Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

If Organizations are Like People, Then Artworks…

the-darjeeling-limited

…are also sort of like people? This article in Hyperallergic, titled “Why Artworks are Like People”, reminded me of our discussion earlier in the semester about how the Supreme Court was faced with determining the rights of an organization.

The studies referenced by this article were run by a student and professor at the Yale School of Management along with another professor from the Chicago School of Business, who set out to determine the extent to which the identity or ‘self’ of the artist is transferred upon his or her creations.

“To wit, they propose that ‘judgements about the continuity of artworks are related to judgements about the continuity of individual persons because art objects are seen as physical extensions of their creators.”

The two studies both prompted the participants to consider the act of creating an artwork. The first study offered a scenario in which a student creates an artwork, and an exact duplicate is created, either by the artist or by others. The original is then destroyed. The 37 undergraduates participating in the study felt that duplicate artworks were mostly less likely to be ‘continuers’ of the original, but duplicates created by the artist were more likely to be ‘continuers’. The second study is equally interesting.

“These findings suggest a difference in how we view objects deemed “art” versus all others, and a lingering belief in the importance of the hand of the artist.” The article states.

The article opens with referencing a Walter Benjamin essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, which is a really wonderful read for anybody who hasn’t had the chance to look at it yet. I read it a while ago in connection to a class I was taking called “Tourism and Cultural Appropriation”, where we explored ideas of ‘authenticity’ in an industry that relies heavily on artifacts like memorabilia and souvenirs, which are duplicates of the original art work (we also watched The Darjeeling Limited and A Room With A View- this was a really great class).

‘Mechanical reproduction’ and duplicates present new kinds of issues in our time as opposed to Benjamins’, as the author points out in the end:

“…what happens to this scenario when the artwork under discussion is not a tangible object but a performance, a concept, or a GIF? Newman et al’s project suggests that the aura of the artwork in the age of mechanical reproduction hasn’t changed nearly as much as its nature — and to understand how humans perceive that, we’re gonna need a whole lot more studies.”

In the modern world where GIFs can be art and sometimes an act of art actually involves reproduction (as a performance or as a part of the work itself) we have to consider how our idea of the self, or the soul inherent in an original artwork is changed (or not). Either way, I think new developments and critical writing on this topic will delve far deeper than court cases in the future!

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3 comments on “If Organizations are Like People, Then Artworks…

  1. lcrowley2014
    September 25, 2014

    Great post! What an interesting study. This reminds me of an exhibition in the AU Museum right now – a centennial commemoration of the ‘readymade’ called Readymade@100. 2014 is the 100th anniversary of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade concept – when the Dada artist presented a commercially manufactured, mass-produced bottle drying rack he had purchased at a department store as a work of art. Art theorists have debated, discussed, lauded and defiled the readymade concept for the past century, so I won’t get into that now. My point is only to illustrate how easily the “hand of the artist” can blur. From re-purposed object, to souvenir to GIF… it will be fascinating to see how art theorist and supreme court rulings alike deal with the increasingly broad definition of art and artist.

    (Shameless plug: there is a gallery talk for the readymade show this Saturday if you’re interested! https://t.e2ma.net/message/bffui/38wtuh)

  2. laurenelizabethdickel
    September 26, 2014

    Intriguing read and expose into the perception of conservation of soul and essence of art manual and mechanical reproduction. There is an unfortunately re-assuring notion that the primeval vitality and oomph of an art work is padlocked once the creator’s work is done. I do agree that neither manual nor mechanical reproduction could replicate the essence of a piece as intended by the originator. Who knows what computer scientist may be able to come up with in the near-future to improve reproductions, but attempts by scholars, wanna-be art virtuoso or artificial intelligence merely produces lifeless effigy of an animately existent creation.

  3. laurenelizabethdickel
    September 26, 2014

    Intriguing read and expose into the perception of conservation of soul and essence of art. There is an unfortunately re-assuring notion that the primeval vitality and oomph of an art work is padlocked once the creator’s work is done. I do agree that neither manual nor mechanical reproduction could replicate the essence of a piece as intended by the originator. Who knows what computer scientist may be able to come up with in the near-future to improve reproductions, but attempts by scholars, wanna-be art virtuoso or artificial intelligence merely produce a lifeless effigy of an animately existent creation.

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