Where do the boundaries of an art collection end? Outside of exhibitions, are they limited to authorized images or can they extend to encompass public impressions: sketches, photographs, or more elaborate interpretations?
Oliver Laric, “Lincoln 3D Scans,” 2013 (screencap). Commissioned by the Collection, Lincoln, UK, through the Contemporary Art Society Annual Award: Commission to Collect; Funded by the Sfumato Foundation. Courtesy the artist
As the tide of a more democratically produced culture laps at the foundation of institutions, questions about what constitutes an “authorized image”—and how this might be shared—have unnerved traditional protocols and troubled longstanding income streams (whereby museums earn revenue from image reproduction). Artist Oliver Laric’s “Lincoln 3D Scans” enters these debates through a loophole that recasts the nature of the image and propels it towards new audiences.
In collaboration with the Collection and Usher Gallery in Lincoln, UK, Laric initiated “Lincoln 3D Scans,” a project comprised of scanning and publishing 3-D models of works in the institutes’ archive. Presented this month as part of First Look, this experimental and open-ended project’s original premise is described succinctly on the website: “[Lincoln 3D Scans] aims at making the collection available to an audience outside of its geographic proximity and to treat the objects as starting points for new works.” The Lincoln models—virtualized national treasures that are now free to download—have been picked up by those with animation skills. Resulting new works include Einstein by Matthew Williamson, in which an original nineteenth-century bronze bust has been transformed into an undulating purple GIF with an unearthly patina. Marble Boy, from an artist who identifies himself simply as “Cyril,” is an image of an enlarged sculpture of a kneeling boy dropped into a sepia-toned photograph of an American frontier town—a transformation that lends the sculpture an extraterrestrial appearance, as if it had fallen into the street like space debris. Adding a new layer to the original collection, the “Lincoln 3D Scans” website contains the open source models and tracks new works (such as the ones above) in a dedicated gallery.
This new inquiry extends Laric’s research into the status of a copy versus the original, a strong current running throughout the artist’s work and seen most emblematically in his series of videos “Versions” (2009–ongoing). Each “Versions” video is a montage of appropriated text and video, each one a transubstantiation of its predecessor. The series examines the performativity and manipulation at play in the process of image reproduction and proliferation, and questions how the copy, however degraded or disfigured, can gain authority over the original. In “Versions” (2009), the narrator intones a modified quote from philosopher Boris Groys:
A sculpture cannot merely be copied but always only staged or performed. It begins to function like a piece of music, whose score is not identical to the piece—the score being not audible, but silent. For the music to resound, it has to be performed. The more images, mediations, intermediaries, icons are multiplied and overtly fabricated, explicitly and publicly constructed, the more respect I have for their capacities to welcome, to gather, to recollect meaning and sanctity.
“Lincoln 3D Scans” welcomes and gathers such new meanings. It redraws the boundaries of its collection and, in so doing, points to a shifting attitude towards art. Where we once appreciated artworks by standing in their presence or gazing at their images, now, we need to gain proximity: to touch, alter, or insert ourselves into their sanctified space. Culture, regardless of its provenance or age, is surrendering to so many hands that are now making it anew.
“Lincoln Scans 3D” was made possible by an award from The Contemporary Art Society Annual Award.
1 Original quote from Boris Groys, “Religion in the Age of Digital Reproduction,” e-flux journal, 2009 <http://www.e-flux.com/journal/religion-in-the-age-of-digital-reproduction/ (accessed January 7, 2014).