1 December 2005

Photocopies as art?

I’ve been meaning to post on this topic for awhile now. It’s become more of a topic burning in my mind for two reasons
1-I’m going to be focusing on the use of the photocopier for my honours year.
2-I had a heated discussion with some people (One an artist) who disagreed with me that a photocopy could be used an art print.

The latter has confounded me. I expect the everyday/layperson to think this, but I copped it from two intelligent creative people.
So here are my arguments for a photocopy having the possibility of being Art:

-Done on the right paper and or the use of varnish, a photocopy is just as archival as other print mediums (It’ll outlive a human lifespan most definitely and hold up to 50% of it’s strength 500 years from now, which is considered archival)
-A photocopy is not dissimilar to a photograph in many respects. It is relatively cheap and easy to produce, but depends a lot on the person behind the camera as to if the resulting print. It could be a disposable happy snap or a valuable (and not just monetarily) art piece.
-One definition of a print is anything that is a multiple of something else.
-There is no magical qualities to etching, lino, or screenprinting ink that validates them any further than a photocopy.

So okay you might say that other print making methods are more valid because there is more work involved like rolling on ink and putting through a press, but once again I will relate the photocopying process to photography in that instance. And so what, yes it’s easy to press button but it’s also quite easy to run something through a press. The hard part is actually constructing/making the said image.

Print making methods are usually designed to be more democratic than other art forms anyway, and photocopying certainly lends itself to this in terms of accessibility and cost.

So to make it clear, I don’t think photocopies are inherently good, but they’re not inherently bad either. I don’t think an office document photocopied onto shitty junky acid paper is the same value as something that’s been consciously photocopied onto quality paper, editioned and signed (For instance) and for that matter why does art have to be long lasting, there is such a thing as the ephemeral in art.

I like to know what other people think, regardless of where they stand (I won’t bite!)


Lumpen said...

Well Tones, that's how you know you're on a winner. It's seems blindingly obvious and yet you still need to explain yourself. It's like saying "all you have to do to draw is take the lid off the pen and drag it along some compressed vegetable matter." Saying that a medium has to be excluded because it's "easy" is retarded. You know it. I know it. Without considering the content and focusing on form they're missing half the story (the flipside is "the medium is the message" and all that).

Anthony Woodward said...

Thanks for the comment Lumpen. It is obvious to me, but like I said this conversation threw me. I would of been fine if he said, "I understand what your saying but I still don't like it" I would of been fine.
Also I just like exploring these different ideas in written form, and a big part of the work is trying to get people to see things in a different way.

Anonymous said...

I'll give this a go speaking as a long time traditional printmaker. As you know I am attempting to understand and explore your way of thinking and will soon be doing a photocopied edition for the first time.

In final year of art theory a long time ago we were asked what we think the future would be like - would there be artists as 'technicians' or as a term for 'job classification'. I answered everyone is and will realise they are an artist but there will still be some with the artistic gift who will fill the classification but in a less fantastic way. Today ... you just have to see IF and the future is now realised.

What 'traditional' printmakers are angry about is lack of respect as ‘artists’ and less selling of their works because of accessibility of cheaper art. They have done it hard in the past and it is now even harder. Traditional printmaking has also been the most accessible art. By cheaper I am considering time and materials in dollars. Main stream society also wouldn’t know, care nor appreciate the difference between a non famous artist’s etched print and a photocopy except for the price tag and difference in texture and ink properties – if of same image. This is unfortunate about Australia, not so much in Europe. A large number of photographers were also angry when digital cameras hit mainstream. Printmakers were also angry when Solar plate printing became popular. I still hear many snide remarks from both parties about these alternatives.

I personally love the final properties of traditionally printed art along with the process. However, I have less time to spend an hour turning out one print and mostly physical barriers are causing me to find less strenuous ways of creating but remain within the printmaking industry. How I will feel about a finished photocopied edition remains to be felt.

What you are explaining is an old age argument that continues to change subjects as time rolls on.