Thu-Van Tran – La Venice Biennale di Arte

In a series of works Thu-Van Tran reproduces fragments of a rubber plantation in the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale di Arte.

Casts of hevea tree trunks are laid out in front of photograms of tropical foliage and a video of people carving the bark of the hevea tree to extract rubber. The photograms make the ephemeral moment of light hitting leaves durable, and the mark of the worker’s hand is evident in the casts of the trees. Looking like bones, the trees are displayed on crates reminding me of something being packed and stored like an artifact, no longer a part of its true ecosystem. Together the pieces broadcast an experience of work, colonial domination, and nature.

I’ve been reading some of Walter Benjamin’s writings on mechanical reproduction and the “aura of the original.” He creates an argument that contradicts itself almost immediately, or at least pales over the intervening years.  He places the reproduction in the realm of the “other” or alien; something that is not quite right as a way of devaluing it in comparison to “the real”. I assert that the otherness or the mediated state of reproduction in and of itself creates an experience all its own – a new realness.

In this case we are presented, through mechanical reproduction, with the weight of the nature and action of the plantation. Pain and beauty are both present in the collection of these seemingly prosaic objects and views, until the video decodes the signs for the viewer.

Benjamin and I are going to be healthy sparing partners.

Again, again, over and over, that’s when it starts to get interesting.

 

 

 

Kristen Schaal is a Horse

Kristen on a horse

A still from Bob’s Burgers episode Warf Horse

Sorry, this post has nothing to do with Bob’s Burgers but it IS about Kristen Schaal’s genius (she voices the little lady in the pink eared hat in the image above) and there IS a horse… sooo… yeah.

 

There’s a joke that I like to tell. It’s the Two Whales joke. If you’ve heard me tell it you’ll remember. Ask me the next time I see you.

The humor of the joke depends on repetition and a kind of variation in performance that as a viewer I can find super annoying unless it’s done really well. I’m not going to tell you the secret of the Two Whale joke here, just in case you do find an opportunity to ask me about it.

But Radio Lab explains repetition specifically loops and they begin the show with a clip of Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler performing Kristen Schaal is a Horse.

Our delightful pattern seeking brains see something looping or repeating and we instantly ask, why? Why is this __unit__ repeating?

In the case of Kristen Schaal is a Horse…well… you should listen to this:

Kristen Schaal is a Horse on Radio Lab’s Loops Episode

Again, again, over and over – that’s when it starts to get interesting.

 

 

 

Dear John

“Schoenberg said that everything is repetition – even variation. On the other hand, we can say that repetition doesn’t exist, that two leaves of the same plant are not repetitions of each other but are unique. Or two bricks on the building across the street are different. And when we examine them closely, we see that they are indeed different in some respect, if only in the respect of how they receive light, because they are at different points in space. In other words, repetition really has to do with how we think. And we can’t think either that things are being repeated or that they are not being repeated. If we think that things are being repeated, it is generally because we don’t pay attention to all of the details. But if we pay attention as though we were looking through a microscope to all of the details, we see that there is no such thing as repetition.”   —  John Cage

 

Oh, John.

I taught a four week workshop in Venice this past summer and while there multiples and copies were in the forefront of my mind.

Last year I presented a paper at Mid-America Print Council’s conference, Modes of the Multiple – I talked about variation and repetition as pursuits in art. I wrapped painting, photography, prints, GIFS, and Book Arts into my talk. Writing the paper inspired me to continue to collect ideas, reference points, artworks, and theories about multiples.

This process of collecting ideas and artworks has gotten kinda unwieldy, crossing from conversations and note taking to fully formed thoughts. So I thought I’d start setting down some of my collection here in a series of blog posts.

While collecting I expanded my definition of reproducible media from image and mark replication (printmaking / photography) to include all forms of mechanical object making. It was an intuitive expansion, probably the result of being raised at Penland School of Crafts where different media easily crawl all over each other in a happy jumble,

The concepts play out in different forms: casting (metal, clay, glass), digital and analog printing, digital fabrication, repeat patterns, Xerographic printing, publications / book art and design, paper-making, textiles, photography, graphic design, product design, and more.

If I cast (ha! pun!) a wide net for conceptual links there are really interesting relationships between all reproducible media:the multiple, seriality, intermediary process, copy/original, replication, sequence, transference of mark, plurality, industrialization, and standardization… to name just a few.

And so it was with that eye that I first approached my art viewing this past summer. It helped me to clarify for myself, to find the edges, and some of my main questions about what can be included in reproducible media. Does it include collaged ephemera? Performance? What about the daily tides of the sea?

Starting here are some of the threads I’ve been gathering as a  basis for understanding this large subsection of artistic practice – Reproducible Media.

Again, again, over and over – that’s when it starts to get interesting.

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