On copying, reproducing and confronting

21 October 2008 |

Teaching a proper course is such a different experience from my experience delivering the PhD training programme, I can not overcome certain aspects of it. Having started my academic career at the top of the degrees pyramid (don’t get excited, that pyramid doesn’t match the salary pyramid) I have missed certain aspects such as curriculum, assessment, learning outcomes, and all that malarkey that the PgCert prepared me for. It makes even less sense when planning my psychoanalysis course. Assessing psychoanalytic thinking in 15 weeks? How? That is just going to undo all the work on the course! Yet, I have to take the position of the master, that one I am going to dismantle on the first day…

Anyway what brought me to think about teaching proper courses is the issue of cohort, something I don’t get with my PhD group. A very interesting manifestation of cohorts is source fads. You know, when suddenly the whole group is reading Benjamin’s Arcades Projects. Okey. Then, last year, it was Latour’s Actor-Network theory. I can barely keep up, but I guess that’s what makes it interesting too. It also translates in practice. At some point last November, students were appropriating. I wonder whether galleries experience these fads and to what extent. They must do. I like to keep up with my students so I did look up on appropriation to find exciting examples – exciting for me and thought provoking for them, of course – and through one of my image researches I found this:


It really is what it looks to be. A copy of Duchamp’s Étant Donnés. Reproducing it is by no means an impossible task, of course, as it is well known that Duchamp left painstakingly precise notes on how to build the tableau vivant/nature morte. Still, some knowledge of geometry, of maths is needed. Technical ability aside, though, why would anyone want to reveal how a magic trick is done? I was complaining that last week’s talk circled too much about meaning; this, around technicalities and how artists work. When, oh, when are we going to confront ourselves as viewers?

This perhaps raises the issue, unpins the viewer from her small cross on the floor, lets her free, loose to wander and find out how things are made. Still, it reflects on the original piece and not what the original piece meant to do. I guess that is my problem too with my student’s source-fads. We’ll see what this year brings me.

Image Credit: Richard Baquié. Sans titre. Étant donnés, 1°) la chute d’eau, 2°) le gaz d’éclairage (Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, 1991)

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