Sunday, September 09, 2012
John Roberts, The Intangibilities of Form: Skilling and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade

"Copying or replication in art is not an inert practice, the repetition of the prototype, but the very means by which art provides a new successor to its chosen antecedent. Thus, the reworking or incorporation of extant materials is as much a means of sustaining what is thought to be authentic and critical, as it is a way of trying to replicate or 'steal' what is felt to be the aura of the image or object in question. In this respect copying clearly needs to be distinguished from plagarism or pastiche proper given their association with traditional craft, and of passing one thing off in the style or manner of another. Whereas the latter replicates the admired precedent as an act of indebtedness, the former takes the likeness of [a] thing in order to inscribe it, or reinscribe it, in a critical tradition or novel context. Copying in this sense, therefore, is never strictly copying, never flat mimesis, because it is able to reanimate the thing replicated. Or, as Kant puts it, mimesis can be divided into two modes: nachahmen, which is merely a form of reproduction, and nachfolgen, which is transformative and creative. This is why the act of selecting and presenting a readymade [...] is always a creative act. Reproduction becomes a form of creative re-presentation, or reenactment, insofar as it brings the thing reproduced to life, or rather, releases it from its previous identity."

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