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Workshop: The Transformative Power of the Copy: A Transcultural and Interdisciplinary Approach

Announcement | Programme | Abstracts | Logistics


 Organisers: Dr. Corinna Forberg (MC5) & Dr. Philipp Stockhammer (MC8.2)

Venue: Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies (KJC)
Voßstr. 2, Building 4400
69115 Heidelberg, Room 212
February 14-15, 2014


The abstracts below are listed in the order of the speaker's talks at the workshop.

Jens Schröter

The Age of Non-Reproducibility. Limiting the Power of the Copy

Ever since Walter Benjamins essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” it is a central idea of media theory – or approaches related to that field – that media enhance and accelerate reproduction and copying. Technologies like the copier, distributed since the 1960s add to this idea. The step from analogue to digital media seemed even more to be an increase in reproducibility. The difference between original and copy seemed to vanish at all.
This loss of difference between original and copy is also a central topic in postmodernist theories of ‘simulation’, which are especially connected with the name of Jean Baudrillard. The talk tries to sketch a short history of theories of reproducibility, copy and simulation – and to show their limits. The transformative power of the copy becomes manifest when the copy threatens to disrupt the operability of the medial infrastructures of capitalist economy and the state. Obviously the permanent increase of reproducibility needs also an increase in technologies to prevent copying, f.E. in regard to money or documents like the passport. So the history of reproducibility has a shadow: the history of techno-juridical ensembles of non-reproducibility – the permanent struggle to limit the power of the copy.

Monica Juneja

Imitation, Emulaion or Dialogical Praxis? The Copy as a Category of Transcultural Art History

Among the values imbibed by the discipline of art history is the modernist elevation of “originality” to measure creativity. There follows therefore a dichotomy between the “original” and “copies”/ “derivations”, for instance, which continues to be a cardinal value that informs scholarship in the field. But a view of historical processes over centuries brings out the centrality of imitation/emulation as a site of cultural practice across regions. Imitation can be a creative form of relating to migrant objects, forms and practices, of dealing with difference, of acknowledging authority or of dialogical practice.

The focus of this presentation is South Asia where I investigate a range of practices that are subsumed under the designation “copy” – and yet stand for different transactions. Analysing these across time and in specific localities allows us to recuperate transcultural practices and rethink the relationship between art history and material objects.

Jin-Ah Kim

Imitation and Creation. An attempt at differentiation from a musicological point of view

In musicology the term ‘copy’ is not an established one. The terms ‘imitation’ or ‘emulation’ are used instead, mostly in a negative sense, as an opposite pole to the consistently positive term ‘creation’. Up to now there has been a lack of fundamental consideration of the wide spectrum of distinct musical practices which exist between imitation and creation. My lecture is an attempt to redress this deficit. In a historical outline it will be shown that from antiquity to the advent of aesthetic modernism music has been subsumed under the claim to validity through mimesis, and that creative potential is inherent in this claim to validity.
Secondly, the focus is on those musical practices in which transcultural concepts of music are discussed in terms of their social, epistemic, ethical, and aesthetic aspects. Thirdly, an attempt will be made to reconceptualise musical imitation /emulation from the perspective of ‘interpretative appropriation’. The purpose of my intention is to liberate imitation /emulation from this consistently negative interpretation and to see it as a regulative process in the context of human creative activity. In doing so, the intention is also to modify ‘creation’ with regard to its supposed intrinsic assumptions about individuality and originality, and to examine its connection with imitation /emulation.

Susanne Knaller

Always Dealing with Reality but never too close to it. The Notion of the Copy in Modern Aesthetics

In my talk I will deal with the idea that the concept of copy is a most basic one in Western epistemology. The concept of copy is older than that of the original and still forming the ground of artistic and aesthetic notions up to today. After a short description of the history of copy and original followed by a typology of different notions of copy in the aesthetic context, I would like to strengthen the thesis that the discourse of copy is always a discourse on the quality of reality regarding artistic and aesthetic works.

Therefore the notion of copy can give us insights into the precarious but unavoidable relation between art and the ideas of reality at its basis. While departing from a very contemporary point of view regarding this relationship and taking into consideration new techniques and theories I would like to demonstrate that the question of copy (and original) can be of help to overcome the binarity of materiality-immateriality, material-form, thing-representation etc. that has dominated our discourses throughout Modern aesthetics. The theoretical parts of the talk will be accompanied by different examples of various modes of copies and show the way in which they are constructed and designed.

Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer

Copy and Write. The Transformative Power of Copying in Language

The first part of the paper explores what can be considered an original and what can be defined as a copy in language. This involves the discussion of the classical Saussurean dichotomy langue/parole, the consideration of linguistic form as against linguistic meaning or function, the comparison of copying, repetition and reduplication, as well as the contemplation of the role of prefabricated chunks, their size and frequency.
The second part of the paper discusses in what situations and for what reasons copying occurs in linguistic usage. After considering briefly whether copying is possible in the oral mode, particular emphasis will be laid on the question of what constitutes a copy in written language, and specifically in academic quotations – an issue of great topicality in present-day academia.
The final part of the paper considers how similar linguistic copies can maximally be to a supposed original. This raises the question of what constitutes a copying error and what should rather be interpreted as deliberate variation.

The paper will conclude with a discussion of how differences and copying errors in linguistic usage provide the basis for new developments in language and it will evaluate their importance for processes of language change.

Martin Gessmann

The Inscrutability of the very Notion of the Copy

Philosophy in the 20th century was very much concerned with the remnant of Platonism in our Western thinking. It was particularly language philosophy that focused on Plato’s idea of original forms and the things in the world being their mere copy. The original form was treated as equivalent to the meaning of our words, the physical things as equivalent to the word’s reference. In the wake of Wittgenstein’s Antiplatonism, Willard Van Orman Quine came up with the startling idea that we could no longer understand what the reference of words could truly mean as soon as we acknowledged the radically changing meaning of our words. The evidence behind this assumption was the virtual character that is put on the meaning of our words once they are understood in the new context of computer languages. And the more artificial languages there are, the more our ‘native’ language itself may finally appear artificial and, in consequence, the actual essence of things could no longer be made out at all. Today the triumph of technologies, such as 3D printers and Computer Aided Design is renewing those intellectual quandaries on an enhanced level.

Not only does the linguistic meaning of our words appear to be artificial, the very form of things that is represented by the computer data is now open to any manipulation we care to subject it to. And if the original form appears to be virtually designed, the physical thing that comes out of the 3D printer proves to be manipulated even more in its essence. And, finally, if there is no longer any essence of the form, the very notion of a copy is intellectually called into question. If there really is no form as a ‘thing in itself’, the form itself is already no more real than any copy of real forms. The world would therefore be filled up with copies. The paper aims to show some ways we can cope with this new loss of reality.

Birgit Mersmann

Image Empowerment Through Copying? Global and Local Variables of Copycat Cultures

Global cultures are often identified as Cultures of Copy. This definition implies that the increase and reevaluation of copying practices is a consequence of new reproduction technologies, in particular the digital media that have made the concept of the original obsolete. A historical look at East Asian cultural techniques and art strategies gives good reasons for relativization: Practices of repetition, paraphrasing, imitation and copying have always enjoyed high recognition in the creative field.
The paper will assess the creative power and cultural significance of the copy from an intercultural perspective. It will investigate how the relations of particular cultures (here the Western, Asian, and Arabic culture) towards the concepts of original and copy, creation and reproduction, are displaced and renegotiated in the digital age of “copy and paste”, given that the means of digital reconstruction allow for unlimited remake and resurrection even of works and beings that have ceased to exist in reality.

The analysis will focus on two case studies from the field of world art, which have stirred a heated debate on the universality and originality of world cultural heritage. Within the field of visual arts, the effect of global cultures of copy has become manifest in form of a global copying of (originally Western) art-institutional mega-formats such as the art museum, art biennial, and art fair. As a response to this new trend, the issue of image empowerment through copying will not only be discussed on the basis of a) an individual art work, namely the Buddha statue of Bamyian, whose potential reconstruction in Afghanistan and “real” copy in China has sparked a hot intercultural debate on the material and immaterial values of copying cultural heritage, but also with reference to b) an art institution: the Louvre as the museum of world art which is now being copied and remade in Abu Dhabi in the Arab Emirates. Using these examples, the conflict zones and innovation potentials of the new global power of the copy will be scrutinized: Where do the decisive fault lines between intellectual and material property run? Which new definitions and practices of author- and creatorship emerge? Wherein lies the power of transformation and innovation, exerted by the global cultural translation of world culture symbols, their (trans-)historically shaped images? In which way does the copy displace the original through the process of translocation? What are the global and local variables of the contemporary remake and reactivation of historical artworks and art institutions?

Rune Graulund

The Hegemony of the Copy: The Work of Art in the Age of Limitless Digital Storage

If Walter Benjamin was concerned at the loss of aura due to the endless copying made available to us by mechanical reproduction in the early twentieth-century, what will the twenty-first century have in store for us regarding questions of authenticity, origin, rarity? If the copy not only problematizes questions of originality and aura, but actively promotes the redundancy of any one version even of ‘the copy’ (singular), how will such endless multiplication coupled with limitless storage affect our notions of the authentic?

In a juxtaposition of Benjamin’s 1936 essay with the impossibility of forgetting put forward in Viktor Mayer-Schönberger's 2009 monograph “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age”, the talk will consider the 'virtue of forgetting' in an age of almost limitless digital copying and storage. No longer to be consumed and then to be discarded, the talk will query the power of the copy in a world in which the copy has proliferated to such a degree that the concern is no longer that of recalling the authentic, but the impossibility of forgetting any one stage in the creative process itself (let alone in the subsequent replication of it).

Alexander Schwan

The Vertiginous Thrill of Inexactitude: Repetition and Copying in Postmodern Dance

In Trisha Brown’s Roof and Fire Piece (1973), sixteen dancers – dressed in red costumes and positioned on rooftops in SoHo – transmit a sequence of signalling movements across the urban topography of Downtown Manhattan. Each dancer copies the movement he sees on the roof-top in front of him, and is then in turn copied by the dancer behind him. Yet, during the copying process, and due to the bodily individuality of the dancers, the movements involuntarily change, either in terms of dynamics and rhythm or in the movement vocabulary itself.
With regard to theories of repetition and imitation (Søren Kierkegaard, Walter Benjamin), and with a particular focus on postmodern dance (Trisha Brown, William Forsythe, Jan Fabre), I will argue for the non-iterability of dance. Due to the fact that each dancer dances in a slightly different way and is not able to repeat even one dance movement without any variation, copying in dance is always already affected by inexactitude ending up in mere singularity of each movement. In the course of repetition, and in the process of copying, physical constitutions and emotional and cognitive processes will always influence and change the way a pose is struck, a leap is set or a figure is enacted.

Philipp W. Stockhammer

The Dawn of the Copy in the Bronze Age

Contemporary everyday life is dominated by industrially reproduced objects which we perceive as easily replaceable in case of damage or loss. We are used to the existence of what we perceive as identical copies of a certain kind of object. Seen from a long-term perspective, humans were not able to create visually identical copies in large numbers for the longest time of their existence. That only became possible with the invention of the bronze casting technique in the Near East in the early 3rd millennium BC, from where the technique was introduced to Central Europe in the late 3rd millennium BC.

In my paper, I want to elucidate the changes in the perception of the material world which were connected with the new technical possibility of casting large numbers of visually identical objects with casting moulds. I will demonstrate how the ability to produce almost identical copies resulted in the creation of new practices with objects and new ideas about the meaning and potential of objects in the world: the possibility to possess several identical weapons became the hallmark of the Early Bronze Age hero and groups of seemingly identical objects were considered to be the most appropriate offer to the gods in the form of hoards.

Charlotte Schreiter

Materiality and Contexts of Large-Scale Copies after the Antique in the Late 18th Century

Plaster casts of ancient statues have since the Renaissance been, in a certain sense, the archetypes of artistic serial production: as such they are copies par excellence. Their use and distribution went through real booms, which throw important light on their valuation as ‘copies’ in the contexts of different regions and periods. In the short period between the middle and end of the 18th century, in the German-speaking world there was a fundamental shift in the distribution and accessibility of large-scale ancient sculpture. A central role in this was played by plaster casts, which became available in previously unimagined quantities after the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763. To display works in the open air, durable materials were needed – such as papier maché, terracotta, iron, and firm earths and stone types, which were praised for being cheap and permanent. The technical possibilities and the materials used were the subject of a discourse of their own, which reflected on the effects of the industrial revolution. Manufacture, and craft production through division of labour, came to the fore rather than the artist, so that in the evaluations of the period the production technique gained importance, not the artistic achievement of a single person.

The paper is devoted to these large-format casts and copied statues, their size matching their ancient models, and to the question of how materials and production techniques as well as the context of use define their status as copy and their influence on the reception of ancient sculpture.

Roland Prien

The Copy of an Empire? Charlemagne, the Carolingian Renaissance and Early-medieval Perception of Late Antiquity

The term “Carolingian Renaissance” was coined by French historian Jean-Jacques Ampère in 1830, but its wide-spread use goes back on his Austrian colleague Erna Patzelt and her essay on Die karolingische Renaissance written in 1924. Since that time it has served as icon for cultural revival in early-medieval times, heavily utilized by historians, art-historians and archaeologists. Based on passages from Carolingian key authors like Alcuin and Einhard praising their emperor for his revival of antique laws, customs and building traditions it is believed that 9th century Frankish society made large-scale investments in the creation of copies of antique art and architecture. A topic hitherto not researched is the question on a Carolingian concept of copies. How were (late) antique art and architecture perceived in the 9th century? Were they understood as “heritage”, as a reminder of a glorious past worth copying? The Marienkirche in Aachen is often interpreted as a Frankish attempt to establish equality between the “old” eastern and “new” (that is recreated) western emperor by architectural means, its main instrument being copying existing imperial architecture. But how much of 6th century Ravenna was needed as inspiration for 9th century Aachen?

Corinna Forberg

Copying the World's Emperor. European Portraits of the Great Mughal

From the 17th century onwards, Indian miniatures with the portraits of the Mughal emperors and some local princes were imported particularly into the Netherlands where they were copied and spread as illustrations in the travel literature throughout Europe. Two different responses on this peculiar process are the graphic work by Bernard Picart including some copies of Indian miniatures and the “Throne of the Mughal Emperor” by Johann Melchior Dinglinger made for the Elector of Saxony, Augustus the Strong.
Picart's work might be regarded as a transformation from a foreign tradition of painting into a familiar one, which can be referred to as a translation in respect of form, style and content. Dinglinger's masterpiece falls in the category of royal portraits with its broad spectrum of representation linked to phenomena as social and political mimesis and authenticity. The latter aspect points to the tradition of demonstrations of the king's portrait as a substitute of the real king. Both the artists bequeathed a treatise with which, in addition to their artistic works, we can follow their ideas in the context of contemporary art theory especially in regard to the copy.

My case studies demonstrate a delineation between academic disciplines: in a traditional understanding of art history, the idea of the copy ends where it is no longer measurable by means of the formal analytical comparison between the original and the copy. The aesthetic dimensions of representation would be excluded. However, this is the point where sociologists and anthropologists begin to study mimetic processes. The question that is to address to all participants of the workshop concerns, therefore, not only the contemporary concept of the copy, but also its limits set by each discipline today.

Julia Weber

Copying and Competition. Meissen Porcelain and the Saxon Triumph over the Emperor of China

It was faithful copies of Japanese porcelains in the Kakiemon style that brought about a change in the appreciation of Meissen porcelain around 1730, two decades after the foundation of the first manufactory of porcelain in Europe. These copies had been ordered by a Parisian dealer who then went on to have the crossed swords mark erased before passing them off as originals. The fact that distinguished collectors initially believed them to be East Asian commanded widespread attention and admiration for the Saxon copies. An article in the Mercure de France of February 1731 even states that some connoisseurs in fact preferred them to the Japanese prototypes. Their unexpected success in Paris, the foremost market for art of the time, also altered the understanding of this native product in Dresden. Convinced that his porcelains had finally trumped the highly rated imports from Far East, Augustus the Strong changed the plans for his ‘porcelain castle’, the Japanese Palace: Henceforth the central throne gallery was to be reserved for Meissen copies in the Kakiemon style and thus to be a testimony to the superiority of Saxon porcelain.

My analysis of the intended interior decoration will disclose just how ingenious was Augustus the Strong’s visual staging of the success of his manufactory as the triumph of the Saxon Elector and King in Poland over the Emperor of China.

Eberhard Ortland

Copies of Famous Pictures in Tadao Ando's “Garden of Fine Arts” in Kyoto

The “Garden of Fine Arts” is a conspicuously modernist stone garden located in the northern part of Kyoto, Japan. It was designed by the architect 安藤 忠雄 Andō Tadaō and completed in 1994. Its full Japanese name is 京都府立陶板名画の庭  Kyōto kenritsu tōban meiga no niwa, that is, the “Kyoto Prefectural Garden of Famous Pictures on Porcelain Panels”. Within a spectacular architectural setting, this open-air museum displays reproductions of eight famous masterpieces of international fine art in their original size, some even enlarged to double size. The copies are printed with extremely durable colours on ceramic tiles. Half of the works represented are from late 19th century French modern artists. Monet's “Water Lilies” are displayed flat on the ground beneath an ever moving water surface. Seurat’s bourgeois leisure scene of “A Sunday Afternoon” comes along with Renoir’s Girl “On the Terrace” and van Gogh’s gloomy “Road with Cypress and Star”. The most spectacular copies show two huge masterworks from the Italian renaissance, namely Leonardo's “Last Supper” and Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment”. This core of the Western canon is complemented by two famous works of East Asian art: The panoramatic picture scroll 清明上河圖 Qingming Shanghe Tu (“On the River During the Qingming Festival”) by the Chinese Northern Song-Painter 張擇端 Zhang Zeduan from the 12th century, and the caricature scroll 鳥獣戯画 Choju Giga (“Caricatures of Birds and Beasts”), painted in the 11th century in Kyoto by 鳥羽 僧正 Toba Sōjō and renowned as the origin of comic drawing and animation in Japan today.

The lecture will analyse the interplay of site specific and more general features of this place, its appropriation and recontextualization of European and East Asian art history together with traditions of Japanese rock gardens and stroll gardens, reinterpreted within the framework of international modern architecture in a way that appears utterly transcultural and is, at the same time, uniquely Japanese, late 20th century.

Christoph Brumann

How to Be Authentic in the UNESCO World Heritage System: Copies, Replicas, Reconstructions and Renovations in a Global Conservation Arena

The institutional framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention of 1972 has established itself as a supreme arbiter of heritage issues and exerts a considerable influence on institutions, discourses, and aspirations within that field world-wide. Initially premised on the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites of 1964, it placed a strong emphasis on the authenticity of material, fabric and design for the cultural sites but over the years, this has changed, partly in response to charges of Eurocentrism. This has led to a widened notion of authenticity, as expressed in the Nara Document on Authenticity of 1994, the adoption of the fellow criterion of "integrity" (= completeness) partly opposed to authenticity, the introduction of new categories such as cultural landscapes where the whole idea of originals and copies finds its limits, and to a number of case-specific decisions that tolerated replicas, reconstructions, and controversial renovations. These were sometimes based on the supreme symbolic dimension of the reconstructions (as with the old city of Warsaw or the bridge of Mostar) but in other cases amounted to an open challenge to Venice-Charter orthodoxy, such as when Viollet-le-Duc's reconstructions in Carcassonne were no longer inauthentic but rather as an important testimony to the pre-Venice history of heritage conservation.

The paper will explore the underlying conceptions of temporal continuity and self-identity of cultural sites but also the constraints on consistency, given the extent to which World Heritage Committee decisions are improvised and subject to political lobbying.

Michael Falser

Copying as Colonial Strategy. Appropriating Architecture of the Far East for European Museum Spaces

Copying artefacts from one cultural sphere and exhibiting these copies in other cultural and political settings in order to visualise aesthetic continuities and claims of cultural inheritance has a long tradition in European (art) history – copied Greek sculpture in Roman collections being one prominent example. However, creating replicas of large-scale architectures from far-away ‘Non-Europe’ (in our case Asia) for European museum spaces can be read as a concrete strategy of appropriation in the context of modern colonialism. In order to explore this specific situation, our case study investigates two exhibition spaces around 1900 where Europe’s ‘own’ and colonially claimed ‘other’ cultural heritage was displayed in the form of monumental plaster cast copies: the ‘Architectural Courts’ of the London’s South Kensington Museum with their European and Oriental sections; and the Trocadero Palace in Paris where Viollet-le Duc’s musée de Sculpture comparée with French Gothic architecture was mirrored with the so far quite unknown musée Indo-chinois with its unique exhibits of Angkorian temple architecture from French-colonial Cambodge.

Patrice Ladwig

Copying Buddhist Kings. The Mimesis of Colonial Rule and the Patronage of Lao Buddhism in French Indochina

When Laos became part of the French empire in 1893, colonial officials found Vientiane in devastated condition. After the lost the battle against the Siamese in 1827, the city was almost completely destroyed. Temples and other Buddhist monuments were not exempted from this destruction. French colonialism from very early on had an interest in sponsoring and restructuring Lao Buddhism in order to create an ‘Indochinese Buddhism’ that was supposed to counter Bangkok’s hegemony in religious matters. Over a span of several decades, but in a more concerted ways after 1930, the French promoted monastic education, reconstructed the major temples in Vientiane and renovated the most important Buddhist relic shrines of Laos.

This article explores the motivations and strategies for this endeavor, and specifically focuses on colonial strategies to enhance and stabilize colonial rule. I argue that by copying the patronage of kings towards Buddhism and his control of the monastic order, the French colonial regime partially and selectively imitated indigenous concepts of statecraft. This form of colonial governmentality demanded a detailed knowledge of Buddhist civilization, and this ‘raw material’ at the basis of colonial mimesis was produced by colonial administrators, and scholars and architects of the École française d'Extrême-Orient. Finally, by exploring emic concepts related to relic shrines as symbols and centers of the power of Buddhist kingdoms, I want to argue that mimetic processes can produce synergistic and mediating effects between indigenous and colonial conceptions of rule, but that this proximity can also fuel friction and resistance.