Thoughts on Copier Art

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by dparker90

The issue of Copier Art, with its reproductions of artists’ copier-made portraits and collages, is an important event in the variantologial spectrum of media art. Not only does it challenge notions of artistic originality, it also manipulates a technology – the copier – for creative purposes that are at odds with its intended function. The artworks in the volume disrupt conventions regarding artistic authenticity:  the work can be copied without losing any of its value, because there are no originals when everything’s a copy. In this respect, I find Copier Art to be a singular moment in the deep time of media that challenges our notions of the proper use of technologies in the present. Much like glitch art, the book, as both manifesto and guide, usurps a technology of control in order to redistribute power.

In teaching readers how to operate copiers and create copier art, the writers of the book continually emphasize the ease and accessibility of this methodological approach. It requires no technical expertise or expensive materials. The copier itself is easily accessible in a public library. However, we know that those who work in offices or other corporate environments would likely have access to this technology. Indeed, the copier was built precisely for these settings. In my view, the corporate worker is the ideal copier artist. However, from my experience working as a paralegal in a corporate law firm, the idea of making art on the office’s copier seems laughable; my manager would have thought it a waste of company resources and time. But that’s the point: waste! In his Variantology, Zielinksi urges us to conduct research and undertake artistic projects that cannot be put to use. Copier art undermines the intended purpose of the copier as a tool for corporate productivity by using it to produce artistic waste.

Finally, I think copier art (and maybe glitch art) challenges Kittler’s assertion that “media determines our situation” (xxxix). Yes, the range of what’s artistically possible in copier art are determined by the constraints of its media – specifically, the functions of the copier – but aren’t we asserting control when we use it for purposes other than those for which it was intended? When we create art from a technology originally intended for productive corporate operations, we’re making media play by our rules.

Copier art

Patrick Firpo, “Look Both Ways Before You Cross”


One comment on “Thoughts on Copier Art

  1. contromal says:

    Just responding to one small part of your post. The idea that copy art requires no technical expertise or expensive materials rubbed me wrong. First off, it makes the medium seem essentially worthless and relegates it to the technically and artistically unsure. Second, copiers are expensive, their toner is expensive, and fixing (especially the newer, larger ones) copiers is not easy. In fact, it would often become such a convoluted process at work that the only accessible copier within a reasonable distance would often remain broken and unused, because of user error.

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