Martha Buskirk, Amelia Jones, Caroline A. Jones. The year in “re-“. Artforum, Dec 2013.

by florence cheval

This is an excerpt from an article by Martha Buskirk, Amelia Jones and Caroline A. Jones, The year in “re-“, published in Artforum, Dec 2013.

A reckoning is in order. Given the extraordinary number of returns, revisits, and repetitions of all kinds this past year, including the extensive refabrications of postwar art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition “Gutai: Splendid Playground” and the astonishing reboot in Venice of Harald Szeemann’s 1969 show “Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form”—not to mention the steadily increasing interest in repeating historic works of performance art over the last decade—we offer here a provisional taxonomy of contemporary art-world keywords dangling from the prefix re. The following grouping suggests a phenomenon far more pervasive and insistent than just another stage of postmodern pastiche, appropriation, or simulation. We present a hive of signs, either forced into strangeness by a hyphen (re-create) or so familiar as to need shaking up (representation), all of which suggests a perverse undercurrent to the recent reign of this infinitely flexible and loaded prefix. For, paradoxically, today’s returns have gravitated toward postwar moments in which the originary object of art was already under assault—pushed into process, performance, transience—only to induce a renewed fantasy of presence and objecthood, as if finally to arrest and reify works once fervently held to resist such calcification.

1. READYMADE: Defined in print by Marcel Duchamp in André Breton and Paul Éluard’s 1938 Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist,” the first explicitly named readymade appeared in 1919 with Unhappy Readymade (which was actually produced by Duchamp’s sister Suzanne). It has never stopped evolving and expanding, even or especially through the tiny reproductions Duchamp made for the Bôite-en-Valise editions, 1935–40, or the remakes and scale replicas he authorized Arturo Schwarz, Richard Hamilton, and others to produce in the 1950s and ’60s. Today, even Germano Celant’s hyperactive reconstruction of Szeemann’s “Attitudes” exhibition for the Fondazione Prada in Venice is repeatedly referred to as a “readymade.” (In the exhibition brochure, Celant also uses the terms reinvention, re-create, reconstructing, restaging, revive, and reworking.) But when employed in reference to an exhibition designed for turbulent 1969 Bern that has been abruptly inserted into a Venetian palazzo as a movable readymade for millennials, can the concept maintain a connection to its “original” and radical meaning?

2.REANIMATE: With its appropriately uncanny overtones, the term is increasingly used in reference to history writing as an act of reanimating past lives and events (see in particular the work of performance-studies scholars Tracy Davis and Rebecca Schneider). This usage returns us to the pioneering theories of R. G. Collingwood, whose 1946 book The Idea of History proposed that the writing of history requires projective interpretations or imaginative reenactments of past thoughts motivating past actions. In this way, for Collingwood, history is continually rewritten in relation to the current historian’s interests and situations: “How does the historian discern the thoughts which he is trying to discover? There is only one way in which it can be done: by re-thinking them in his own mind” (215). In 2013, Montreal-based art critic Joseph Henry noted the case of a group of artists, led by Sol LeWitt assistant Anthony Sansotta, “reanimating” a selection of LeWitt’s wall drawings at FOFA Gallery at Concordia University, indicating the persistent importance of conceptualism to all art-world concepts of redoing historical works.1

3. RECAST: Rare, but perhaps useful to designate the process of reproducing a sculpture by making a cast of the “original” casting, as when the pollution-damaged horses at St. Mark’s Square were replaced with “exact replicas,” and the originals moved indoors. As noted by Rosalind E. Krauss in her classic 1986 book The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, the notional originality of any casting is a discursive production, an argument she developed through tracking the multiple posthumous casts of Rodin’s ca. 1900 Gates of Hell. (As she notes, they are all posthumous, and conjectural—since the sculptor continuously “recomposed” many of the constituent elements while he was still alive. [152]) In 1980s postmodernism, the term surrogate was coined by Allan McCollum to denote the hydrostone castings he made of what appear to be framed works of art; these took their place alongside what he calls “natural copies”—the twisted dog from Pompeii, dinosaur bones, and dinosaur tracks—now recast and issued in multiples made of polymerized fiberglass.

4. RECOLLECT: From an archaeological point of view, the task is both literal and metaphorical: to re-collect lost objects and layers of the built environment by cutting into the earth, and to recollect in the sense of remember. As Foucault suggested, archaeology can also work on epistemic remains, relying on traces that have endured in thoughts and practices as well as material things and structures. Archaeologist Michael Shanks has pointed out in his work that the re is essential to the archaeological project, and the re implies action, a doing that is active in mobilizing the traces being explored.2

5. RECONSTITUTE: Generally speaking, the word means to restore something marketed in dried or condensed form to its (putatively) former state through the addition of water. But in the context of art, it applies to the quiet practice of replenishing key constituents of an intentionally perishable installation, as in Wolfgang Laib’s mounds of pollen, Olafur Eliasson’s ice pieces, or Félix Gonzales-Torres’s piles of candy. The last must be reconstituted at each showing, both to replenish what has been taken by visitors and to refresh these FDA-regulated items before they pass their “sell-by” date. Reconstitution is now also the standard practice for works by Dan Flavin: The estate and David Zwirner gallery manage a flow of custom-made fluorescents to replace burnt-out (and technologically obsolete) tubes.

6. RECONSTRUCT: Implies that some aspect of the original work has been lost; guesswork may be involved. Or, as the object is rebuilt, changes may be authorized by the artist with the result thus deemed authentic. László Moholy-Nagy’s only functioning Light-Space Modulator is in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums, where it is listed as a “replica,” produced in 2006 after the defunct 1930 original also in Harvard’s collection. Documentary intermediaries (plans, scripts, photographs) or surviving fragments are usually implied in deeming something a reconstruction, but increasingly the term points to an ambiguous territory between material artworks reassembled, repaired, or remade as objects, and ephemeral actions by live bodies or machines. Frequently, the term’s roots in construction are used to signify the space and time of architecture rather than performance: Kurt Schwitters’s 1920s and ’30s Merzbau works are reconstructed (first by Szeemann in 1983, and most recently in 2011 at the Berkeley Art Museum), for example, just as Mondrian’s studio will be at the Tate Liverpool’s forthcoming “Mondrian and his Studios: Abstraction into the World” next year. Many of the large-scale Gutai works at the Guggenheim were commonly referred to as “reconstructed” (a condition often silently reflected in the “/2013” added to historical dates on the museum’s wall labels). However, in the exhibition catalogue, the curators refer to the pieces as “new commissions, not reconstructions”—even if they describe a process in which the living artists included in the show had to “reimagine” or “rethink” historical works for the new setting. More ambiguous still are museum restagings of body art that historically involved physical objects—such as Carolee Schneemann’s Eye Body, 1963 (the “set” for which was reconstructed for Paul Schimmel’s 1998 exhibition “Out of Actions” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles), in which reconstruction calls forth unexpected new amalgams of display and practice.

7. RE-CREATE: One of the terms used by Celant to describe his recent “readymade,” 1969 Szeemann in 2013 Venice. Celant’s hyphen calls out the re-, emphasizing his action as artistic rather than, say, recreational. For visitors to this re-creation, made in collaboration with those masters of reflexivity and reconstruction, Thomas Demand and Rem Koolhaas, encountering Szeemann’s historically chosen artworks via this process resulted in confoundingly hybrid absences and experiences, including original objects, newly created remakes (reenactments, in Celant’s terminology), and black-and-white photographic reproductions of works that could not be obtained, complete with dotted lines demarcating where these missing pieces would have been placed. Stranger still was the attempted reconstruction of the Kunsthalle Bern setting, duplicating not only the original dimensions (a perfect replica of the banal twentieth-century Bern architecture within the still-visible eighteenth-century galleries of the Venetian palace), but also the moldings, doors, tile and wood floor treatments (via photographic “stand-ins”), and even the radiators of the original site. Here, Szeemann’s 1969 tropism toward artists exploring materiality, gravity, process, ephemerality, and contingency (not to mention site-specificity) seemed threatened by these newly presented relics.

8. REENACT: The term of choice for contemporary artists’ relationship to performance art from the past, meant to suggest some studied connection to an original. The art world’s resistance to theater (where Hamlet is simply staged, not “reconstructed,” “restaged,” or “reenacted”) may be behind this insistence on re for repeated works of performance art, whereas the usage of terms such as redo in performance studies stems from an obsession with the “authenticity” of the live moment and the drive to refine its permutations. Restage is a related term, used for exhibitions and enactments that re-present what is held to be a conceptual original. Enough of the details are known such that the “restaging” can be viewed as authoritative, yet “to restage” already implies that there is interpretation and even performance going on, rather than a fantasy of full-scale reconstitution. An appropriate example may be the recent spate of Mono-ha exhibitions (such as the Lee Ufan exhibition at the Guggenheim in 2011), where a devotional brushstroke on the wall, or rocks holding a rubber sheet in tension, were “restaged”—prepared anew for the historical exhibition under the artist’s supervision if not necessarily by his hand. But as this digression into restaging already questions, when is a gesture, act, or work of performance art simply enacted, and when is it considered a reenactment? Enactment implies unfettered access to an original script or score, and a close relation to (if not identity as) the original artist. Yet present-day notions of performativity, indebted as they are to Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler, refuse the possibility of immediacy through the concept of iteration: Our expressions must repeat known elements of language in order to be comprehensible to our audience. On this account, isn’t every expression always already a re-doing of something done before, every staging a re-staging? And so, when Yoko Ono performs Cut Piece in Kyoto in 1964, or in New York in 1965, or again in 2003 at the Théâtre du Ranelagh in Paris, or when others (Laura Lima in 2001; Ming-Yuen S. Ma in 2006) produce new versions or reworked homages, aren’t these all iterations of previously enacted moments—a body, vulnerable, acceding to a cutting action—that we recognize through this repetition?3

9. REFABRICATE: Close to reconstruction, refabrication is less tentative and bears a relation to the original (and its plan) that claims to produce a one-to-one correspondence. All but one of the works in the recent exhibition Hans Haacke 1967 (“reinvented” by Caroline Jones in 2011 at the MIT List Visual Art Center) were refabrications, based on plans drawn up under the supervision of the artist and in reference to documentary photographs. These plans nonetheless proved inadequate in many cases, revealing that refabrication is always more vexed than it seems. The problem was identified by Susan Hapgood in her 1990 article “Remaking Art History,” which addressed the refabrication (and in some cases first-time fabrication) of works by Donald Judd from plans in the Giuseppe Panza collection, a practice rejected by the artist.4 Refabrication seems to require a strong link to the artist as authorizing agent, and even with that authorization the “original experience” of the work remains beyond reach.

10. REFINISH: A term that can also include definish, as when David Smith’s executor, Clement Greenberg, had the paint stripped from several of the artist’s sculptures in order to maximize their value to the estate. Greenberg’s refinishing was first revealed by Rosalind E. Krauss in 1974, in what was later understood as an opening salvo of the postmodern turn against supposedly immutable modernist values.5 Most often, the decision to refinish is taken by conservators confronting damage. Typically, authorization is required; according to oral history, after Alexander Calder’s Big Sail, 1966, at MIT was repainted by the buildings and grounds department in the late ’70s, the unauthorized finish had to be sandblasted off and a curatorially approved paint surface applied. Artistic authorization may also trump the traditional conservation ethos of minimal and reversible interventions: Sol LeWitt advocated complete stripping and refinishing to repair damage to the uniform enamel surface of his serially produced metal works.

11. REINSTALL: A recent variation on reconstructing or restaging, this term takes as its unit of measure an entire space, whether filled by an exhibition or a room-sized environment. This trend has surely been stimulated by the rise of installation art as a genre since the early 1990s; an early example of the conundrum was the 1994 retrospective of Robert Morris at MoMA, for which the artist was engaged in many decisions to refabricate and reinstall works, admitting that he “went by the photo in hand,” relying on installation shots of his own important 1963 Green Gallery exhibition (for example).6 Morris’s acknowledged tangle of “phantasy and images, desire and loss . . .wit and guilt” in these decisions reared up again when Art Basel offered a “recreation” of the artist’s 1969 Scatter Piece in 2012, which required him to “refashion” a work originally determined by chance procedures from nine drawings that survived from his original installation at the Corcoran Gallery (the installation work itself “accidentally discarded” after the ’69 show).7 The role of the curator in these projects is forensic above all, parasitic upon the kind of photographic documentation (“installation shots”) that became commonplace only in the 1960s—a process of photographic reconstruction Allan Kaprow categorically opposed. See, for example, curator Daniel Birnbaum’s highly self-conscious reinstallation of a Blinky Palermo site-specific construction Himmelsrichtungen from the 1976 Venice Biennale, refabricated and reinstalled in its historical site as part of the 2009 Biennale. Birnbaum chose to put up next to the reconstituted Palermo an informal display of photocopies and historical documents (e.g., shipping and metalworker bills along with installation photographs) that both vouchsafed the accuracy of his reinstallation and revealed its remaining mysteries and guesswork. Less revealing were the Gutai works in the same Biennale, most simply described as “reconstructions,” with no attempt to recreate original visitor relations of entry or manipulation.

12. REINVENT: Preferred by some over reinstall, since it openly acknowledges the gaps that must be bridged in adapting the fragmentary past for use in the present; though to others it may seem an aggrandizing term for the rule-bound, constrained, and forensic practice of historical reinterpretation. Reinvention was the term of choice for Helen Molesworth, who produced a series of installations going under the name of Allan Kaprow’s Yard (1961) at Hauser & Wirth Gallery and elsewhere in New York during the fall of 2009, three years after Kaprow’s death. Molesworth worked closely with Kaprow’s notes, and followed the trail of the artist’s own “radical” reinterpretations of Yard in producing what could also be termed a crafting of his legacy as repertoire, performed in 2009 by a group of contemporary artists—William Pope.L, Sharon Hayes, and Josiah McElheny. The ambiguity of “reinvention” is suggested by Hauser & Wirth’s simultaneous claims to “present Allan Kaprow’s seminal environment Yard” (which was represented in a different fashion through an extensive simultaneous exhibition of documents) and also to offer “a dramatic, sprawling reinvention.”8 The Yard reinvention also followed the precedent set by a traveling retrospective of Kaprow’s work, “Allan Kaprow—Art as Life,” which opened at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, shortly after Kaprow’s death in 2006. There Kaprow’s situation- and event-based work was evoked through multiple perspectives, including display cases of documentation, presentation of films and videos generated as part of the happenings, and the reinvention of both happenings and environments as collaborations with curators or other artists—who took up the process of transformation Kaprow advocated during his lifetime.

13. RELIC: Residual artifacts play a dominant role in all of the reconstitutions and refabrications listed above. And these fragments foreground the link to earlier religious practices that keeps the cult in culture. Chris Burden’s early body art was scrupulously accompanied by the production of relics: the lock from his Five Day Locker Piece, 1971; the nails from his crucifixion to a Volkswagen for Trans-fixed, 1974; etc. Yet these material bits are left out entirely from the 2013 New Museum retrospective of Burden’s work, “Extreme Measures,” in favor of video and photographic documentation, an omission revealing the contemporary logic of re: namely, that the photograph or video (whether documenting an installation or recording performance art) constitutes its own kind of relic—one that seems to enable the ongoing performativity of many canonical works. The flip side of relic is suggested by residue, conveying the sense of a remainder that may or may not become culturally treasured. Examples are Eva Hesse’s latex works, some of which must be kept sealed in museum storage cases as fundamentally unstable “residues” of her process. This can also be said of the heliograph by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce fetishized as the putative first photograph, housed in another special box in the University of Texas (Austin) Gernsheim Collection, “sealed within an atmosphere of inert gas in an airtight steel and Plexiglas storage frame,” as its conservators describe it on the museum’s website. The Niépce image is widely available only in a rephotograph from the plate that was retouched by Gernsheim “in order to bring it as close as possible to his approximation of how he felt the original should appear in reproduction.”9 Where residues are concerned, conservation is intimately involved with their supplementation, as with the badly faded Mark Rothko paintings that were commissioned by Harvard University and then fatally overexposed to sunlight in their first installation; it is now proposed to reconstitute them through specially adjusted lighting that supplies faded hues through conservationally approved illumination.

14. REMAKE: Both verb and noun, interchangeably. Lygia Clark’s experiential objects, for instance, have been offered to visitors as remakes, with untouchable originals displayed alongside new “exhibition copies” that can be worn or handled; Hélio Oiticica offered his own remake of his 1967 Brazilian Tropicália installation in 1969 London, sketching it out as part of his immersive environment Eden for the city’s visitors. Digital artwork yields even more extreme examples. Douglas Davis’s The World’s First Collaborative Sentence, 1994, has recently been exhibited in two versions: one showing the garbled output and broken links that result when the original code is run on newer computers, and a newly recoded version—the “remake” being the only one that works, given present technology. Does the movie industry’s specific concept of the “remake” (a kind of reconsideration and reinterpretation of available repertoire) offer an alternative term for Paul McCarthy’s eighty-foot-high inflatable version of Jeff Koons’s high-end stainless-steel rendition of a low-end clown classic? Or would music’s tradition of the “cover” present a more appropriate model for the reconsideration and reinterpretation of available repertoire?

15. REMIX: Term for taking parts of existing musical tracks (or by extension, visual or performance material) and cutting them together to create new material or, as new media scholar Ken Goldsmith put it in a 2013 lecture on copyright and internet art, “the incorporation of third party material and/or agency into new works.”10 The remix as a self-conscious moniker was born in the digital era (although it has its origins in the analogue culture of the courtship “mixtape” and the “disco version” of Top-40 hits playing in 1980s dance clubs). The remix stimulates corporate anxiety even as it is celebrated (by I. P. lawyer Lawrence Lessig, for example) as a youthful and democratic “bottom-up” form of creativity in a “read-write” culture floating in widely available, if often drastically compressed, source material. Music sampling also provided the basis for an important legal precedent, with the Supreme Court’s 1994 decision in Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, Inc., which found that 2 Live Crew’s parody of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” could indeed constitute a form of fair use under the US Copyright Code—emphasizing transformative value in a finding that has been crucial for later fair use victories by Jeff Koons and Richard Prince. At the same time, in the art world the term is borrowed to provide a frisson of trendiness, applied to such exhibitions as the “post-identity” show Remix: New Modernities in a Post-Indian World, organized in 2008-2009 by the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, and curated by Gerald McMaster and Joe Baker. The fact that such exhibitions still pivot around the “Post-Indian” identification of artists who share “Native ancestry” points to the remix as a site of contradictory cultural desires—to mix again what are identified as “traditions” (in this case, Native) with electrifying and fashionable elements of hip-hop urban youth culture.

16. REPATRIATE: If “origins” are evanescent in these entries, most of which circulate around contemporary art, here notions of (national) origin confront the global market for much older objects that are discovered, through research or other detective work, to have been traded under questionable circumstances. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently returned two Khmer sandstone sculptures to Cambodia (they had been on display in New York for two decades) after clear evidence surfaced that they had been looted from a temple complex in Koh Ker, and Cornell University is reported to be negotiating the repatriation of a collection of ten thousand cuneiform tablets to Iraq based on suspicions that they were looted following the 1991 Gulf War. Restitution is the larger umbrella term, conveying the juridical nature of proceedings that seek a larger cultural justice for cases that are often exemplary of colonial presumptions about the best repository for the world’s cultural heritage. Recently, twentieth-century objects have joined this litany of organized plunder and destruction. News came out of Munich in November 2013 about the discovery of an apartment filled with a vast trove of paintings and drawings amassed during the Nazi era, following close on the heels of an announcement by the Netherlands Museums Association that new provenance research had revealed 139 objects in public collections to have come through theft or coerced sales during the Nazi regime, serving as a reminder of the many unresolved legal and moral issues surrounding repatriation and restitution. While points of origin are central in relation to looted works taken from a nation, ownership arguments by individuals are frequently made on the basis of moral claims rather than enforceable legal rights.

17. REPERFORM: Almost never used in performance discourse, but sometimes employed when “performance art” as such is being emphasized, particularly in visual-arts discourses but also sometimes in the case of famous theatre and dance works where the performers themselves are seen as crucial (“so-and-so is going to reperform Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring”). Reperformance is even more awkward and is rarely deployed. “Reenactment” is most common in current usage—perhaps because it keeps the act in play and thereby asserts a robust claim to authenticity, a quality to which performance studies makes frequent claim (even as art history proffers its own modes of yearning for “originality”). In the practice of Marina Abramović, Imponderabilia (devised and enacted first with Ulay in 1977) is simply “performed” as often as the artist authorizes it to be performed—increasingly, by other agents and gender combinations than those represented by the originating artist duo. Clearly the context of postmodern appropriation gave reperformance whatever legs it had, as when Mike Bidlo, known primarily as a postmodern appropriation artist, “reperformed” or “reprised” Yves Klein’s role in the 1960 Anthropometry of the Blue Period by “directing” nude women slathered with blue paint to print themselves on pristine paper and canvas. The critical impact of this 1986 reperformance, which repeated the gender inequities of the earlier Klein (arguably without the sharp edge of the earlier version), suffers in relation to Rachel Lachowicz’s 1992 Red Not Blue, in which she reperformed the Klein yet again, but with herself (in cocktail dress and heels) directing naked men to imprint themselves on paper after covering their bodies with liquified red lipstick.

18. REPHOTOGRAPH: There is a clear (if largely unexplored) historical trajectory linking the obsession with the readymade that was nurtured by Duchamp through the ’30s and exploded on the art market in the ’50s and ’60s, the appropriated image/object that became pervasive in the ’80s, and the current re actions in postmodernism’s wake. Sherrie Levine’s practice can be linked to a current surge in reenactments, in which photography is itself recoded as a kind of authorial action. This was evident in a summer 2012 workshop that Eric Doeringer held at Printed Matter in New York, where participants were able to follow the artist in making what he calls “bootleg” versions of contemporary art by shooting images from his collection of classic Marlboro Man advertisements—which had also, of course, served as “original” source material for Richard Prince’s cowboy pictures in the heyday of postmodernism. Prince did not respond; perhaps he was too busy with Patrick Cariou’s ongoing lawsuit from 2009, in which the artist was sued for incorporating photographs from Cariou’s 2000 book Yes, Rasta into photocollages that were transferred to canvas and further reworked. The 2011 district court ruling came down resoundingly against Prince, but in 2013 the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found in his favor, judging twenty-five of the thirty works to be sufficiently transformative to merit fair use protection, and sending the decision on the other five back to the district court for reconsideration.

19. REPLICATE: May include the readymade, in the sense that the readymade is (supposedly) a mass-produced object in an infinite series of replicas that have no original. To contrast the two, the readymade is supposedly appropriated and the replica is often painstakingly crafted. Under the guise of appropriation, artists have undertaken various strategies that have resulted in the re-presentation of existing forms and motifs under new authorship, but institutions are also increasingly part of the game, in ways that help eradicate already-blurred distinctions between artist and curator. One striking case is the collaboration between the Van Abbemuseum and artist Li Mu in the realization of his goal of exhibiting modern and contemporary art from the Dutch museum in the Chinese village of Qiuzhuang—a project achieved through the replication of works that would have been difficult to transport and insure, including the further replication of a Sol LeWitt sculpture that had already been the subject of a multiplication project undertaken by the SUPERFLEX group at the Dutch museum. Unlike readymade and reproduction, replica strongly connotes an extant original that has been studied and faithfully rendered in a similar medium (as when Richard Hamilton carefully replicated Duchamp’s Large Glass in 1965–66 for the Tate Museum when the original could not travel)—but one should not lose sight of the potential overlap between replica and fake. Replication also brings to mind duplication—and thus reiteration—but in the case of replication, of an object rather than a verbal or written utterance per se.

20. REPRODUCE: Linchpin term for understanding much of the taxonomy thus far, from readymade to replica to rephotography. Reproduction was central to debates about postmodern art in the 1980s and that discourse was responsible for much that followed. Anxieties about reproduction, with their intriguing relation to the body, were in play as early as the Industrial Revolution but sharpened dramatically in the postwar expansion of the consumer economy; they become crucial to understanding the current obsession with reenactment, for example. Repro- words are best understood as a range of discursive constructs developed first to distinguish between, for example, a “reproductive” engraving and a “fine art” print (to say nothing of a photo-lithograph or Greg Allen’s Chinese workshop paintings made from a reproduced Richter photograph for his 2012 show “Richteriana”). All stand in relation to a market for art made “on spec” and detached from patronage per se, mediated by galleries and dealers who engage in retail and resale. Reproduction is dangerously linked to replica, copy, and forgery, all of which have distinct uses in art-world discourse (see above), a danger to which discursive devices such as limited edition, artist’s proof, and exhibition copy respond. Recent court cases illustrate the slippery nature of the term: Although the appeals court decision in Cariou v. Prince provides new support for transformative use, the decision came too late for Sarah Morris, who settled out of court in response to a copyright-infringement lawsuit over her open adaptation of published origami folding diagrams as the basis for large-scale abstract paintings—an extremely problematic outcome given artists’ long-established use of found patterns and available motifs. The idea that something is a reproduction seems to require the existence of an original but also a lack of artistic intervention or value added by the supposed redo. “Reproduction” thus would not be seen to cover Wade Guyton’s paintings made by reproductive print technologies because they are precisely configured to surface the “glitch” in the industrial process and hence avoid reproductive status despite their medium. Similarly, the thousands of Damien Hirst dot paintings executed by assistants in workshops are not reproductions (at least not legally or literally speaking) since ostensibly each is planned as unique. As consolidated in the 2013 catalogue raisonnée, all thousand-plus of them are “originals”—yet we would argue, they can also be considered authorized reproductions at various scales of the same conceptual idea (decoded with the Controlled Substances Key Painting of 1994, now at the Tate). The acknowledged model for these contemporary practices can be found in numerous works produced under Warhol’s direction in the early Factory, where variations in the employment and combination of silkscreens resulted in the voluminous creation of unique works based directly on strategies of mechanical reproduction.

21. REPRESENT: Constitutive of all the artistic operations recounted above. With its vexed etymological and metaphysical relation to presence, it proposes to re-present, or (to paraphrase Heidegger) re-presence, that which in classical philosophy supposedly preexists as essence. The representation can range from being either a secondary version of a higher, truer reality (in Platonic thought) or a mediated relation to the untouchable Real (as in Lacan’s poststructuralism). In the wake of the latter, representation is all there is—with some caveats. Here we get to the core of the obsession with re, which must acknowledge its impossible relation to an imagined essence, but at the same time exults in its status as “representative” of that essence, if only by reproduction. By the ’60s, these re terms could be taken as fully detached from realism and representational art, with Conceptual art practices such as the re-presentation of Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings via instructions dutifully followed by others. More recently, Tino Sehgal has described those authorized to train interpreters for presenting his Kiss, 2004, at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2013 as “representatives.” Bringing us full circle (or at least back to the emergence of Conceptualism out of the Duchampian readymade), the re in representation poses the deepest questions about what art is in relation to the world of beings and things.

Martha Buskirk is a Professor of art history and criticism at Montserrat College of Art and the author of Creative Enterprise: Contemporary Art between Museum and Marketplace (Continuum, 2012).

Amelia Jones is a Professor and the Grierson Chair in Visual Culture in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University in Montreal.

Caroline A. Jones is a 2013–14 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, as well as a Professor of art history in the History, Theory, and Criticism program at MIT.


1. Joseph Henry, “Artists Reanimate Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings at Montreal College Campus,” BLOUIN ARTINFO, international edition (September 19, 2013); available online at:

2. Shanks summed up his general approach to archaeology in these terms in an untitled presentation on a panel at Performance Studies International, Stanford University, June 29, 2013.

3. On reenactments in general, and on Ming Ma and Yoko Ono, see Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield, ed., Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History (Bristol: Intellect Press, 2012).

4. Susan Hapgood, “Remaking Art History,”Art in America 78 (July, 1990): 114–17.

5. Rosalind E. Krauss, “Changing the Work of David Smith,” Art in America 62:5 (Sept.– Oct.): 30-35.

6. Robert Morris, as interviewed by W. J. T. Mitchell, “Golden Memories: W. J. T. Mitchell Talks with Robert Morris,” Artforum 32:8 (April 1994): 88.

7. Ibid., 87, and, on the Art Basel reconstruction, Yan Yan Huang, “Paint by Number,”

8. Hauser & Wirth,


10. Public Lecture given under the auspices of Hexagram Resource Center, Concordia University, 5 November, 2013.

Many thanks to Beatrice Balcou…