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Repetition Repetition
by Andy Ritchie


Without repetition, things cannot organize.



Factory or site, casting, stacking, welding, mortaring, in rhythm and in line.

Organization and redistribution of information comprise art--well, comprise many things. Organization is the broadest level (the widest plinth) of creative thinking.
















Some machines were designed to further organize and smoothen out variability in the human touch, to preserve and replicate the original human inspiration (as CDs to music) and regulate and tame the entropic Chinese Whispers effect that human repetition creates. A cover song is not an exact copy.








Machines increase technical productivity and precision, true, but also social accessibility to organized things.









Some of these organized things are devalued by aesthetes; the machined handiwork is a feint spun from a master blueprint.










The divinity is gone. The relic status. Only the source (i.e. the lithographic plate) projects the artist's hand, not the reflected image. I think not. They work in tandem; the plate and paper kiss and peel.















A book scratched in the writer's scrawl was once a necessity and an assumption. I'm sure this delicacy was taken for granted before Gutenberg's machine shocked the world with the vulgarity of a letter press. (Ah, the scorn and incredulity of bible-scribing monks.) People today are generally indifferent to their sources of literature--sometimes even news.



For some reason, though, an image not graven directly by the artist's hand creates hesitancy, even repulsion. An uncanny valley of authenticity creates distrust (except in Cheney's case).

A template can project in variable ways, and the "same piece" may fall on a sliding scale of value. IKEA mass-produces thousands of market-approved replicas from 19th century masters like Matisse--popular and easy. However. Matisse, in his lifetime, approved only limited editions of 250 lithographs or less under the auspice of a master printer.



The rare artist's signature, introducing a new criteria for uniqueness, adds to the value. Do we need to suspend our disbelief to enjoy the IKEA copy as the owner of the original enjoys his? Is there any disbelief left to suspend?


As the number of copies decreases, the value increases in inverse proportion. Duh.

Let's not even bring up Errol Morris and art fakery.







The catch is that we assign more seriousness to ideas and forms that the artist has repeatedly pounded out, even exhausted. The artist's conviction.25,000 original works.) Picasso made a handful of breakthroughs and inventions, but barges full of replicas. (Yes, he often replicated his own inventions, rather than building on their achievements--inevitable when you make





Repetition through serial work can be, at worst, a skipping record; it reiterates a single organization. It forces people to look again, if not at the same piece then the same idea. It's a kind of cynical, business-minded idea that seems to take hold of "successful" artists.




The uniqueness of an artwork is very important for ownership, but conversely so is the popularity of an artwork. Possession and knowledge have a gooey relationship here. Art has currency if it's ubiquitous as liquid--even more if it gains meme status.


OK. OK. I could go on like this forever, but I fear I'd repeat myself. Till next time...


---- Andy Ritchie, writer living in Oakland, CA

(All images courtesy of their rightful owners)

Posted by Andy Ritchie on 11/16/09

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