When I saw that M.I.A was “KEEPING A STEAL LOG” on her Tumblr, it made total sense. What better way for a serial artistic appropriationist to keep a transparent list of her influences, right? Except the concept was not envisioned as a means for her to give a shout-out to the artists and cultures by which she is influenced, but a reaction to the alleged stage design theft at the Grammys during the star-studded Bob Marley tribute. Hmmmm, you be the judge.
>>> IM KEEPING A STEAL LOG THIS YEAR HERE THE ONE FOR JAN / FEB > miauniverse.tumblr.com MIA $500 : GRAMMYS $5000000
— M.I.A(@MIAuniverse) February 20, 2013
Apart from sharing a fondness for neon lighting (as with every other live performer with a lighting budget), the similarities end with the cubic/rectangular structures that adorn both stages. At least M.I.A explained her ownership of the right-angle.
“My ideas came from my life,” she writes. “My set was based on Tamil
Hindu temple. Not Bob Marley.” She added, “If u wanna see the real thing
or get it first, come to a M.I.A. show!“
So essentially M.I.A is accusing the Grammys of ripping off her idea… which she ripped off from Hindu iconography.
I don’t imagine the Grammys production team were so short on ideas that they were forced to trawl through shitty fan made YouTube clips on the eve of the event, but even if they were, they probably didn’t steal their idea from M.I.A. Where M.I.A uses glorified fairy lights to give the stage a sense of depth and structure, the Grammys set utilises a rig of dynamic LED’s, using evolving patterns that alternate between the colours of the Jamaican flag. Both very different budgets and very different ideas.
M.I.A shoots her mouth off a lot and that’s cool because that’s her thing – she’s provocative. But as the Queen of Cultural Collage, it’s particular poor form to cry foul when there is the slightest hint that an artistic reinterpretation has been derived from one of her ideas.
For the record, this is how you steal a stage concept.
First Etienne De Crecy did this:
And then The Killers did this: