75 years after the first photocopy was made, firstsite’s autumn exhibition celebrates the role that this technology has played within contemporary art. Featuring over 125 works by 39 artists and artist groups from 10 countries, it is our largest exhibition to date.
On the 22nd of October 1938 in the Astoria district of Queens, New York, Chester Carlson and his assistant Otto Kornei succeeded in making the first photocopy, a xerographic image of the date and their location. Carlson – a patent attorney whose years of research and somewhat hazardous home experimentation had been inspired by the pain and tedium of copying legal texts – spent the next two decades working to develop the first photocopy machine. The first commercial, manually operated photocopier, Xerox Model A, was introduced the following year and the Xerox 914, the first fully automated copier, followed ten years later in 1959. The process invented by Carlson, known as ‘xerography’, is still used in most photocopying machines today.
This major international and historical survey encompasses photography, sculpture, video and works on paper installed across the galleries at firstsite. It includes some of the earliest examples of artists using the photocopier in ‘copy art’, ‘mail art’ and conceptual projects from the 1960s and 70s. These will be presented alongside works on loan from collections in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States, and new works by Wolfgang Breuer, Willem Oorebeek and Josh Smith.
A new publication featuring a selection of texts on the subject of xerography and an extended essay by firstsite’s Senior Curator, Michelle Cotton, will accompany the exhibition.