Thursday, June 19, 2008

Reproduction: Past, Present, Future

"A man paints with his brains and not with his hands." – Michelangelo

"[T]he earliest art works originated in the service of a ritual—first magical, then the religious kind…. [T]he unique value of the 'authentic' work has its basis in ritual…. [F]or the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the 'authentic' print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice—politics." – Walter Benjamin [1]

"I'm interested in the distribution of physical vehicles in the form of editions because I'm interested in spreading ideas. The objects are only understandable in relations to my ideas. The work I do politically has a different effect on people because such a product exists than it would have if the means of expression were only the written word. Although these products may not seem suitable for bringing about political change, I think more emanates from them than if the ideas behind them were revealed directly. To me the vehicle quality of the editions is important...." – Joseph Beuys [2]

"I like things to be exactly the same over and over again. I don't want it to be essentially the same—I want it to be exactly the same." – Andy Warhol [3]

"A painting's meaning lies not in its origin, but in its destination." – Sherrie Levine [4]

In contemporary America, and with global reach, culture has been redefined as intellectual property. This is the only game in town. Multinational corporations are the dominant players, absorbing and provoking counter-cultures and traditional cultures alike. The rules are inordinately complex, involving worldwide legal systems that only an army of experts can decipher. The action is connected by chaotic technological infrastructures that simultaneously reduce all cultural production into a single digital currency, while unleashing infinite possibilities for creative expression. Reproduction—be it virtual or physical—is the ultimate prize: the primary mode by which creators communicate their contributions to a larger audience and capture the full value of their work.

Technological revolutions spur new opportunities and new limits, pioneers and resistance. These effects are extreme in the fine arts, with its contradictory values of innovation and tradition, fame and rarity, originality and universality, subversion and awe. Will the digital reproduction of ideas—in the form of images, words, sounds, movement, and numbers—have as profound of an effect in the Twenty-First Century as the invention of mechanical reproduction had in the Fifteenth Century? Will visual artists be at the cutting edge of these changes as they were six-hundred years ago? The answer lies in how creative professionals engage the world of intellectual property and communicate to the public at large.

Western society has evolved over centuries toward ever more liberal conventions of cultural access, but each generation must repeat the struggle. With every advance in the reproductive dissemination of cultural creation comes a conservative reaction that longs for older traditions, and tries to reign in the effects of technologically wrought change. Artists have played leading roles on both sides of this historical debate. Digital reproduction is at the heart of today's tussle of cultural evolution. While important aspects of digital reproduction are new, many of the tensions posed are ancient in origins.

[1] Benjamin, 1935.
[2] Beuys 1970.
[3] Warhol 1989.
[4] Levine 1982.

Reproduction: A Democratic Impulse

Within a few decades of the death of Johannes Gutenberg (1397-1468), and just a few towns over, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the son of a goldsmith, elevated the humble woodcut from a simple tool for printing playing cards and devotionals to the level of artistic masterpiece. Dürer's accomplishment rested on an ancient history of art reproduction. Some of the earliest art known to man are 25,000-year-old stenciled hand prints [PLATE 1] on the walls of Pyrenees caves. [1] In ancient Greece, founding and stamping was used to reproduce art on coins, bronzes and terra cottas.[2] The earliest relief prints came with the invention of paper in China (105 a.d.). Stone rubbings, stenciling, and eventually woodcut prints spread Buddhism throughout Asia, including the earliest dated printed book from 868 a.d., called the Diamond Sutra [PLATE 2], an illustrated Buddhist scroll. The Chinese invented moveable clay type by 1041.

In 1436, six centuries after the Diamond Sutra was printed, Gutenberg built the first press with replaceable wooden or metal letters. What Mark Twain calls "the incomparably greatest event in the history of the world" is widely credited with igniting the Renaissance and causing the most profound cultural and sociological change. Until then, books—the Bible and Torah in particular—were rare objects, treasured symbols of elite wealth, power, and literacy. Within a century, tens of millions of books were distributed throughout Europe; printed words and images were no longer the sole domain of nobility and clergy. Mechanical reproduction shook the foundations of religious authority with its enlightening and democratizing effects for the emerging merchant classes.

Dürer's first commission was to illustrate Sebastian Brant's Das Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools) [PLATE 3], published in 1494 by Johann Bergmann de Olpe. This illustrated manuscript became the Western World's first bestseller, with multiple editions and translations into all European languages. Dürer's prints anticipate many of the sensibilities and artistic concerns of our postmodern, digital age. He participated in one of the first mass market phenomena, experimented with a far-reaching new technology, and created such symbolically complex and self-conscious woodcuts as der Messung (Work about the Art of Drawing, 1538) [PLATE 4], which encourages speculation about reality and simulation, gender and creativity, gaze and frame, difference and domination.[3]

Gutenberg's invention marks the exact midway point of the twelve centuries between our age of digital reproduction and the first printed book. It is remarkable to consider that the democratic, anti-elitist impulse of reproduced words and images has been there from the start—even if motivated by religious belief. The world's first public domain notice was clearly printed on the last page of the Diamond Sutra: "reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Chieh on behalf of his two parents on the 15th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Hsien-t'ung."[4]

1. Gallery of Hands. ca. 30,000 BC.
Panel of Hand Stencils at the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc that were created by blowing pigments onto a hand placed against the wall. The black profile is a mammoth walking to the left (back, forehead, trunk). It was drawn after the hand. Courtesy of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

2. The Diamond Sutra. 868 AD.
The world's earliest printed book. Courtesy of The British Library.

3. Albrecht Dürer. Woodcut to Chapter 52 of Sebastian Brant's Das Narrenschiff. 1494.
Johann Bergmann de Olpe, Basel. Reprinted in and courtesy of The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, ed. Willi Kurth (New York: Dover, 1963).

4. Albrecht Dürer. Man Drawing a Reclining Woman. 1538.
From the second edition of Underweysung der Messung (Work about the Art of Drawing). Originally printed in Nuremberg. Reprinted in and courtesy of The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, ed. Willi Kurth (New York: Dover, 1963).

[1] Paglia 2004; Wisniowski 2003.
[2] Benjamin 1935.
[3] Felluga 2003; Wolf 1990.
[4] Carter 1925.

Reproduction: Intransigent Hierarchies

Resistance from reigning elites has usually accompanied the democratic possibilities of advances in reproduction technologies. William Tyndale (1494-1536) [PLATE 5] was born the same year that Ship of Fools was published. Exactly one century after Gutenberg's invention, Tyndale was burned at the stake for attempting to publish the first English translation of the Bible in Britain.

Privileged opposition to the printing press was widespread from the outset, ranging from disdain to censorship to far worse. Libraries and their patrons favored hand-copied Latin manuscripts; scholars praised the aesthetic and spiritual qualities of handwritten codices.[1] Such deep attachments to the purity of hand-made arts and traditional modes of communication echo throughout the ages. The most sophisticated gatekeepers of "high culture" typically have frowned on new technologies and more popular styles of expression that promise greater public access and appreciation.

Painting and sculpture were regarded as manual crafts in the Western World until the Renaissance, when the status of such visually accessible creations was finally elevated to the level of arts alongside poetry and music.[2] Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) helped establish the prominence of painters, sculptors and architects with his Lives of Artists (1568) [PLATE 6], but continued to dismiss woodcuts and other printmaking techniques, and certainly any print not made by a painter's hand.[3] The same prejudice is integral to the structure of the visual art market to this day, with New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman calling prints, "the proverbial stepchild" of the visual arts.[4] Originality, authenticity, provenance, rarity, and quality are the hallmarks of value in fine art. This is a profoundly political equation. The flip side is at the core of Walter Benjamin's seminal 1935 article, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," which has become so influential that contemporary art guru David Ross quips, "it seems everyone is required to quote from [it]."[5]

By the end of the Renaissance, the lowly status accorded printmaking by the Guild of Holland was precisely why Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) [PLATE 7] began etching. Working in a medium at the periphery of established artistic concern freed him to experiment outside of academic controls and dogma. Rembrandt's exclusive relationship with his publisher and dealer Hendrick van Uylenburgh is emblematic of the significance of printing to his life as an artist. Rembrandt not only lived in Uylenburgh's home for years, but even married Uylenburgh's cousin Saskia, the subject of many Rembrandt masterpieces.

Rembrandt's lifetime marks the birth of licensing in the West, which began as a means for censuring "naughty printed books" (as stated in Henry VIII's proclamation of 1538) and protecting the interests of church, state, and a small oligopoly of commercial printers.[6] "The contractual association between artist and publisher was at the heart of the printmaking enterprise and represents an essential pattern of early licensing," according to legal scholar Brooke Oliver."[7] In 1662, the King of England decreed the first European licensing act, and in 1710, the Statute of Anne was passed, becoming the first copyright act in the world. Controlling the reproduction of words and images was paramount, as interest in such forms of expression was not quelled by hierarchical standards and bias alone.

1. Death of William Tyndale (1536). 1563.
On a platform before castle walls, Tyndale ("Lord opé the king of Englands eies"), in a loin cloth, is chained to a stake by an executioner; a large crowd of soldiers, monks, and civilians look on. Series 3 (2nd) Implied Book, Friars, one gesturing with hand Loinclothed martyrs, incl. Jerome of Prague. John Foxe. Actes and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Dayes, Touching Matters of the Church ("Foxe's Book of Martyrs”). John Day, London, 1563. Courtesy of Ohio State University Library.

2. Giorgio Vasari. Title Page, Lives of Artists. 1550.
From The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. Florence. Courtesy of The Australian National University.

3. Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. Beggar Leaning on a Stick. ca. 1630.
Etching, 3-3/8 x 1-7/8 in. (8.6 x 4.8 cm); sheet: 3-1/2 x 2 in. (8.9 x 5.1 cm). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

[1] Keating and Hargitai 1999.
[2] Witcombe 1997.
[3] Wyckoff 2000, p. 15.
[4] Kimmelman 2005.
[5] Ross 1999.
[6] Unwin, Unwin and Tucker 2004.
[7] Oliver 2004.

Reproduction: Opening the Floodgates

Rembrandt may be remembered today primarily as a great painter, but etchings are what first made him famous throughout Europe.[1] Prints were a way to sell art to a larger market than could afford to buy or travel to view an original oil painting.[2] Rembrandt biographer Gary Schwartz argues "it was Rembrandt the etcher who most palpably changed the history of art."[3] Rembrandt produced 300 etchings, and his plates were printed upon over and over again under his supervision and long after his death.[4] But this master's prolificacy represents just the beginning of the more widespread distribution of art to come.

Within a hundred years of Rembrandt's death, a young Japanese artist would begin work raising the level of artistic reproduction by two orders of magnitude. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) [PLATE 8] produced an astonishing 35,000 drawings and prints in his lifetime (an average of two per day), continuing the ancient tradition of woodcut printing, which the Japanese call Ukiyo-e, or "pictures of the floating world." Meanwhile, Hokusai's French contemporary Alois Senefelder (1771-1834) invented lithography in 1798 to publicize his plays, creating a process capable of printing 30,000 impressions with one lithographic stone.

By the second half of the Nineteenth Century, Europe had witnessed not only the influx of Japanese woodcuts, but also the transformational inventions of the industrial revolution: photography, halftones, color-separation, and steam-powered presses capable of printing 10,000 sheets per hour. First came Daguerreotypomania [PLATE 9], after the French government publicized the existence of this early photographic process in the summer of 1839, then Japonisme took over with the reopening of trade with the West in 1854, and finally the poster craze plastered Paris once Jules Chéret (1836-1932) [PLATE 10] opened his print shop in 1866, and Europe was flooded with posters by Bonnard [PLATE 11], Toulouse-Latrec [PLATE 12], and many others (a trend that continues today with the ubiquitous poster reproductions of Degas [PLATE 13] and other artists of the time).

1. Katsushika Hokusai. Kohada Koheiji. ca. 1830.
From Hyaku-Monogatari ("Ghost Tales"). Chúban size woodblock color print. Signature: Zen Hokusai hitsu. Publisher: Tsuru-ya Kiemon. One of the many stories of a man who turned into a snake or serpent after his death. Courtesy of the Tikotin Museum of Japanese in Haifa, Israel.

2. Theodore Maurisset. Daguerreotypemania. 1839.
Lithograph with applied color, 25.4 x 35.1 cm. Courtesy of the George Eastman House.

3. Jules Chéret. Palais de Glace - Jeune Fille. 1894.
Original lithograph poster in colours. Signed and dated in the stone. Issued as small-scale domestic poster in the form of a supplement to a special issue of the Courrier Français, January, 1895. Printed at the studio of Chaix – the Atelier Cheret. Courtesy of William Weston Gallery.

4. Pierre Bonnard. Poster for La Revue Blanche. 1894.
Color lithograph, 58.7 x 78.2 (23 1/8 x 30 3/4). Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

5. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Divan Japonais. 1893.
Lithograph poster, 31 5/8 x 23 7/8" (80.3 x 60.7 cm). Publisher: Édouard Fournier, Paris. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund. Édouard Fournier, owner of the Divan Japonais cabaret in Montmartre, Paris, commissioned this poster after redecorating the nightclub with Japanese motifs. Toulouse-Lautrec depicts two of his friends in the foreground, cancan dancer Jane Avril and art critic Édouard Dujardin, with singer Yvette Guilbert performing with her signature black gloves in the background.

6. Edgar Degas. l'Etoile ou Danseuse sur scène. 1876-1877.
Pastel, 0.058 x 0.042 cm. Courtesy of Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

[1] Alpers 2003.
[2] Schwartz 2004.
[3] Schwartz 1991.
[4] Orenstein, nd.

Reproduction: Limiting the Print Frenzy

By the end of Nineteenth Century, detractors decried the loss of exclusivity caused by the technological introductions of large print runs and photography. For the previous five hundred years in the West, collectors had been happy to snap up as many artist prints as could be produced, and artists happily adopted every new printing technology that enabled them to reach wider audiences for their work. That all changed with the introduction of limited editions, hand signed copies, and what artist Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) called the "brutal and barbarous matter" of cancelling plates [PLATE 14].[1]

Elizabeth Wyckoff, the New York Public Library's print specialist, credits French critic Phillippe Burty (1830-1890) with first conceiving and promoting the concept of "limited edition."[2] Burty is most famous for coining the term Japonisme in the 1870s, and for his early support of Impressionism. He was a founding member of the Société des Aquafortistes (Etcher's Society), which was set up in 1862 primarily to prevent photography from being accepted as art. Many influential artists joined the Aquafortistes and signed petitions against photography, including neoclassicist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) [PLATE 15] and others.[3]

Print clubs that specialized in limited editions of high-quality fine-art prints began to appear throughout Europe and America, based on the model of the Société des Aquafortistes.[4] In the second half of the Twentieth Century, this European tradition led to the establishment of experimental print workshops such as Tatyana Grosman's Universal Limited Art Editions in 1957 (Bay Shore, Long Island), June Wayne's Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1960 (first in Los Angeles then Albuquerque), Ken Tyler's Gemini Graphics Editions Limited (Los Angeles then Tyler Graphics in Mount Kisco, NY and finally the Singapore Tyler Print Institute) [PLATE 16]. These master workshops were responsible for training a generation of fine art printers, spawning dozens of print shops throughout North America, developing incredibly innovative printmaking techniques, and publishing original and limited edition prints by the most famous names in Postwar American art. [5]

Yet the broader trends of Twentieth-Century cultural reproduction defied such refined limitation, and had immeasurably greater impact on the art world and the world at large.

1. James McNeill Whistler. Agnes. 1873/1878.
Etching, catalogue number: Kennedy 134, 225 x 150 mm (8 7/8" x 5 15/16"). This impression is taken from the cancelled plate & printed on laid paper with a high-crown watermark. Repaired one-inch tear in lower-left margin outside plate mark. Image size: 224x151mm. Courtesy of Spaightwood Galleries.

2. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Odalisque. 1825.
Lithograph, 131 x 210 mm (5 3/16 x 8 1/4") plus margins. Delteil 9, only state. Published by Delpech in Album lithographique, 1826. Courtesy of R. E. Lewis & Daughter Gallery.

3. Sidney B. Felsen. Daniel Buren at Gemini workshop. 1988.
Photograph. © Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, California, 2001. Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

[1] Wyckoff 2000, p. 17.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Holbert 2004.
[4] Goddard 1998.
[5] Platzker 2000, p. 27.

Reproduction: Its Opposite is Extermination

The true heirs of Nineteenth-Century chromolithography were advertising [PLATE 17], propaganda [PLATE 18], and mass media. Limiting editions may nibble at the rarified edges of artistic reproduction, but propaganda and advertising destroy the very limits and possibilities of the technologies of reproduction. Any message or image—no matter how bland, bizarre, or brilliant—numbs with sufficient repetition, eliminating diversity, undermining the search for truth, exterminating alternative ideas, with lethal implications for life itself.

The Twentieth Century revealed extremes on both ends of the replication spectrum: expansionary tendencies and hegemonic message-making on the one hand, and authoritarian censorship and control of reproduction on the other. These forces proved capable of influencing and reshaping entire populations, prompting the First World War, the Russian Revolution, Hitler's final solution, nuclear war in Japan, China's one-child policy, and global ecological crises and species extinction. Reaction to the nightmare aspects of capitalism, fascism, and communism, including the manufacturing, media, and military methods behind them, provoked the dominant currents of Twentieth-Century art.

Modernism had a problem: signs of human, scientific, and technological progress were being contested violently throughout the world. Progressive modernists, with their roots in the Enlightenment and the Nineteenth-Century reaction to academic conservatives, were overtaken by a new avant garde that continues to dominate the art world in the Twenty-First Century. The postmodern challenge for visual artists remains: how to respond to the ubiquity of visual culture without retreating to the philosophical and sensory self-explorations of formalism and art for art's sake? Marshal McLuhan famously said, "advertising is the greatest art form of the Twentieth Century" [PLATE 19]. [1] In the Twenty-First Century, can art push reproduction technologies beyond mere commerce and ideology?

1. Procter & Gamble Co. I Thought I Was Doomed To Dull, Unattractive Hair Until I Tried Drene. 1937.
Kansas City Star. Courtesy of Duke University Ad*Access Project.

2. Mikhail Troitskii. Poema o Mashiniste (Poem about the machine operator). 1932.
Oformlenie Nikolaia Muratova. Leningrad: Leningradskoe oblasnoe izd-vo. Series: Biblioteka "Leninskikh iskr". 18 page, 19 cm. Agit-prop (a contraction of "agitatsiia" and "propaganda") was used in the Soviet Union after the Revolution to promote appropriate values among the masses, and included books such as Zubarev's Poema o mashiniste. Courtesy of McGill University Rare Books and Special Collections Division.

3. Coco Robot Studios. Che-Britney. ca. 1999-2002.
Street flyer used throughout Boston and New York Universities and city streets to promote the launch of trampt Magazine, designed as a series for the suck:now (subversive urban culture killing) f guerilla marketing campaign. The poster spoofs one of the world's most widely reproduced and merchandized images, the 1960 black-and-white photo of revolutionary Ché Guevara by the Cuban photographer known as "Korda" (Alberto Diaz Guttierez, 1928-2001). Courtesy of © coco robot studios, aka "cocoa robot studios" a division of Abuse The System, Inc., Boston, MA.

[1] McLuhan, Marshall et al. 1996.

Reproduction: At the Core of Postmodernism

It is not surprising in this context that Marcel Duchamp's 1917 readymade entitled "Fountain" (a urinal signed R. Mutt) [PLATE 20] was recently named the most influential work of modern art in the world by a poll of 500 leading artists, curators, critics and dealers.[1] Dadaism, provoked by the mechanized slaughter of the "Great War", with its focus on the random reuse and parody of everyday visual signs, is widely claimed as the herald of conceptualism and postmodernism, two of the most omnipresent aspects of contemporary art at the start of the Twenty-First Century.[2]

Duchamp, a printmaker's grandson, was fascinated by replication, and much of his work challenges the importance of originality. Art historian Francis Naumann calls Duchamp "the first artist in this [sic] century consciously and systematically to reproduce his own work."[3]

While the survey undoubtedly has a British slant (it was commissioned by sponsors of the Turner Prize), the prominence of reproduction as a theme in the top-ranked Twentieth-Century work is noteworthy. Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) [PLATE 21], comes in second place, with its appropriation of African masks [PLATE 22] and Ingres' Vénus Anadyomène [PLATE 23], foreshadowing Picasso's invention of collage and his cubist constructions, which in turn inspired Duchamp's readymades, and the rich lineage of formal exploration, improvisation, and abstraction that followed.

Andy Warhol's Marilyn Diptych (1962) [PLATE 24] ranks third, with its fifty silk-screened repetitions of the glamorous actress's face, a work entirely about the relationship of reproduction to immortality, iconography, popularity, simulacra, and death. Also on the list are Joseph Beuys' I like America and America Likes Me (1974) [PLATE 25], Constantin Brancusi's Endless Column (1938) [PLATE 26], and Donald Judd's 100 untitled works in mill aluminum (1982-86) [PLATE 27], all of which feature reproduction as a key to their documentation, form, or concept (as political multiples, elegant clones, or minimalist repetition).

In another attempt to rank the significance of art works, University of Chicago economist David Galenson found Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) [PLATE 28] "to be not only the dominant American work of art of the late Twentieth Century, but the most important individual work produced by an American during the past 150 years."[4] His measure: the number of times the work has been reproduced in dozens of art textbooks published since 1990. The original Spiral Jetty has barely been seen by the public, not only because of its extreme remoteness in Utah, sixteen miles from the nearest paved road, but also because it has been submerged by the Great Salt Lake for many of the years since it was built. Awareness of Smithson's conceptual work and its significance to the history of art is entirely dependent on technologies of reproduction.

Twentieth-Century artistic strategies are replete with techniques centered on the reuse or reproduction of images: appropriation, assemblage, bricolage, collage, combines, detournement, montage, sampling, readymades. The most widely quoted postmodern philosophers and critical theorists, including Barthes, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Derrida, Jameson, and Lyotard are fixated on reproduction as the central problematic of culture.[5] Many of the top-selling visual artists born after 1940 use reproduction as a key element of their artistic strategy, including Jeff Koons [PLATE 29], Jean-Michel Basquiat [PLATE 30], Felix Gonzalez-Torres [PLATE 31], Chuck Close [PLATE 32], Damien Hirst, Mark Tansey, and Takashi Murakami (in declining order of their highest auction prices, 2000 to 2003).[6] Reproduction is integral to broader measures of Georg Franck's "attention economy" which values any kind of creative work (scientific or artistic) based upon its ability to garner public and expert recognition.[7] This approach is associated with several other rankings of artistic value that date back to art historian Willi Bongard's influential Kunstcompass, which the German magazine Kapital began publishing in 1970. After Joseph Beuys became the first European artist to top its list in 1979, he made his now-famous quote: "Kunst = Kapital" (Art = Capital).[8]

1. Marcel Duchamp. Fountain. 1917.
Photo credit: Alfred Stieglitz. Reproduced in The Blind Man, No. 2, 1917, p. 4. Courtesy of Tout-Fait: the Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal.

2. Pablo Ruiz Picasso. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. 1907.
Oil on canvas, 8' x 7' 8" (243.9 x 233.7 cm). © 2002 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art Lillie P. Bliss Bequest.

3. Nkanu Mask. nd.
Approximately 25" high without raffia. Courtesy of McCue Tribal Arts.

4. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Venus Anadyomène. 1848.
Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

5. Andy Warhol. Marilyn Diptych. 1962.
Silkscreen, ink/symthetic polymer paint on canvas, 2 panels each 208.3 x 144.8 cm. London: Tate Gallery. Courtesy of © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc/ARS, NY.

6. Joseph Beuys. I like America and America likes Me. 1974.
Photograph by Caroline Tisdall of Beuys performance at René Block Gallery, New York. Courtesy of the Estate of Joseph Beuys/ARS, NY.

7. Constantin Brancusi. Endless Column. 1937-38.
Metal-coated cast-iron modules on a steel spine, height 98 feet, Târgu-Jiu, Romania. Restored and reassembled in 2000, conceived as a monument to young Romanians who died in World War I.

8. Donald Judd. 100 untitled works in mill aluminum. 1982-1986.
Installed in two former artillery sheds at the center of the Chinati Foundation's permanent collection in Marfus, Texas.

9. Robert Smithson. Spiral Jetty. 1970.
Mud, precipitated salt crystals, rocks, water coil, 1500' long and 15' wide. Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah. Photographed by George Steinmetz, September 2002. Courtesy of the DIA Center for the Arts, New York.

10. Jeff Koons. Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank. 1985.
Two Dr J Silver Series, Spalding NBA Tip-Off. Courtesy of the Tate Gallery, London.

11. Jean Michel Basquiat. Mona Lisa. nd.

12. Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Untitled (Perfect Lovers). 1987-1990.
Two commercial clocks, 14" x 27" x 1", courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery.

13. David Adamson. Chuck Close Inkjet Self-Portrait Being Prepared. nd.
Photograph. (Assistant John Hughes in picture for final mounting) Courtesy of David Adamson, Adamson Editions.

[1] Higgens 2004.
[2] Witcombe 1997.
[3] Naumann 1999.
[4] Galenson 2003.
[5] Barthes 1984; Baudrillard 1994; Deleuze 1994; Derrida 1987; Jameson 1991; Lyotard 1984.
[6] Artprice 2004b, p. XIII.
[7] Franck 1998.
[8] Rohr-Bongard 2004; 2005.

Reproduction: Identity and Biology

Gertrude Stein's famous line, "rose is a rose is a rose is a rose" makes clear that despite the all-male roster that dominates the art history discussed so far, reproduction has also been a central concern of women artists.[1] To name just a few from the past century: Janine Antoni's compulsive repetitions [PLATE 33], Judy Chicago's embroideries [PLATE 34], Kathy Grove's Other Series [PLATE 35], the Guerrilla Girls' advertisements [PLATE 36], Hannah Höch's photomontages [PLATE 37], Jenny Holzer's message loops [PLATE 38], Barbara Kruger's mass communications [PLATE 39], Sherry Levine's replications [PLATE 40], Bridget Riley's Op Art [PLATE 41], Faith Ringgold's quilts [PLATE 42], Miriam Schapiro's femmages [PLATE 43], Cindy Sherman's recreations [PLATE 44], Laurie Simmons' simulations [PLATE 45], Lorna Simpson's wigs [PLATE 46], and Kara Walker's silhouettes [PLATE 47]. The 1997 Guggenheim exhibition "Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography," pushes the connection between reproduction and identity even further, punning on Duchamp's feminine alter ego Rrose Sélavy (which sounds like "Eros, c'est la vie" or "Eros, that's life").[2]

When Walter Benjamin states that "even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be," he is describing reproduction as an outcome.[3] Reproduction, however, is not just a mechanical or digital result, but a profoundly biological process. Just as "[t]he uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition," according to Benjamin, so to are human identities formed only through the social and biological processes of reproduction.[4]

Reproduction becomes dizzyingly complex in the context of identity politics, with its demographic multi-dimensionality. But the lens of identity also simplifies one aspect of the discussion. Sexism, racism, and classism are at the heart of the historical prejudice that places reproduction at the bottom of the Western cultural hierarchy. Western aesthetic hierarchies have long relegated the traditional creative work of women to bottom rung, ranging from the medieval Bayeux Tapestry [PLATE 48] and other forms of textile design and manufacture to a wide variety of decorative arts.[5] Feminists and people of color from cultures throughout the world certainly do not share this view of the triviality of pattern and decoration.[6] Categorizing, stereotyping, marginalizing, and negating are not only the mechanisms for discriminating taste and differentiating between high and low; they are the basis for the reproduction of social structures, the classic way in which the powerful maintain their position of cultural dominance.[7]

Reproduction in its many forms, as well as its absence, has been central to shaping the history of identity politics. Reproduction spreads fame; omission silences pluralism. Reproduction means sex, birth, death, and evolution. Reproduction is rooted in the body and self image. Sexism and racism are all about reproduction and control, difference and illusion, lineage and heritage, integration and segregation, hierarchy and oppression. The myth of black lasciviousness is a typical racist stereotype to demean and restrain. The idea of "woman's work" centered on the home and reproductive duties is a typical sexist ploy. Both use reproduction as a hierarchical weapon of domination. Striking back are artists who are feminist, people of color, and queer (or LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), exploring reproduction and their diverse relations to it as biology, technology, and sexuality in ways that disrupt dominant cultural understandings.[8]

No wonder that the culture war's prime targets all happen to be artists who are people of color, queer, and/or feminist, including: Karen Finley [PLATE 49], Robert Mapplethorpe [PLATE 50], Chris Ofili [PLATE 51], Andres Serrano [PLATE 52], and an entire generation of hip hop artists whose experiments with sampling challenge the fundamentals of intellectual property law. There is an ancient tangled history of sexism, racism, and hierarchies of reproduction. Centuries before licensing first became law in England (focusing on mechanically reproduced print), the Catholic Church used ecclesiastical licenses to regulate the power of midwives vis-à-vis biological reproduction [PLATE 53]. These skilled women were so intimately involved with the sexual, moral, and mortal implications of reproduction that the Church felt compelled to use witchcraft as the ultimate means of accusatory control.[9] With the founding of universities in the Thirteenth Century, all-male medical faculties essentially outlawed female doctors. The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) enacted Europe's first medical licensure, requiring candidates to "swear to never consult with a Jew or with illiterate women."[10] From the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries, thousands of European women were burned at the stake for the "crime" of attempting to heal others.[11]

The historical linkages between racism, sexism, elitism, licensing, reproduction, and exclusion are as culturally deep as any factor influencing contemporary art today. The rub is that artwork which has remained furthest from public view for all manner of prejudice stands to benefit the most from the greatest reproduction and explanation. That is precisely what is needed to bridge the gap between message sent and message received, between hostility towards difference and openness towards familiarity. Remnants of tribal instincts compound the forces of separation. Artistic expression is a profoundly personal experience that strangely provokes intense psychological resistance to explanation and promotion. For most artists, it is far more difficult to write a simple, compelling artist statement than to produce their best masterpiece. No matter how technologically and culturally sophisticated our society becomes, we must struggle with base motivations. Is not that reality at least partly why a sacred image submerged in blood and urine provokes such strong reaction?[12]

We are living not only in an age of intellectual property and digital reproduction, but also an age of biology. Reproductive rights and copyrights are two of the most profoundly complex and intertwined areas of political contest in the world today, touching all aspects of our society and psyches, from the deepest held religious beliefs to the food we eat. Man-made things—seen onscreen or within urban settings—have replaced nature's prior visual dominance, enveloping our eyes within legal constraints. Artist, curator, and scholar Michael D. Harris points out that "images imposed from power are more difficult to subvert than language…. [I]mages are produced by the few to be consumed but seldom manipulated by the masses."[13] Our most advanced technologies of reproduction are disseminating images and advancing science to such an extent that they not only shape our individual identities but the very future of species, from genetically altered crops to the most advanced interventions of human embryology. Artists such as Brandon Ballengée [PLATE 54], Bureau of Inverse Technology co-founder Natalie Jeremijenko [PLATE 55], and Eduardo Kac [PLATE 56] explore the complex implications of these bio-tech developments.

Clone is just another word for reproduction, but what shivers it sends. Human aversion to technological reproduction is most biological, but there are complex cultural components to such attitudes as well. Internet pornography may be the ultimate technological reproduction of reproduction (process without product; product without process), and its meteoric market growth reveals an insatiable human appetite that is as biological as cultural. Artnet Magazine editor Walter Robinson calls "institutional critique" artist Andrea Fraser's "Untitled" video of having sex with her collector for $20,000 both "the most radical artistic gesture" of 2004 and "the most trivial" [PLATE 57].[14] In all of our roles as human beings—consumers, producers, thinkers, citizens, procreators, artists, etc.—each of us contributes to the evolution of these profound social, technological, and biological processes of reproduction.

1. Janine Antoni. Gnaw (detail). 1992.
600 lb. cube of chocolate gnawed by the artist, 24 x 24 x 24 inches. Collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Brian Forrest. Courtesy the Artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

2. Judy Chicago. A Chicken in Every Pot. 1998.
Painting, needlepoint, appliqué and embroidery, 24 x 18". Collection of the artist and needleworkers. Courtesy of the Judy Chicago and Through the Flower.

3. Kathy Grove. The Other Series: After Lange. 1989-1990.
Silver gelatin print, 71x 66 cm. This photograph digitally morphs Dorothea Lange's classic image "Migrant Mother, Nipopmo, California" (1936) into a smooth-faced model with dirt-free kids, air-brushing real-world problems into Madison-Avenue oblivion. Courtesy of Kathy Grove.

4. Guerrilla Girls. Women in America Earn Only 2/3 of What Men Earn. Women Artists Earn Only 1/3. 1985.
Poster. Copyright © 1985, 1995 by Guerrilla Girls, Inc.

5. Hannah Hoch. Made for a Party. 1936.
Photomontage. Institut Fur Auslandsbeziehungen Collection, Stuttgart.

6. Jenny Holzer. Xenon Projection. 2000.
Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires.

7. Barbara Kruger. Untitled (I shop therefore I am). 1987.
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl, 112 x 113 in. (284.5 x 287 cm). Private collection.

8. Sherrie Levine. Fountain (after Marcel Duchamp: A.P.). 1991.
Bronze sculpture. Courtesy of Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.

9. Bridget Riley. Breathe. 1966.
Emulsion on Canvas, 117x82 in.

10. Faith Ringgold. Flag Story Quilt. 1985.
Acrylic on canvas, dyed, painted and pieced fabric, 57 x 78". Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas.

11. Miriam Schapiro. Mother Russia (fan). 1994.
Acrylic and mixed media on canvas (femmage), 82 x 90 inches. Courtesy of Steinbaum Krauss Gallery.

12. Cindy Sherman. Untitled #205. 1989.
Color photograph, 53 1/2 x 40 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica, CA.

13. Laurie Simmons. Untitled. 2002.
Photograph, 5.5 x w: 8.5 in / h: 14 x w: 21.6 cm, edition: 25. Courtesy of Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art, New York.

14. Lorna Simpson. Wigs (Portfolio). 1994.
Portfolio of 21 lithographs, sheet (each): 23 x 18" (58.5 x 45.8 cm) or 32 x 16" (81.3 x 40.7 cm). Publisher: Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago. Edition: 15. According to MoMA: "Depicted here is a diverse group of wigs in an orderly presentation that suggests a lineup of scientific specimens. Simpson has used the traditional format of the print portfolio in which a sequence of images produces a cumulative, narrative effect." Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art.

15. Kara Walker. Jockey. 1995.
Cut paper mounted on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Brent Sikkema, New York.

16. The Bayeux Tapestry. 1073-1083.
Embroidery in wool on canvas or linen, 70 m by 49.5 cm (231 ft by 19.5 in). One of the largest pieces of needlework ever undertaken, it depicts the Norman conquest and events leading up to it. Courtesy of Microsoft Encarta.

17. Karen Finley. 1-900-ALL-KAREN. 1998.
Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art (Ridgefield, CT), Allen Memorial Art Museum (Oberlin, OH), Arizona State University Art Museum. (Tempe, AZ), Contemporary Arts Forum (Santa Barbara, CA), CSPS (Cedar Rapids, IA), Diverseworks (Houston, TX), Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens (San Francisco, CA), MOCA (Los Angeles, CA), Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (San Diego, CA), Nexus Contemporary Art Center (Atlanta, GA), Out North Contemporary Art House (Anchorage, AK) and Wagon Train (Lincoln, NE).Commissioned and Organized by Creative Time, New York.

18. Robert Mapplethorpe. Self Portrait. 1985.
Photograph. Copyright © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

19. Chris Ofili. The Holy Virgin Mary. 1996.
Painting. Courtesy of The Saatchi Gallery, London.,8543,-11504640117,00.html

20. Andres Serrano. Piss Christ. 1989.

21. Medieval Etching (not Trotula). nd.
"The belief that women were capable of doing physicians' work is represented in this mid-15th century image of Medicine as a Woman. This allegorical image depicts a woman holding up a flask of urine, often shown as the trademark of the physician in medical images during this period." Paula Findlen, Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History, Stanford University. "Images of the Female Body: The Middle Ages and the Renaissance," 2001.

22. Brandon Ballengée. Cleared and Stained Multi-limbed Pacific Tree frog. 2002.
Aptos, California. Ballengée's work provide disturbing images of deformities occurring in North American amphibians. The clearing and staining procedure involves a series of chemical treatments in which a specimen's tissue is "cleared" using a special enzyme. The cartilage and bone are then dyed red and blue resulting in a specimen that resembles a three dimensional x-ray. Digital imaging courtesy The Institute for Electronic Arts, School of Art and Design NYSCC at Alfred University, Alfred, New York. Courtesy of the Green Museum.

23. Natalie Jeremijenko. OneTrees Project. November 1998 - March 1999.
According to the artist: "OneTrees is actually one thousand tree(s), clones, micro-propagated in culture. The clones were exhibited together as plantlets at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. This was the only time they were seen together. In the spring of 2003 the clones will be planted in public sites throughout the San Francisco Bay Area."

24. Eduardo Kac. Alba (fluorescent bunny). 2000.
Photo: Chrystelle Fontaine. According to the artist: "My transgenic artwork "GFP Bunny" comprises the creation of a green fluorescent rabbit, the public dialogue generated by the project, and the social integration of the rabbit. GFP stands for green fluorescent protein. "GFP Bunny" was realized in 2000 and first presented publicly in Avignon, France."

25. Andrea Fraser. Untitled. 2003.
Still from video. Courtesy of Friedrich Petzel Gallery.

[1] Stein 1913.
[2] Blessing et al 1997.
[3] Benjamin 1935.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Gouma-Peterson and Matthews 1987, p. 332.
[6] Art Museum of Missoula 2004; hooks 1995, p. 196.
[7] Bourdieu 1984.
[8] Corber and Valocchi 2003; Axsom 2002.
[9] Brown 2003.
[10] Group and Roberts 2001, p 24.
[11] University of Iowa 2002.
[12] Hudgins 1987.
[13] Harris 2003.
[14] Robinson 2004.