Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

On the Vaunted Value of the “Original” Art Piece

Earlier today I commented on a piece talking about a master forger of art pieces saying:

helenewolfgnag

If the point of a work of art is to look at it, rather than just to “own” it as a piece of property, then a painting which reproduced the exact same art piece in all its sensual empirical detail (thus, it must be –painted- and not merely printed), should for all intents and purposes suffice for aesthetic appreciation. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. Is there something special about having an art piece which is causally connected to the original artist’s hand? Sounds a little like the Roman superstition about holiness and supernatural powers communicated through relics touched by saints. Although of course I wouldn’t pay millions for it. Just what is commensurate with the artist’s skill for the reproduction.

I think I have an interesting example to serve as a comparison. Consider for example a musical performance. Is there something special about listening to a live musical performance “direct” from the original performer’s vocal chords and instruments as opposed to listening to a mere electronic or disc copy? I don’t see it. In fact, I could argue that in terms of the sensual experience, it is actually better to listen to an electronic copy with your surround sound stereo system or headphones than in an actual concert hall. (I remember buying tickets for a Bach’s Mass in B minor performance and was disappointed by how muffled it was and somewhat indistinct compared to what my earphones can give me.)

There are some minor quibbles to do away with. First, there is the case of a live rock or metal concert where the concert isn’t about simply reproducing the music but about the total live “participatory experience” of getting high together with the musicians on stage. But clearly this example is dis-analogous to our consideration of art pieces which naturally isn’t about a live participatory experience. Secondly, I heard from some friends of mine that with respect to organ performances, it is the live “vibratory effect” which is part of the listening experience. But ex hypothesi, I assume in the painting example that you can replicate the entire sensual experience of a painting, right down to the very oil texture and smell of the painting, so this feature is also dis-analogous to our present case and can be disregarded.

Thus eventually, it seems that there isn’t something special about a direct causal connection to the original piece or performance; what is important is  simply whether the sensual experience can be replicated successfully for our appreciation. The irresistable conclusion therefore seems to be that there really is nothing special about the “original” art piece as long as the experience it produces can be replicated for our enjoyment. And with that, I leave you with a remark made by a friend of mine:

The value of art today is determined by the “authenticity” of the artist. I.e., the value of the creation is largely determined by the story of its origin. Replicas of works ipso facto have a different story.

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This entry was posted on February 27, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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