Re: digital "originals"

Troy Bennet (
Wed, 09 Jul 1997 02:11:40 +0000

Tom Coffin wrote:

> Currently, I view the aura of the "original" maginified
> by the multiplicity of reproduction. Digital reproduction
> has magnified what print did by an unknown factor. I
> find it amusing that musuems are so slow to reproduce
> their collections to the web out of fear - fear of losing
> control over the aura of the "originals" they possess
> and copyright benefits. Their fear is preventing them
> from attaining that which they desire the most, international
> recognition and money.

First off, I think that the main issue that is trying to be
resolved is: In digital art (let's start simple and talk about 2D pics)
where is the original? Is there really an original? what differntiates
between the original and a reproduction? What is the currency of the

Now, as we all continue to work with digital tools to make digital art
we start hitting those issues that the photographers were adressing in the
70's and 80's. MAinly because all of the issues pertaining to photographic
reproduction apply so nicely to digital reproduction.

As I mention before, the philosopher Walter Benjamin discussed this
issue of reproducibility and its effects on the value of art.
Benjamin being of particularly Marxist pursuation argues for the
destabilization of capitalism and authoritanism in art. That art
maintained two types of aura. It had and Exhibition Value and a
Cult Value. The Exhibition Value being related to it value as
commodity and its Cult Value being related to its historical/
intellectual value determined by "Experts" or high priests of

Benjamin's main trip was that photography and (especially film)
would disintegrate the exhibition value of a work of art because it
could be easily seen and reproductions easily owned. Whether this has been
accomplished is questionable, as photography currently enjoys a high
profile and often high priced (see the Starns and Cindy Sherman) market.

As far as the concept of the "Original" in digital arts goes, I think the
whole notion is moot. Digital art is a spawn of the Post Modern era where
approriation rules the day. Look at photographers like Sherrie Levine and
Richard Prince who rephotographed existing photographs and called them theirs.
I believe that Sherrie Levine won all of the lawsuits against her. Unlike
Levine, Jeff Koons wasn't so lucky;despite the fact that his famous "Puppy"
piece was less of a rip off than Levine's!

I'll stop there for now.