Wednesday, November 4, 2009

David Hockney, iPhone, and the idea of "original" in a digital world

I've been reading Lawrence Weschler's recent article in the NY Review of Books on David Hockney and his use of the iPhone to make digital paintings.

David Hockney's iPhone PassionBy Lawrence Weschler. New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 16.

And listening and viewing the associated podcast and slideshow of Hockney's digital paintings.

These are born digital works of art. Hockney makes the pictures on his iPhone and sends them to several friends; they send them on to their friends. Weschler notes that none of these images are "copies." Each is the "original." There is no difference between one or another of these images. Hockney has not made a series (an unlimited series?) No one has applied a process to make copies that introduces any difference between the "original" and the "copy." Although Hockney only made one "copy" of any of his digital paintings, there are simply multiple originals. One and many at once. Original and copy at once. The cognitive dissoance is stimulating and revealing.

I find this interesting in how thoroughly this shows the concepts of "original" and "copy" that we use all the time with art objects and books and such are overthrown by digital production and distribution tools and processes. What new ideas and new words will come to replace "original" and "copy"? What new mental models and thus operational models will we construct to live with multiple originals? What new social arrangements will we make to accomodate ourselves to this radical abundance of information, of art, and of originals?

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