Reproducible Art

3 09 2007


Reproducible art gives artists and their audience a great advantage. In the bad old days before mechanical reproduction, those who would seek out great paintings or musical pieces, or any type of art, went to great lengths to find them. People would flock to the latest piece by a sculptor, painter, or architect. The only way to learn new techniques and practices was by witnessing the original work of art, or learning directly from the artist. If a burgeoning painter from England wanted to be a part of the Renaissance, she might find herself taking a trip to Florence in order to do so. Mechanical reproduction of art has enhanced society’s ability to learn from the works of its contemporaries without the stress and effort that was once required.

In addition to learning from reproduced art, this new media allows us to collaborate on greater levels. Mechanical reproduction is a gateway for many individuals to come together to work on a single project. Motion pictures, for example, have crews of hundreds of people working to create the final cut. This is possible because duplicate copies of the film are in the hands of many people at the same time. These people don’t even need to be in the same location.

Although education isn’t the same as art, the mechanical reproduction of things like lectures, essays, and research papers is creating an impact on the way education functions. In the example of Dr. Michael Wesch at KSU, his video “Web 2.0 – The Machine is Us/ing Us”, has been viewed by over 3 million people around the world. The concept of a single instructor having an audience of that size is unprecedented in history. Even just 20 years ago, a single professor could only hope to reach the few thousand people that might read a scholarly journal in which his work was published, or speak to the few hundred people that might attend a special seminar. The main disadvantage to mechanical reproduction I can foresee is the possibility of a work being reproduced before it is complete. With people creating a greater volume of work, and involving a larger amount of collaborators, it is feasible that some things get released before they are meant to, or are leaked to a non-collaborator before the time is right.

So do all these copies and ways of distributing art, ideas, and knowledge diminish the value of them? I don’t believe so. I think value is created when more of something is available. There are countless musicians, artists, writers, and thought-provokers that I would remain ignorant of without reproduced or digital copies of their work. I certainly don’t feel like because I was introduced to them by a reproduction, I have any less an idea of what their work represents. Personally, I know there is absolutely no way I could share my photography with the amount of people that have browsed it online. Since 2005, twenty-four thousand people have looked at my pictures and I haven’t even had to get off of the couch. So from both the perspective of someone creating art, and that of someone appreciating it, I see an overall advantage to mechanical reproduction.

Brian Howell




One response

3 09 2007

Brian–Make sure you sign your posts. WordPress doesn’t automatically include the author, though I can find it by checking for Users. Still, everybody should know who is posting.

I was going to show that “Machine is Us/ing US” clip in class, but I figured most of you had seen it. For those who haven’t, check it out (Brian has the link in the main post above).

–dr t

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