Saturday, February 14, 2009

Digital Reproductions

[reprinted from the old blog site 4/16/07, with comments]

Karen Schreiner makes a point that requires a new thread:

I'm still unhappy with the notion of "reproduction" when it's applied to digital art. Someone has yet to tell me where the original exists in order for it to be reproduced. No doubt this argument has already taken place many times but I've obviously missed it. If there is no "original" then I'm perplexed how there can be a "reproduction". It's beginning to seem to me we have to re-examine the whole model because we've shifted to an entirely different paradigm. Perhaps the terms "original" and "copy" no longer have relevance in this context. There may even be good reasons to consider *any* rendering of any image that's been entirely produced by digital means as the "original". This seems a little more satisfying than saying we have reproductions (or copies) without an original.
"Original" is certainly a slippery word in this context. The code is the original in the way that a copper plate or litho stone is an original. It's not the object that is intended to be viewed. A print is usually issued in an edition and each iteration is called a "copy." A reproduction of a print (i.e., of a copy) involves scanning or photographing the print and reproducing it in another medium, as in a picture in a book or magazine. A facsimile of a print involves a similar process, but printing it on the same paper, or other medium that the "original" print was on.

The 3D metal prints of Bathsheba are created from original code. So are the 3D SL objects, like Bathsheba Dorn's RhombdO
. We have not been calling them prints, but perhaps we should.

We can tell an original print on paper because it's signed by the artist. The signature signifies approval of that copy as authentic. That notion requires more thought, and a lot of thought has been done on it. I suggest reading the essays and their commentaries on
Authenticity in Art by Denis Dutton,
From Original to Copy and Back Again by James Elkins, along with other papers and discussions at the Art and Cognition Workshops.

To call any rendering of a digital image an original is dicey. In Second Life, for example, a copy may be sold with permission to modify. Someone can modify it and then sell it as an "original" without modify permission, and it will still have the original creator's name on it. The end user may not know it went through an intermediate change. It is called an original.

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