look, sound and feel like mine. When those dishes fall to the floor, the look and the feel of what is transpiring and what is happening,will begin to feel like one of my works. Her problem is that she does not know sound, and while she may hire people to do this work for her, it won’t be original, she is no Paco de Lucia.

I would like to mention that what has come from this awful debacle is an overwhelming outpouring of support that I am absolutely blown away by. I have to thank each and every one of you, and I think I will do my next performance very soon full sized chairs, tables, dinnerware and the works dedicated to all of you, in Las Vegas and beyond, so bring any instruments you have and plug into my next work. If I can’t find a space, it will be in the desert like Kyuss, I know sound, perhaps Josh Homme will come for it.

Some links:

Local artist Emily Kennerk takes a win from ArtPrize Pitch Night | Arts + Entertainment Blog | NUVO






  1. I can appreciate all the research and hard work that have gone into your art. I’m sorry that more people didn’t recognize that also. As far as art goes I would say this is not plagiarism. Great artists “borrow” from each other all the time. Some call it theft, some call it inspiration. Pablo Picasso even said that “bad artists copy, great artists steal.” To say she plagiarized your work because you have the “original” medium; ie sound-to-movement, and subject matter (dinner tables) would be like saying Raphael plagiarized Leonardo because they both used paint and painted people. The fact that she outsourced the technical know-how doesn’t matter, Michelangelo outsourced 75% of the Sistine Chapel, only painting the major figures like Adam, God, Christ, etc…

    I give you credit for blazing new trails, and developing the nuts and bolts of the medium, but this isn’t the only time sound has been used in this way, nor will it ever be the last. As artists we can either express ourselves with our art as a personal endeavor, or we can try to express a thought with the hopes of that thought being communicated to the viewer. I think Emily Kennerk has done the latter of these two very well. Regardless of her motives or inspiration, the work stands alone as a good piece that has touched many.

    • Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in providing your comments on the issue. I think you are correct that her work can stand alone as a good piece that has touched many, In fact I never said it was a bad work. Perhaps you are right and it isn’t plagiarism, I welcome all opinions and a sharing of ideas. The problem I have with Emily’s work is that she was exposed to another persons work very similar to the one she is doing now during a time when she was under a student teacher contract and within the confines of an institution that has guidelines on plagiarism and academic integrity, meaning she would and still be (if she works at an academic institution) responsible for proving in her research that she came up with an idea of her own with cited references, a timeline, and testing she performed which she has not. She was at my thesis exhibit in 2009, my thesis exhibit is the first time this work was exhibited. Her motives and inspiration are fully hers, but they only prove that she felt inspired, with no concrete pathway that shows where the concept came from.

      The analogy of Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael is flattering however I will add a question to that? What if Raphael had copied the machines and devices that Leonardo had conceived would that have made Raphael a plagiarist? Would have Leonardo been ok with that?

      We are not the first or the last to make work like this, I saw an exhibit that was similar to my work in Santa Fe at this exhibit by Hillerbrand+Magsamen: http://ccasantafe.org/archive-visual-arts/132-playing-house it also included sound activated kinetics chairs and tables and I knew right away that it was not plagiarism. It was very similar in context, but these artists had no contact with my direct research and did not know my work, their work was fully original in my viewpoint. What I prove is that Emily’s work is not original, but that does not mean that it is bad, it proved to be impressive to the audience and Grand Rapids enjoyed it and gave her a prize.

      I am also flattered that you say I am a trailblazer, thank you, but I will always cite references and give credit to those that blazed a path for me, my research and work. In my opinion the people that have inspired me come first, it is a path that we must choose as professors in our research and that artists should also embrace, I think it will become more important as time goes by and it may make us all a little less cynical about proving intellectual property and mitigating the idea that anything goes in the digital age.

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