The Multiple as Label
The Critic Smiles is the name which Jasper Johns gave to the small relief of a toothbrush made from lead, pewter and gold from which he had a series of sixty pieces made. The edition published by suhrkamp of the work "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit"(The Artwork in the Era of Its Technical Reproducibility) served as a model for Peter Zimmermann's silkscreen Walter Benjamin. Beuys' Schautafeln für den Unterricht (Illustration boards for Instruction) are photographs. For Venice, Rob Scholte commissioned another painter to copy one of his pictures twenty times, signing each on the back. For the Petits Monuments à Rotella, Mimmo Rotella mounted a can of diesel motor oil of the same name on a simple wooden pedestal for each piece. Claes Oldenburg's cut-out sheet, Air Flow, appeared as the cover of the magazine Art News in February 1966. In addition to George Brecht's Water Yam other Fluxus artists such as Willem de Ridder, Robert Watts and Takehisa Kosugi had little cards printed with instructions from which the purchaser could then organize their own happenings. Tobias Stimm modeled twelve samples of a Kopf (head) of clay, each one different from the other. Sean Landers' work Italian High Renaissance and Baroque Art appeared as a video tape. Richard Hamilton had false teeth mounted atop an electric toothbrush: The Critic Laughs.
As a result of art criticism, the multiple is now celebrating a triumphant comeback after lying in a deep slumber for most of the seventies and eighties. Impressive exhibits, a few magazine articles, but above all a production and presence of multiples on the art market that can scarcely be overlooked are signs of this rebirth, a rebirth untroubled by the fact that no one is really capable of describing what has actually been resurrected. The attempts to invent a definition for the multiple characteristically appear helpless in light of the conglomeration of media, materials and production techniques. One reads: "With the expression [multiple] one describes ... a small sculpture of which a relatively large number are produced."1); or: "Multiples [are] objects which an artist makes up in a number of like copies (printed graphics and sculpted objects of various types)."2); or: "The multiple as duplicated three dimensional object is considered (...) one of the most well known and probably also most wide spread genres of modern art."3); or: "Generally, [the multiple] was understood to be a three-dimensional object that was intended not as a unique work of art, but as an editioned original."4) Or ex negativo: "Perhaps it is easiest to describe the multiple by what it is not. Most agree that the graphic techniques do not qualify nor do editions of sculptures produced using orthodox fine-art casting techniques. The multiple is a confused hybrid."5) For these authors the material nature of the art piece serves as a base for their definitional attempts, though the fact that their results neither cover nor comprehend all of the examples of multiples listed above is as apparent as their agreement on one point: it is always taken for granted that there are several pieces of a multiple. However, with this ascertation alone little has been achieved as also prints, photographs and sculptures are commonly produced as editions and can, but do not have to be, multiples. And although the individual pieces within a series are, for the most part, as similar as one egg is to another, and this is also valid for some multiples, others have been produced as editions of unique pieces and for the cards of the Fluxus artists, this aspect does not even play a role: here the art should not be manifested in an object but rather in a happening which the buyer organizes based on the artist's suggestions. Whereas most of the techniques of graphic duplication can ultimately be traced back to printing, most photography techniques to the light sensitivity of several chemical connections, and sculpture techniq ues to the casting of metals or other materials, nothing similar is to be found for multiples. Some artists use traditional artistic reproduction techniques, others restrict themselves - as in the case of Readymades - to the act of selection and leave the production of the objects to industry and then again there are still others who require that purchasers themselves are active as producers.
Thus the works possess no common characteristic other than the term itself and one must hold onto it in order to explain what that could possibly be: a multiple. Its history, like the artistic practice associated with it, is short and begins in the fifties when various artists began to experiment with "multiplicative" production methods. One of the first was the painter Jean Fautrier, who between 1949 and 1950 hand over-painted multiple series of his own prints, thereby creating pictures which, as 'originaux multiples', varied a subject in several copies. isolated piece for piece, the pictures could, however, pass for unique originals as the multiplicity of their production is not visible and apparently won no greater meaning for the works - also because Fautrier's production methods initially found no further dissemination.
The objects which were produced on commission from large firms towards the end of the fifties, in part by renowned artists, turned out as peculiar hybrids of art works and commodities. The most well known example of these are the Scultura di Viaggio from Bruno Munari, which Danese, the Milan furnishing house, offered as a 'Multipla' in its catalogs. Manufactured from cardboard, foldable and also easy to transport, these small objects were intended to beautify the home apartment and while traveling, the hotel room. Subsequent criticism appeared scarcely impressed by such "objects with a purely aesthetic purpose"6) and feared that art was degenerated into a gadget by such editions. René Block commented in 1974: "(These objects) hover on the outskirts of every aesthetic message which the multiple should in reality communicate... They are more like decoration pieces cut to order for the homo ludens in us; straddling the border of the gag item industry."7)
Block's diagnosis applies only in part: the fact that the Sculturi di Viaggio, Nicolas Schoeffer's light objects produced by Philips as well as Fontana and Vasarely's porcelain works made by Rosenthal, were interpreted as missing the actual message of the multiple, certainly has less to do with the objects themselves: after all, Munari designed successful multiples shortly thereafter and later multiples from OpArt artists were quite similar to Schoeffer's Lumino. What may, however, carry greater weight is that all of these editions were measured by traditional aesthetics at the time of their creation (and also implicitly by Block) in which the serial production of objects did not establish a separate criteria for aesthetic value. On the contrary, it made them suspect when they appeared, on the one hand, as use objects which possessed hardly any practical value and on the other hand, art objects with scarcely any exhibition value. The context which the multiples both required and created for their unfolding could not arise from such an isolated launching. What would become decisive is that the production of various objects from different artists would be compiled in one edition whose comparison of these productions could deduce the meaning for the principle of the art form.
It was precisely this change in the production techniques of multiples which Daniel Spoerri intended when he founded the MAT edition (Multiplication d'Art Transformable)8) in 1959, and which is probably the reason almost all authors refer to this caesura when they want to separate the history of the multiple from that which preceeded it. At the end of the fifties, Spoerri corresponded with various artists about the production of serial art and formulated three principles for a planned edition of those pieces set aside for production in order to avoid having them merely arouse aesthetic pleasure: the 'Multiplicate' shouldn't be manufactured with the normal artistic duplication techniques, whereby the classical reproductive genres of print, photography and sculpture were excluded; they should communicate their inherent idea without the personal handwriting of the artist on the object, which, on the one hand hinders self presentation and on the other makes it possible for the production of the pieces to be handed over to someone else; and finally, the 'multiplicate' should be moveable or in another way alterable allowing the viewers to participate in the production of art. Multiplicat ion thereby signified for Spoerri more than merely a special mode of reproductive art production: it should be inherent in the pieces themselves and readable in their reception. The number of copies was limited to 100 for each, which were however not pre-fabricted en bloc, but produced according to demand and on order and mostly according to models, sketches, or descriptions which the artists had handed over to Spoerri who then made the single copies or gave them out on commission. Occasionally different materials were utilized; the signature of the artist and the numbering were attached by an adhesive label.
Already in the first collection of the MAT edition issued in 1959/60 which, true to its name, contained moving or moveable art objects, Spoerri could, in addition to still unknown artists such as Jesus Raphael Soto, Jean Tinguely and Dieter Roth, already also win over their older and more established colleagues: from Marcel Duchamp, the Rotoreliefs were offered and Man Ray allowed the Lampshade to be replicated. Produced as a single piece in 1920, as a spiral, this cone-like bent aluminum sheet when hung from its vertex, should sway in the air. The works of the others involved turned out according to their respective artistic credo and were almost exclusively committed to OpArt. Yaakov Agam offered the buyer his piece 8+1 in Bewegung, wood sticks of various lengths to be arranged on a perforated black board; Enzo Mari's Objet à composition renouvable places a flat glass case into the viewer's hand in which tri- and rectangular wood pieces, when shaken, arrange themselves into ever new constellations; in Frank Malina's Mobilem Lichtbild - Herkules, plexiglas strips and a mirror are moved by a motor and shed changing light reflections onto a matte glass pane.
However, the commercial success of the MAT edition remained within limits. Spoerri had tried to organize the market üing of the multiples through a mail order catalog and sales exhibits so as not to be dependent on the traditional gallery system. The exhibitions in various major European cities did find a good response in the press, however with the uniform price, the interest of the buyers was mainly concentrated on the objects from the well known artists which appeared relatively inexpensive. Spoerri, who in addition to producing the multiples also looked after their distribution and the exhibitions, was soon tired of the work alone and involved himself in other projects until 1963, when with Karl Gerstner's urging, together they began to prepare new collections of the MAT edition. Gerstner also made sure that the objective of the edition changed: though the first collection had contained kinetic objects as 'art transformable' from this point on, only 'Originale in Serien'9) would be brought out. Accordingly, the works t aken in the collection produced jointly by Spoerri and Gerstner in 1964 and 1965 changed - in addition to the coolly and precisely constructed pieces from OpArt; whose carefully calculated visual phenomenon with partially lavishly finished materials was set into the scene - works of the 'Nouveaux Réalistes' appeared, which as unique pieces were formally as close as possible to conventional originals and reflected what everyday life and organized chance played into the hands of the artists. Still, a number of works did not limit themselves to 'multiplicative' production, but rather they also multiplied the possibilities for their observation: Paul Talman's picture made from twenty-five balls sprayed half black and half white can be arranged anew as often as desired on a black or white background; with an untitled object from Karl Gerstner, the buyer can lay silk screens with ge ometric patterns or his/her own sheets behind a large plexiglas lens which distorts their appearance in various ways according to the perspective. For the new collections of the MAT edition, Spoerri and Gerstner secured the support of the Cologne gallery director Hein Stünke, who overtook the organization of the trade. This constituted a fundamental intervention in the procedure of the edition as it had been followed up to this time. Stünke pushed through selling the multiples at prices oriented on the market value of the respective artists. The collections from 1964 and 1965 were also entirely successful in a commercial sense, nonetheless in 1965 when Stünke offered Spoerri 2,000 German marks to buy the rights to the name MAT, he agreed to sell in order to go on with new plans. Stünke carried on with the MAT edition until the beginning of the seventies, without producing any new collections.
Almost at the same time as the MAT edition - at the beginning of the sixties - there also arose in the USA, above all in the circle of the PopArt art forms, the pieces which brushed against the grain of unique pieces and reproductions and released art from its elite exile. Jasper Johns had already, in 1958, produced sculptures in small series such as Painted Bronze (Ale Cans). Claes Oldenburg opened 'The Store' in December 1961 in New York, a small shop in the Lower East Side, where he offered hand-made imitations in papermaché, plaster, paint and other inexpensive materials, of those things which were also sold by the shops in the neighborhood: sweets, fast-food, cheap clothing. Andy Warhol ran off his first silk-screen in 1962 and gave out hand signed Campbell soup cans. At first only an organizational framework was missing. This then emerged due to the New York newspaper strike in 1962/3: because exhibitions couldn't be announced by advertisements, street banners were painted with PopArt designs which t hemselves were conspicuous enough to become art. As a result, artists and gallery directors founded the Betsy Ross Flag and Banner Company, which initially produced only actual banners and flags in series, but soon broadened its activities. In October of the following year, the Bianchini Gallery in New York was reconstructed into the 'American Supermarket' organized by the gallery director himself, Paul Bianchini, as well as Dorothy Herzka and Ben Birillo. The multiples sold there had little similarity to those of the MAT edition: Claes Oldenburg contributed his sweets and cakes; Tom Wesselmann displayed an oversized turkey made from vacuum formed plastic; Robert Watts offered pumpernickel slices made from plaster and chromium plated eggs; and Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, in addition to other tasks, took care of the design of the paper shopping bags. The success of the American Supermarket quickly carried other projects along with it: in the same year, Rosa Esman b egan to interest PopArt artists in a common edition: 'Seven Objects in a Box' with works from Warhol, Dine, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Segal, Wesselmann and d'Arcangelo was put out in 1966. Likewise, in 1964, multiples of the MAT edition were shown in the Museum of Modern Art in a small exhibit under the title: "Work of Art in Editions." Those running the Betsy Ross Flag and Banner Company were so impressed by that, they decided to change the emphasis of production. Barbara Kulicke remembers: "[It] became evident that it [the Betsy Ross Flag and Banner Company, f.t.] could not sustain itself as an independent business. (...) I met with Marian Goodman who was looking for a location and shop. Multiple editions of all kinds of art objects using all kinds of materials was the plan. We agreed on MULTIPLES as the name. Ursula Kalish came in with Marian ... so there were five of us at the beginning of Multiples. A gallery/store on Madison Avenue and 70th Street was opened on the night of the big black 'out."10) In order to cover themselves legally, Marian Goodman and a colleague visited Daniel Spoerri, who was in New York just at that time and who later recounted: "They (Marian Goodman and her colleague, f.t.) had the 'Betsy Ross Flag-Company' at the time and asked me if I had the copyright for the term Multiple and if it was alright if they also used it. I found it somewhat amusing and said, 'yah, sure you can do that'."11) The gallery directors then renamed the Betsy Ross Flag and Banner Company, Multiple Inc. (and in addition took care of the sales of the works from the MAT edition in the USA). With that, the term conclusively advanced to a synonym for the new art form and shortly thereafter found its way back to Europe to be taken up by the Parisian gallery director Denise René, who had been familiar with Spoerri's reflections on serial art since the fifties. She wrote: "In 1966 ... we decided with the artists to realize a ... choice of their works under the na »me of 'multiple'."12) Among these artists were also, among others, Vasarely and Soto, whose participation alone created the continuity to the MAT edition. As the editions and the term which united them achieved success, Denise René attempted to safeguard the name as a trademark - unfortunately without success: "The word 'multiple' (had been) already in the common vocabulary, it has not been possible to get the 'nom déposé'."13) Almost overnight, the term began a common terminus in the art world: "Depuis six mois, le mot «multiple» se rencontre au détour de chaque page de journal, sur les cartons d'invitation et les affiches de nombre d'exposition, il s'entend à la radio, à la télévision - bref, il se multiple."14)
Although the well chosen term quickly gained acceptance, little was formulated in terms of a common methodical or aesthetic base for the new art form, the multiple. The term 'multiple' began to assume the characteristics of a brand name, albeit in an entirely different sense than the one intended by Denise René: just like everyday language has long dissociated the German terms Tempo and Tixo (corresponding in American English to Kleenex and Scotch tape) from the brand name products and transformed them into synonyms for paper handkerchiefs and clear adhesive tape, artists and gallery directors have appropriated the term: just like a label, they attached it to the most diverse objects of art which could appear in editions. The principles once put forward by Spoerri for the MAT edition were in no way obligatory for all multiples. Soon works produced by traditional means of duplication could be found; Robert Indiana's 'Number Box from 1966', is a silk-screen on wood and Marcel Duchamp's 'Rotoreliefs' were already printed as offset lithographs for the MAT edition. The personal handwriting cannot be overlooked in Tomas Schmidt's 'Quadratur des Kreises' for which the artist created a total of 720 colored pencil drawings , twenty-four sheets of which were laid in each box, resulting in a series of thirty pieces for this multiple; and, finally, a whole series of multiples were neither moveable nor did they allow the observer access which went beyond the normal dimension - movement around the object and occassional contact. After a short time, hardly an aesthetic or norm of the production of multiples, which was not counteracted by other multiples could be imagined: editions of unique pieces encountered series of pieces whose greatest possible identity was to be reached through industrial methods of production; prepared works with clever artistic techniques, met Readymades; limited editions stood face to face with unlimited editions.
With this diversification, the possibility for establishing the multiple as a genre was also lost as the term could no longer reflect the material nature or the production method of the pieces meant by it (serial production as the lowest common denominator of all multiples included not only these, but also prints and series of sculptures). In light of the non-uniform and contradictory definitions the term 'multiple' began to lead its own life in accordance with an art form that parasitically employed all imaginable genres, materials and production methods of all available art forms. 'Multiple' was no longer a name but had become an additive, an attribute, and therewith, even a part of the object. Instead of adding to the traditional classifications of art, a context was described as well as produced which allowed every art object which so desired to be classified within without fulfilling any other conditions than those which the term itself indicated: by naming multiplication, it demonstratively displayed the serial production of the object and emphasized that in addition to the single piece at hand, still more exist which are identical in terms of title, author, and material and whose aesthetic value is identical despite all possible surface differences. The ultimate difference between multiples and prints also lies exactly here: indeed for the latter - apart from monotypes - it goes without saying that a number of sheets will be run off every printing plate; however, for prints, comparatively, the serial nature of their production is rarely set up as having its own aesthetic value, and it is irrelevant to speak of the equivalence of the pieces among themselves, on the contrary, because the relief plates wear out, early proofs are more desirable and fetch a higher price among collectors.15)
Although inspite of their serial production, prints are more often considered individual pieces whose differences don't allow them to be exchanged for each other; purchasers, collectors and museums constantly refer to the other pieces of the same edition in the name of their own multiples. In this way, their production relations become evident, and are likewise made ironic and overtly clear: for example, Ben Vautier names the number and also possible method of production in the title of a work from 1971; writes it on a cardboard label and fastens it with a band to the object itself, a white wine glass from southern Germany: I Ben Drank Wine in 20. Glass! here, it is not about the wine glass as an isolated object but also the nineteen others which are tied in by the story which the title tells. In a more unplanned way, Claes Oldenburg's Wedding Souvenir led to a type of social reflection of the multiple: "in 1966 he (Claes Oldenburg, f.t.) ... made plaster cake pieces in a large edition for a wedding celebration in Los Angeles. (...) Eighteen pieces were painted silver and presented to the wedding couple as a torte, while the remaining individual pieces were given as gifts to the guests . In a strange way, this gift which should signify the common enjoyment of happiness, became the object of another more prosaic ritual. Because they were designed as presents, the individual pieces of cake never had a high commercial value; but in the meantime whole cakes - which were now seen as sculptures rather than as multiples - had reached a considerably high market value so that many of those who owned single pieces now got together to achieve new wealth. It thus continued to function, although in a less sophisticated way, owing to an unintentional irony of the community spirit expressed in the romantic notion of the wedding cake's distribution to the guests."16) What was due to chance and the art market here, Thaddeus Strode in his multiple from 1991 'I'm A Lead Box' had at least laid out as a possibility from the outset: each of the eighteen pieces of the edition was made from a cardboard box whose contents were nine different color-coated aluminum sheets, which could be put together like a puzzle. Although the arrangement remained at the discretion of the buyer, the top of the box, likewise printed, called for a stricter organization: only when all eighteen pieces are put together, can they so combine that a complete picture of the comic figure 'Daredevil' appears (a photograph of this picture is included as a quasi-sample pattern with each multiple). It is not contemplative reception and analysis of a materially coagulated artistic idea which is suggested as a position for reception of the piece, but rather supplementation, change, application and, in any case, the observer's own activity. Multiples don't function in a singular, but rather in a plural which is, at a minimum, virtual.
This emphasis on the plural can be seen not only from the pieces of an edition and their similarity to each other, but it also returns as a character at various levels. Be it that only a few artists limited themselves to the production of only one multiple; be it that again and again works of different artists were combined in sets ('Seven Objects in a Box' from 1966 encompassed works from d'Arcangelo, Dine, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Segal, Warhol and Wesselmann; for every single piece of the flux kit from the same year, other objects were selected; and the Bébert editions from Rotterdam offer 'Contemporary Archeology' in three parts with multiples from three decades); be it that the objects themselves are based on repetitive structures (obvious for the multiples of the OpArt-artists in the MAT edition), be it that some formal elements are, at times, used surprisingly by artists from various mediums (boxes for example, can be used in PopArt as well as in Fluxus); be it that some artists repeat their motifs (Claes Oldenburg worked for a time preferably with molds of foods; there is a series of che ss games from Takako Saito which constantly vary anew the standard rules of the games) - it appeared as though duplication, as a basic method of the multiple, could not be limited to the production method of the object itself. When Jeanne Vilardebo wrote that the multiple multiplies, she touches upon a core of this art form: their reproductive production is, itself, an object of the multiple.
It was decisive for the emergence of the context signified by the term multiple that Spoerri placed together in the MAT edition different objects produced in editions. In other words: for the generation of the context it was necessary not only that an art object be produced in editions but also at the same time that comparable objects from other artists exist which can be bestowed with the same label. It was first at the point that a number of such serial works were compiled, that the concept of the multiple could be launched. In this respect, it made little sense to push the term post quem onto the multiples from the time before the first MAT edition, although it is likewise thoroughly possible to belatedly label as multiples, works which came into being before the term was coined. When, however, Arturo Schwarz lay claim to the discovery of the term for Marcel Duchamp and recognized Readymades issued early on in editions of three copies as the first multiples,17) for one, he ignores these necessary conditions, and for another, neglects that primarily for the artists, the relation and the aesthetic equivalence of the identical pieces among each other as art objects was of less importance - and much more important was their exchangeability for ordinary bottle dryers, urinals, and wardrobe hooks. Duchamp commented in a lecture about this in 1961: "ANOTHER ASPECT OF THE READYMADE IS ITS LACK OF UNIQUENESS ... THE REPLICA OF A "READYMADE" DELIVERING THE SAME MESSAGE; IN FACT NEARLY EVERY ONE OF THE "READYMADES" EXISTING TODAY IS NOT AN ORIGINAL IN THE CONVENTIONAL SENSE."18) At the time of the lecture, Duchamp's Readymades were actually missing the qualities of a unique piece in every aspect. Many of the industry products which Duchamp had transformed from individuals to Readymades, were no longer produced in their previous form. Some of the objects were later more or less hand made and produced as single pieces; however, Duchamp's work first became an edition object in the sixties when in collaboration with Arturo Schwarz he had a series of lost Readymades produced; each in a series of eight pieces. This did not entail working with current industry products, which - if one follows Duchamp's quoted statements could certainly have served as equivalent replicas - but rather, reconstructing the lost works as exactly as possible, under occasionally enormous technical expenditures. Duchamp signed the objects to which was added in addition the title of the replicated Readymade, numbering and the name of the gallery director .19) The pieces of this edition had therefore a fundamentally new status which also concerned the message of the actual Readymades. Whereas Duchamp had emphasized that he was guided at most by anti-aesthetic criterion in the selection from an endless number of possible objects, for these, this act was not repeated, rather only the act of reproducing the physical appearance of the once chosen objects. In the effort to be as true as possible to their models, they not only made these aesthetic and finally raised them to art works, but also retroactively made individual forgotten Readymades a work of art, namely, an original.
Neither these original Readymades nor their copies were signified as multiples by Duchamp himself; however when he and Schwarz, brought out the latter, the first collection of the MAT edition had already appeared, though, in which a work of Duchamp was included; the 'Ro toreliefs'. They were first produced in 1935, in a series of 500 pieces on the occasion of an inventors' convention in Paris; a further 1,000 pieces were printed in 1953 in New York. When Daniel Spoerri asked Duchamp for a contribution for the MAT edition, he sent him 100 pieces from this edition. Duchamp had planned that the Rotoreliefs should be laid on the turntables of gramophones; Spoerri delivered a turntable and a motor housing covered in black silk to his customers in addition to the printed cardboard. However it was not these changes in the object which turned the Rotoreliefs into multiples; the context was also decisive here with the other works compiled in the MAT edition: it was initially these and the use of Spoerri's principles which first rendered them multiples. To put it in another way: for the reception of an object as a multiple, not only is its material nature decisive or the possible traces of its serial production, but also that which is inscribed onto it as meaning, that which does not even have to find noticeable expression on the object itself. For this reason also, with the Rotoreliefs of the MAT edition, neither the pieces of the edition from 1953 nor those from 1935 are automatically multiples. Indeed it is thoroughly imaginable and legitimate to attach this label belatedly - yet that would be an artistic act methodically equivalent to the one which Duchamp made in 1917, declaring a urinal to be an art object by wanting to have it brought into the art context of an exhibition.
The Multiple and the Reproduction
This contribution of Duchamp did not actually make him the inventor, but possibly the forerunner of the multiple. He could show that objects do not become art works by virtue of certain aesthetic qualities, but rather that a reception evoked through the context is much more responsible. Duchamp later commented on 'the Fountain': "My pissoir-Fontäne began with the idea of playing out an exercise on the question of taste: to select the object which had the least chance of being popular. A urinal, there are very few people who find that wonderful. The danger then is artistic idolization. But one can also cause people to swallow everything: that did then also occur."20 )
Of no less importance for the development of the multiple was the confrontation of art with the industrial production and reproduction methods which had been launched since the middle of the previous century. In this context, it is not only the technical reproducibility of an art work which is meaningful; it is clearly a particularly meaningful exception in the social means of production whose development continues until the present day. Multiples are, however, for the most part, not reproductions made from patterns which thereby - as shown in the case of Duchamp's Readymades - become originals, but instead, similar to most industrially produced articles, are a result of their K variously coded modes of production, which commonly allow for a practically unlimited duplication of each object.
As these methods - of such multiplication as well as actual technical reproduction - developed in the nineteenth century, they were confronted with traditional forms of craftsmanship. For art, the discovery of lithography marked the first decisive inroad: it provided the capability to produce pictures faster and in greater numbers and therefore cheaper as had thus far been possible by wood cut and copper plate. Photography developed a short time thereafter; its printing process expanded these possibilities even more. Whereas lithography still followed the manual process of drawing, photography could "for the first time (relieve) the hand in the production of pictorial reproduction from the most important artistic obligations which from now on fell solely on the eye."21) No doubt the first daguerreotypes demanded hour long exposure times and remained unique works - but soon photography 'saw' faster than the human eye, with shutter speeds of under 1/25 s and special objectives that could macro- and microscopically penetrate into realms which remained closed to the unfortified human eye.
The invention of photography had still a further result: its pictures - whether as copies or as prints - quickly became cheaper than even the most cursory artistic method. For an entire profession, this cost them their existence: within a few years, photographers had superseded miniature portrait painters. Those who had previously had portraits made perhaps a single time, could now capture their own image pictorially in the most varied circumstances. Although at first the photographer was necessary as a specialist, the automated photo-booths developed at the beginnin g of the twentieth century made it clear that also he was dispensable. The discovery of the negative process and the automation of film development through the Kodak-Eastman-process ("You press the button - we do the rest") finally placed this most modern form of picture production into the hands of the consumers.
With that, the production of pictures was divested of that which had previously been reserved almost exclusively for art and the artists: the new techniques of production could get by without authors and originals, and they didn't limit themselves to simply competing with art, but rather, quickly took it in as an object of the reproductive process. Works of art lost their uniqueness and their fixed location; between family photographs and post cards now even a copy or print of an arbitrary painting or any building or sculpture could also take its place.
In addition to these reproductive and multiplica tive processes of picture production, new techniques also revolutionized other areas of art: new casting techniques made it possible to produce sculptures and ornaments in practically any amount; in architecture, prefabricated building parts found increasing use; scarcely a branch of the art business - whether carpentry, ceramics, or clock making - was spared industrial competition.
Under these conditions, the location of art within societal production had to be newly determined; artists and art theoreticians began largely from two different positions which Germer called the aestheticist and the productivist solution: "Aestheticists greeted the separation of art and society because in it they saw their only chance of saving artistic work from appropriation and annihilation through capitalism. They assigned the artists with the task of preserving in their creation all of those qualities which were liquidated in societal production: individuality, or iginality, and autonomy. Through this division of labor, art came into a peculiar transitory relation to the rest of societal production. Measured on the state of the productive powers, its insistence on craftsmanship, personal work and the creative individual was outdated: it was equal to an anachronistic stronghold on an anticipation of surmounting societal relations, socially outdated as utopian. The artist stood to the side of, but not outside of the constraints set by the capitalist system. The freedom which they were granted was bought with a societal lack of freedom. The autonomy which they enjoyed was bought with the social uselessness of their production. As much as the cult of originality was strengthened, that much more clearly noticeable was the isolation of the artist and with it, the fact that their creation silently presupposed mass production. The productivists contradicted this division of labor . Different than the aestheticists, they saw no threat in industrial production, but rather the chance to lead them out of their societal isolation, to break out of the encapsulation in autonomous work and make the aesthetic likewise socially useful. The artistic work should be freed from its out-dated position and set in relation to its epoch - which, above all, meant to the economy. Different methods were weighed out. The English social reformer William Morris wanted to overcome the contradiction between art and production through the universalization of the aesthetic: he dreamed of organizing the trade system according to aesthetic criteria. The Russian constructivists, were concerned with universalizing the social. They wanted to eliminate art as a separate activity and wrap aesthetics into the design of a new society. In Bauhaus, they experimented with various solutions: one began with the tracing back of art to crafts and ended with the conformity of artistic designs to the demands of indus &Mac251;trial production. The suggestions had three things in common: they wanted to change the means of production of art, eliminate the isolated, non socially integrated art object and abolish the autonomy of the aesthetic. The change in artistic production should be a part of the change in the entire society."22 )
At first glance the multiples appeared to have fallen into the inheritance of the productivists: although the art market as a responsible agent of capitalism, had also long put the aesthetics into productivist pieces making them autonomous works and had proven art to be a largely unsuitable instrument for overcoming or changing capitalism, it should itself at least be freed from an elite existence and democratized through the modernization of its production which would make it available to all. Karl Gerstner understood the fulfillment of this demand as the starting point of the MAT edition. He wrote in 1968: "Today it is so that art occurs practically under the exclusion of the public. And to cha nge that is not only, but still also, a question of price. How does someone who can barely afford a Volkswagen, come to possess art? .... How can enough originals be produced that they are available for everyone who is interested?"23)
Gerstner's question would find an answer in the means of production of the multiple. In place of reproduction, multiplication stepped in as instead of unique art works and their less valuable copies, aesthetically equal objects would be produced as originals. Moving closer to industrial processes which marked the society's level of productive power, was, at most, symbolically achieved: "[Even] if the desire to include industrial production exists, it is not at all useful for unique pieces and only seldom for the production of multiples. The industrial apparatus, laid out for mass production, does not lend itself to profitable use for middle sized editions (up to 500 pieces)."24) Even a multiple such as Joseph Beuys' 'Intu ition' was produced by hand; a flat wood case with pencil lines and a hand stroke of the artist on the bottom, whose unlimited edition reached around 12,000 pieces,. Other objects combined industrially prefabricated pieces with hand worked parts: Richard Hamilton used a normal commercial electric toothbrush for The Critic Laughs; the Letraset-hand stroke (which imitated the emblem of the firm Braun) the mounted false teeth and, finally, also the case were all costly special models with no exceptions. 25)
In only a few cases were far reaching adaptations of industrial processes possible. 'Unken, Krankenwagen, Mühle' (Toad, Ambulance, Mill) from Katharina Fritsch is a set issued in 1,000 pieces of three singles which are pressed with the same method and from the same material as every other normal record. On the other hand, sometimes artists cunningly use industrial mass production in that they select and put together its products for installations and Readymades- as when Rirkrit Tiravanija puts together the necessary utensils and ingredients for an outing with a thai rice dish as picnic for his Rucksack installation, and leaves the tricky decision up to the buyer as to if and when their appetite is greater than the aesthetic pleasure of an object made a fetish by the artistic context, or; when Otmar Hörl for the 'Evolution für Fanatiker' has huge pieces of artificial grass cut and set onto a pedestal, or; Günther Uecker hangs a hammer on a wood board between two nails and gives the multiple, of an unlimited edition still produced until the current day - the instructive title: Do It Yourself.
In Gerstner's quoted remarks however, at the same time, the aestheticist trace of the multiples is also noticeable. Even if the art market also had long proven art's character to be a product, regardless of the underlying intentions, it simultaneously upheld its isolation from society's production by formulating its economic basis around the cult of the ind ividuality of the artist and the originality of the object, which even the multiples could not withdraw. Moreover: Gerstner's call for originals produced in series at reasonable, generally payable prices, points out that for him, it was above all the mode of distribution and less the social status of art and the categories of the art market which were up for debate. With the multiple, the attempt was made to use serial production processes in art and to combine with the aesthetic, value- and price building categories of the art market. Eluding the mechanisms of capitalist valuation or maintaining the fiction of autonomous art was avoided from the start. Thus, the multiple entrusted the art market with a peculiarly affirmative character which was not limited to a representative role and in fact often enough became client and co-producer of the object. Munari's 'Scultura di Viaggio' was definitely due to the initiative of the Edizioni Danese, and Spoerri had already reli &Mac245;eved the artists participating in the collections of the MAT edition from the actual production of their works. Likewise today there is scarcely a multiple whose production and distribution was not secured from the outset through galleries, editions or publishers. In alliance with its market, the multiple developed into an art form, which "kept hold of the art object, thereby supporting the idea of art as possession and with that guaranteed the continuation of the institution 'art'."26 )
The art market's conscious affirmation of the multiple did not, however, lead to the emergence of an art form which could unconditionally conform with its typeset. Precisely its serial production made it appear a suitable medium to analyze, so to say - from within - the social location and the function of art under the stipulations of its reproducibility in various ways. The paradoxes of serial production thereby find counterparts in the inconsistencies of the multiples. Through staged borderline cases, the hand ed-down categories can be placed up for questioning whereby the serial nature plays a changing though steadily decisive role. If Rob Scholte didn't paint any of the twenty pieces of 'Venice' - how can he still be considered their author? When all eighteen boxes from Thaddeus Strode's 'I'm a Leadbox' when put together form the picture of the Daredevils - are then the individual boxes multiples or merely part of a cut work? If George Brecht's 'Water Yam' recommends little happenings to its buyers - weren't these then the art or was it the object - the box with the cards? If every Kinetic Box from Jesus Raphael Soto is confusingly similar to every other of the same edition - how can they still be originals? And when it is conversely such that all of the individual heads from Tobias Stimm noticeably differentiate from each other - doesn't that make them originals, in spite of their serial production?
The answers to such questions of author ship or originality of multiples constantly arise. Serial production alone is apparently not enough for the individual works to lose their original nature. Instead, it has been shown that these qualities are dependent on the attribution which comes from producers as well as recipients, without requiring that the pieces guarantee for it through their material nature or type of production. They are dependent on definitions which can change according to the meaning they should play contextually in the individual pieces.
The Multiple as Original
The conventional concept of the original is preferably exemplified by works from within painting and orients itself on the material uniqueness of the picture, its differentiation from all other works, its singular history, and usually its personal production by an artist. These are, at the same time, the qualities which determine the authenticity of a work. Reproductions, regardless of type, cannot take on any of these qualities, they are at best, copies, which are close to the status of the autonomous original, or else, simply technically or hand-made stamps, to put it bluntly: they do not carry the same value as the original.
The fact that the cult of the original within the art market at first confirms this obvious definition, cannot cover its weak points, as it has itself at one time taken part in formulating the definition. It appeared necessary to differentiate between an original and the technical reproductions developed during the nineteenth century, as the status of the latter as opposed to their model presents a difference, as compared to the processes of manual duplication which were already previously known. Though the engraver was still considered an interpreter of the work, because he hand traced every detail which he both noticed and took into consideration, with photography all th e details could be accommodated although the photographer did not necessarily have to notice them. Moreover, he/she was in a position to acquire additional perspectives on their object which were not available to the naked eye, and finally, the pictures achieved could be produced in a consistent quality in any amount desired contrary to engraving where the seal of the plates limited the amount of run-offs.
The technical reproduction is silently presupposed as the counterpart of an original within the aforementioned definition of the original, yet at the moment that art itself employs even the most simple manual methods of reproduction, this antagonism is softened, as is noticeable through prints: here one can't orient on either the originality of the works which is largely excluded by the production process, nor is the personal work of the artist necessary throughout the entire production process, something which can at least b &Mac221;e postulated for painting. However, in order to still speak of original prints, other qualitative criteria are brought in: for the collector at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the distinguishing mark of an original print was that the subject was chosen by the artist specifically for the sheet and was not traced from a well known painting.27) Later, as the technical print- and reproduction processes were developed, the application of handed down printing methods - copper plate, wood engraving, etching - and the working of the printing plates by the artist, came to be considered a prerequisite for an original graphic print. Approximately at this time, Whistler, as one of the first, began to work with limited editions and personal signatures as well as numbering of the sheets, in order to set a contrast to the mass production of pictures. This means of aesthetisizing found rapid dispersal and in the end was also utilized for lithographs, photographs and silk-screens. It was ultimately here that it was clear that even for prints, originality is not, so to say, a natural or self evident quality definable through the material state of its sheets, but rather, is based on the attribution of originality.
There are, therefore, three definitions which are current within the art market which comprise the traits of the original character of a work from different moments within the production of artistic objects: those of painting place the uniqueness of the work at the center; for prints originality is defined either through the selection of the image or based on the production method. In all three cases, usually the signature and for prints the numbering, serves as a sign of an original. The original concept for patent rights can be named as the fourth and lowest common denominator oriented on the work's authorship and thereby reflects the sole category which is common to all of the previously mentioned definitions. Conclusive here is the noticeable tra ce of the artist in the material - and therefore originals can come from those replicas which are made by their hand, however not from Readymades or Objets trouvées (found objects).
When the concept of the original and its criteria are dependent upon which objects of artistic productions should appear as originals, it is not possible to generalize or to clarify based on the object whether or not multiples are, or could be, originals, but rather this occurs solely through the intentions of the artist and the customers on the one hand and on the other, based on the way of looking at the problem which is answered by the object. In other words: more productive than the question of whether a certain multiple is an original, is to query when and under what conditions original-ness is claimed for multiples.
For Spoerri and Gerstner, it was not a question if the multiples of the MAT editions had to be originals. Spoerri wrote in 1959 in a letter to Josef Albers: "(I came) upon the idea, to also multiply commodity objects in an edition. and indeed, without the content which they possess as originals, to destroy or alter them. it concerns an edition of multiplied original works and not reproductions. (...) the entire edition would have a uniform price which means that each work would cost $50 regardless of who it is from. that is the social standpoint of this edition, which does not aim to convert the value of the individual works to a commercial value."28) And barely ten years later, Karl Gerstner formulated the statement: "An artwork - a spiritual work - must in fact be exclusive: as exclusive as possible, as that is its criterion. But it must be available to everyone - the same as every spiritual work. (...) Each edition of a (graphical, f.t.) work splits its originality in as many parts as the number of the edition. When they (the purchaser, f.t.) has the sheet 31/100, the signature of the artist assures them of a ÿ1/100th share of the originality. (...) The objects (of the MAT edition, f.t.) are not reconstructed from an 'original' but are, rather, themselves original. They are not only multiplied but also multiple within themselves."29)
Making original art available to those social classes who could barely afford a Volkswagen was a social, a political task, for Spoerri and Gerstner and these less affluent customers shouldn't be short changed with surrogates, reproductions whose original-ness could at best be proven in fractions. With the principles formulated by Spoerri for the MAT edition, however, several of the traditional criteria for the determination of the original nature of art works are not to be applied: if the objects were not allowed to carry the personal footprint of the artist, then their personal production, piece for piece, was excluded. When other than the usual artistic duplication techniques should be applied for production, then the methods for original pri nts couldn't be utilized. And serial production ultimately prevented the uniqueness of an object from becoming the criterion for considering it an original.
The result of the application of these criteria was that for Spoerri and Gerstner it was irrelevant if the objects themselves were inscribed as original art works: that should be manifested as quasi-spiritual content. For this reason alone, it was already necessary that the individual multiples were moveable, alterable, or could be distinguished through their material from the other multiples in the same edition. With that alone, however, the works were hardly adequately legitimized as originals because they could be copied as often as desired, and often from someone else's hands as well, without necessitating the direct connection to the original intention of the authors. In order to avoid the possible commercial and aesthetic devaluation of the art pieces of the MAT edition, the classical method for serial art was used: through signature and numbering (often sufficiently achieved with adhesive labels which were signed sheet-wise by the artists) the issuers could have the multiples authorized as valid originals and they also acquired a residuum, the personal handwriting of the artists.
In a completely pure form, Spoerri's principles and the idea of the 'Originale in Serie' couldn't be realized anyhow: with Man Ray's 'Spirale' and the 'Objet indéstructible', the MAT edition already distributed two originals which were reconstructed from an original. On the other hand, other works from the first collection come considerably close to the methods of graphic reproduction and its quantitatively split originality rejected by Gerstner: Jesus Raphael Soto's 'Untitled Object' from the 1965 collection consists of a nylon cable which is stretched vertically in front of a light background with black stripes likewise vertically drawn. If one moves in front of the object, the thread occasionally covers one of the dark lines, and from time to time appears to melt into the light portions of the background. As spectacular as the optical effect presents itself, here the observer is offered scarcely a greater variety as can be found with large prints or also sculptures, architectural objects, pictures, etc.: here, like there, the appearance of the object changes according to the perspective without thereby relaying one viewing point as ideal. The diversity of these objects is thus found in their changing appearance and not in their materiality or in a structure to be changed by the intervention of the observer.
It is precisely here that several works from other OpArt artists in the MAT edition aim: the viewers are offered to change not merely their position in front of the object, but to constantly rearrange its module within a framework determined by the artist. Twenty-one little white cardboard tiles punched out in three different forms and a plexiglas frame with black background make up Hans Arp's 'Nach dem Gesetz des Zufalls'. If the plexiglas is removed from the frame, the little tiles can be organized in the picture carrier in any way desired and then hung on the wall as a picture. Thus, from objects which are materially completely uniform, constantly new structural varieties arise which can never again be laid out down to the very last detail, which also eliminates the possibility for claiming one variety to be the original primate. Gerstner wrote about Arp's work: "no original exists from this picture, none which is unique or that sets the artistic notion once and for all. The original is the idea: which means the idea of changing."30)
Though similar in form to Arp's work, coincidence is organized in another way by Arman with his 'Poubelles' for which the artist, in 1964, had garbage from Cologne trash cans loosely filled into flat plexiglas containers.31) Actually, having the same outer form and type of cont ents made the individual pieces noticeable as pieces within an edition; however based on the combination of their contents they could be differentiated from each other and thus became unique pieces. Their qualitative differences are irrelevant however: the homogeneity of the contents secures the equivalence of all of the Poubelles - it is trash, which for its part, owes its existence to industrial mass production. Just as important as the unique material is also the capacity of the individual pieces to record traces of their history: every change in location or even just the mood of the owner can lead the plastic bags, ripped open envelopes and crushed cigarette packs to fall into a new disarray and therefore react to such change all too obviously with a noticeable reflex - yet what finds its precipitation here is not the history, but rather the permanent actualization of the object: never to be repeated, every change erases the piece's previous appearance, so that not only the Poubelles are excha ngeable among each other, but also the different states an individual piece takes in its time. And still a third trait can be recognized in Arman's work: if one reads into it that the authorization through signature and numbering has as little relevance to the aesthetic content of the multiple as does the form and mixture of garbage in the individual Poubelles, then it is also possible to produce unlimited equivalent replicas without the participation of the artist, regardless of whether the edition was limited to 100 pieces and the individual pieces are signed; it does not make any difference if one asks Arman today for the contents of his waste paper basket, or shakes their own office trash, or carefully collected and torn forms and packaging from the sixties in a plexiglas container. With the Poubelles, Arman reflected on three of the previously mentioned qualities which are generally granted to the original. The Poubelles would fulfill all of these criter ¡ia, however in such a way that original-ness would, in fact, become unnecessary.
Jean Tinguely went beyond the contribution of the previously mentioned artists. They offered in fact changeable, yet in the end self-contained works, while his multiple was incomplete from the outset: Constante, which was distributed with the collection from 1959 as well as the one from 1964, consisted of nothing more than a small electrical motor mounted on a board whose vertical axis is equipped with a small clip. In order for this quite uninteresting object to gain its aesthetic stimulation, the observer must become active, and attach a small object to the clip. When the power is turned on, its solid contours blend before a dark background into scheme-like rotation figures. The diversity of this multiple consists not in its appearance as object, but in its power to multiply: on the motor, enthroned on a pedestal, everyday objects are transformed into ephemer al originals.
The typical rift which divides the theoretical concept from the objects of the MAT edition can be seen through these examples. It was Spoerri and Gerstner's idea to create a competitor for the classical unique work of art; one which could be produced and sold less expensively without subsequently being of less aesthetic value. The multiples followed this model in as far as the artistic design remained visible in the composition of the object in spite of serial production, thereby maintaining characteristics of a self-contained work. However, although both issuers had already immaterialized original-ness as a spiritual value, it was possible to read from the objects that also this model could prove superfluous if it remained committed to an elite concept of art which saw in the artist alone, the active creator who formulated the rules of reception and thereby offered the purchaser scarcely more than an aesthet ic game with a few variables.
It is here that Beuys enters the scene, for whom less the question of original-ness of the multiples and more their usefulness as instruments of social and political negotiation is interesting: "For me, every edition has the character of a condensation core from which many things could follow. (...) I am interested in the dissemination of physical vehicles in the form of editions because I am interested in the spread of ideas. The objects are only understandable in connection with my ideas. What occurs in my political work, has subsequently a different effect on people when such a product is available than when it is received purely by the means of the written word."32) Though the political commitment of the MAT edition was limited to the attempt to democratically reform the elite societal structures of art collection by making production and distribution more effective without employing the objects themselves as carriers of political ideas, B euys saw the possibility of being able to concretely negotiate experience with his multiples. With that, their originality as an art object has less meaning than the idea from which the object gets its origins; accordingly, a series of his multiples refer directly to political actions and other events or are employed in such occasions. As art they should carry neither an aura of virginity or be the carriers of aesthetic value, but rather be utilized, whereby the type of use differs from case to case. To find an application for Intuition, with roughly 12,000 pieces, certainly the multiple with the largest edition, remained entirely left up to the purchaser: the flat wood boxes, on whose bottom the mathematical symbol for distance and ray as well as the stroke of the title is drawn in pencil, can be put to use just as well to store paper (the box has just about exactly the measurements of the format of standard DIN A 4 paper), as well as for an empty space for the unfolding of ideas , offered by the tension between the written word and the object as postulated by the artist. In 'Everess II 1' on the contrary, detailed instructions were printed on the top of a wood case which contained two soda water bottles pasted with felt- or paper labels: "Sender begins with the information, when 'II' is drunk and the crone cap is thrown as far away as possible." Beuys later commented on the question as to whether the request was meant seriously or not: "Actually it is meant seriously, but I naturally knew that a lot of people wouldn't do it. I find the object correct only when it is done, before that it has not been activated. Yes, the directions for a small action which people should perform themselves are included in this object. And when people have done this action and regret it, then they must proceed and carry out another action and obtain the same kind of bottle again, and I have nothing against that!"33) Through these methods, Beuys forces an entangled configuration on the rec ipients of 'Everess II 1' : the multiple, which allows itself to be made a fetish as an unchanging original, first becomes 'correct' when it is no longer understood as a material substrata of the artistic content: it can only be released when the concrete consumer value of the object is realized, when the bottle of Everess has been consumed and perhaps replaced by a pendant. Even the fact that this tonic water has apparently disappeared from today's market would not abort the action although it does bring about changes in content: another brand's bottles can just as well be used as a replacement (especially since also the labels of the second bottle are covered with felt making them unrecognizable) and would therefore allow for an update on this kind of multiple, making it recognizable as repeatable.
In Beuys' Multiples still another idea is of importance: he sees them as mediums which facilitate a different kind of communication, different from the common monodirectional communicat ion between sender and receiver, or artist and recipient: "You see, everyone who has an object like this will also continue to be interested in what aspects may go on to develop from the approach which this vehicle takes off from, they'll continue to watch what the one who makes these things is doing next. That is how I stay in contact with people.... There are also cross references, ricochets among the people. One may say: yeah, I've got one of those bottles, the other a box and a third have heard something about political actions and therefore all different kinds of concepts are coming together and I am interested in lots of kinds of ideas coming together."34 ) Multiples proved for Beuys to be an appropriate means of installing the kind of communication which was not bound to an object but rather developed and extended temporally and spatially. This model came closest to its actualization with the project '7000 Eichen' i n 1982 at the documenta 7 event in Kassel, in which the traits of actionism and the multiple were fused. The trees, each planted together with a basalt column, were distributed throughout the area of the city. Beuys financed their acquisition and the garden work by selling certificates (which he hand-signed) for 500 German Marks per tree. Although practically useless as a private art possession, the trees created a monument to this kind of initiative both individually and collectively, through which, until the current day, the tree owners remain connected, and the subjection to constant change provides for political, aesthetic and administrative dialogue.
With his postcards, Beuys opened channels of communication without such a public event at the center. Using the form of a postcard printed on cardboard or prepared pieces of wood, felt, o r sheet metal, he used a medium that stood as no other could for quick and cheap communication and could be just as useful for the casual holiday greeting as it could be instrumental to political movements in giving massive emphasis to their demands. Beuys moderates the communicative network by determining the materials and motives of cards which could refer to actions or events, reproduce graphics or photography or serve as new creations within his iconography of symbols and materials. An instruction manual is also unnecessary here, and even if the cards can just as well be collected and made a fetish as art, still it is more their use which is intended by Beuys and by which the purchasers, in an entirely literal sense, themselves become senders. Although the cards allow room for their own interpretation of the idea, the presence of the artist cannot be erased or overlooked, neither in this nor in the case of the other multiples: "With Beuys, the securing of the (m etaphoric) meaning ... follows from its embeddedness in a personal symbolic world. The meaning of the symbols is determined by their connection to the biography of the artist, they are therefore narratively secured. For example, through the famous creation legend, the Tartars rescue Beuys' fallen stucco plane from freezing with felt and fat .... The artist remains at the midpoint of the work, each symbol must ultimately be understood by, and each meaning must lead back to, him .... A tautological system of references occurs that appears to constantly affirm his own conclusiveness and gives the recipient no choice other than to accept that which has been preformulated. Thus, despite all the populist rhetoric, Beuys' work has quite an authoritarian structure which is based on the asymmetrical relationship between the one who invents the symbols and gives them meaning and the one who must give them meaning in order that they may tell his life and art history."35)
If, then, originality is to be noticed in Beuys' multiples, in that constant reference is made through the iconography of symbols and materials to the artist and his political and aesthetic ideas without necessitating that the objects themselves are originals in the conventional sense, then the Fluxus multiples denied both: they should become examples in the unfolding of their effect, encouraging their recipients, through irritation and alienation from everyday experience, to develop their own creativity unburdened by discussions of artistic content. Those who hoped for originals from them were soon disappointed. Although the title of a work by Robert Filliou, 'La Jocconde', still allows at least the expectation of a plagiary or ironic alienation from the famous image, 'Mona Lisa' is nastily and surprisingly updated by the artist: as an absent charwoman who has left behind for the observer a scrub brush, plastic pail and floor cloth next to a sign: "Back in 10 minutes. Mona Lisa." No trace whatsoever is left from the original, even after a long wait; instead, the room containing the installment of this ensemble has been noticeably desecrated - aesthetic consecration clashes strongly with the reminder, that in fact the cleaning has yet to be done. Filliou demonstrated a similar lack of respect with 'Poussière de Poussière': here the buyer finds in little boxes unsightly and somewhat dirty cotton wads, whose origin is described by an accompanying photograph: the artist has wiped up dust with them from the frames of several masterpieces in the Louvre and the New York MoMA - yet, despite the greatest possible proximity to the works recognized as originals, not a trace of 'the original' is to be found on the wads.
Actionist relics like 'Poussière de Poussière' are rarely among the Fluxus multiples; instead, the works are more te stimonial of consumer goods or directions, with which the purchasers can alienate their everyday lives in sometimes absurd ways or can themselves initiate an action or happening: while Benjamin Patterson made morning hygiene into an event, in which a little box with the impressive title 'Instruction No. 2' containing nothing more than a piece of soap and a paper towel with the directive "Please wash your face," in 'Water Yam', George Brecht put together a whole catalog of little cards documenting actions which were occasionally carried out in public by Fluxus artists, but also those intended for household use: suggestions range from the simple 'Move Through the Place' to complicated scores such as the 'Candle-Piece for Radios', in which an unlimited amount of actors with their own candles, radio devices and event cards, could participate in a performance structured through organized chance. In his call for iconoclasm, Ben Vautier's 'Total Art Match Box' even supplies the necessary equipment - stuck onto the match box, a label instructs: "USE THESE MATCHS TO DESTROY ALL ART - MUSEUMS ART LIBRARYS - READY - MADES POP - ART AND AS I BEN SIGNED EVERYTHING WORK OF ART - BURN - ANYTHING - KEEP LAST MATCH FOR THIS MATCH"36) Vautier's totalizing art concept with which he hastily pronounces everything as able to be signified as art was in no way the exception; it also finds reference in multiples such as George Brecht's 'Sonnensalz', which paid homage to Marcel Duchamp, the 'Merchand du Sel' and hints at the considerations37) of whose methods he furthers. Although he based the choice of his Readymades on anti-aesthetic stipulations, Brecht's criteria were chance and misunderstanding when he placed a note containing his signature and the following anecdote on the common packages of cooking salt: "From the anthology of misunderstandings / 31 III 69 Went today to get beer and things at A. HEYDUCK, Barbarossaplatz, Düsseldorf / After get ting the sausages, the woman said something I did'nt understand, and I answered: "Das ist alles, glaub' ich" This is the box she gave me / George Brecht"38) As with Duchamp's Readymades, an original is neither contained nor of importance in Brecht's 'Sonnensalz', and furthermore there were two differently designed packages of salt which were produced in unlimited editions for this multiple. Its meaning as exemplary object is achieved by the fact that it should not necessarily be used in an action by its purchasers (although it is left to their free choice, whether they wish to use the salt in their kitchens), but rather, closer to the intentions was to make the 'Anthology of Misunderstandings' part of their cause, adding to the collection of relics of misunderstandings and therefore ironically making their own everyday experience an aesthetic one.
PopArt followed a completely different strategy: here the recipient was not usually offered the possibility of action, since they were already being ac tive: As consumers they found themselves the counterpart of the world of mass production and mass media from which PopArt took their symbols and forms. Unlike Duchamp in his Readymades, and also unlike the Fluxus artists, they didn't rework objects discovered in everyday life as their material; but rather only the outer form to be imitated and alienated. Thus their models were already decidedly anything but originals and so PopArt created at best reproductions of reproductions. Andy Warhol's serially produced and printed boxes of Brillo Soap Pads could neither appear as originals nor award this status to their model. Yet even if a signature and limited edition marked a series of his other pieces as art works following the laws of the art market, they still remained questionable as originals; Duchamp's comment, that a replica would do just as well as one of his Readymades also applies to Warhol's multiples. The fact that both were, however, still handled as originals, and that with Warhol's serigraphs, sig nificant price differences prevailed between printed copies on canvas and those on paper, strongly indicates that the market still ascribes originality to art whose methods could possibly deny it.
It was consistent with PopArt's methods for some artists to use their own work as models for multiples. Claes Oldenburg's 'Miniature Soft Drum Set' , 'Emerald Pill' and the 'Geometric Mouse Scale C and Scale D' had their precedents in other works by the artists. But seldom has there been such a virtuoso performance in this game of confusing original with copy as with Roy Lichtenstein's Brushstroke and the untitled multiple of it: whose draft is a symbolically reduced, over-dimensionally magnified and, with the manual precision of a good copy artist, precisely detailed depiction o f the spontaneous brush stroke of the abstract expressionist carrying out this direct act of artistic originality. As opposed to the 'Brushstroke', which Lichtenstein also executed several times as a painting, the multiple already saw its status as sovereign through its materiality: whereas the paintings were equipped with every canonical characteristic of the artistic techniques which could grant them museum status, longevity and allow them to appear as originals, the multiple is lacking in these qualities: as a gingerbread relief with black and yellow icing, it appears to belong more aptly in the kitchens of private households prone to attack from flies and the nibbles of children than from art critics. And despite serial production and the reproduction of a discernible model, still a trace of originality can be found in the multiple - original recipes are rarely afforded such meaning with any other confectioner's goods as with gingerbread.
While PopArt referred to the outer appearance of goods and therefore their depictability, Minimalism was directed at the means of production: "(It) was situated ... almost from the start within the technology of industrial production. Preparing objects according to plans meant that in Minimalism these plans held the status of concepts, which opened up the possibility of copying a certain work, thereby crossing the boundary of that which had always been seen as the non-reproducibility of aesthetic originals. In some cases these plans were sold along with, or even inst ead of, the original objects which in fact allowed collectors to reproduce certain pieces using the plans. In other cases, the artists made the reproductions themselves by either issuing several versions of the same work - multiple originals in a sense - such as Morris' numerous 'Glass Cubes', or, in that they, such as Alan Saret, replaced a worn-out original with an up-dated remake."39) On first glance it may seem surprising that the Minimalists did not make greater use of multiples - the 'International Index of Multiples' counts just ten from Sol LeWitt, seven from Donald Judd and merely one multiple from Carl André.40) It must have been a decisive factor actually that the artists were little concerned about those reasons for which other art movements made use of multiples: they wanted neither to democratize art collection with series of originals nor use objects as vehicles for the nonverbal communication of political ideas, and not even a reflection of the consumer world lay in their immediate interest. Seriality was important primarily as a structural principle and less a matter of content. It does not seem to make any difference whether an object was produced for an installation, as a single piece or in a series. There is neither a significant referential structure among the individual models of a series nor are they easily obtainable (Judd's 'Folded Meters' consist of steel and iron plates of several different strengths, each measuring one square meter in area), and often the multiples find their precedents in unique works of the artists: Sol LeWitt's work issued in 1969 by 'Multiples Inc.' with the name 'Untitled (2/2 Two Two Part)' has a clear relationship to the 'Installation 47'; tripartite variations of three different kinds of cubes, shown at the 1968 documenta: while here forty-seven permutations of three cubes were placed vertically on top of each other, for the multiple, two variations of two cubes suffice.
From a theoretical standpoint, the actions of the Minimalists were extraordinarily fruitful and influential - the suggested reception was oriented on aesthetic stipulations. The artistic work took place autonomously and in isolation and, although mostly industrial and therefore using conventional methods of societal reproduction in the production of the objects, the traditional relationship between work of art and observer was restored. Instead of tangibility, the objects evoked distance, instead of activation of the observer, contemplation. In this respect, the reactions of some minimalist artists were of little wonder when the Italian art collector Graf Panza discovered objects and plans in his possession and - instead of shipping these works to New York - without further authorization had replicas made, therefore at the beginning of the nineties at an exhibit in the Guggenheim Museum they vehemently protested th at neither the objects themselves nor the plans were sufficient to produce replicas of equal value to the originals, since the element of chance in the production of the appearance changes unpredictably, giving the materiality of the single works meaning and thereby the necessary attribution of authenticity belongs to the artist alone.
The Multiple as Commodity
The multiples of the Minimalists anticipated the change in meaning that they would undergo after the mid-seventies, as it was foreseeable that the aspirations associated with serial art were largely illusions. Art collection could not be democratized nor could art allow itself to be democratized: despite low prices and high serial productions, the multiple never achieved mass effectiveness and only seldom found purchasers in those classes with limited income, for whom, Karl Gerstner's concept should have opened up the gateway to modern art. Moreover, the public mostly proved to be unwilling coproducers: use and consumption as methods towards the release of aesthetic values from art objects could apparently not be implemented and later resale prices deemed as correct, those who didn't drink from Beuys' Everess-bottles and did not act on Robert Filliou's instructions for arson. Also, independence from the art market did not prove practical. Spoerri made use of his only partially useful catalog as a sales instrument, in which he sought to sell the first edition of the MAT collection to gallery exhibits in various European cities and later resignedly laid the business in the hands of an experienced art trader; the Fluxus artists and Joseph Beuys could rely on producers, galleries and marketing managers such as Wolfgang Feelisch's VICE-Versand (mail order) in Remscheid, Willem de Ridder's Flux-Shop in Amsterdam, George Maciunas' Mail-Order in New York, and Klaus Staeck's Galerie and Edition in Heidelberg (with no guarantee of the sales of the articles); finally, PopArt, in its attempt to instrumentalize the art market, was bound to galleries from the outset.
Produced in editions and thereby for sale, a commodity nature has belonged to Multiples from the start, which many traditional art forms such as drawing, painting or sculpture could, as unique articles, at least claim a distance from: "The art object is the non-practical, non-mass-produced thing, the product of free, creative genius rather than a mechanical following of instructions. It is made for its own sake, not for money. The autonomy of the artwork expressed detachment from the claims of practical life; but, at the same time, its ownership requires both money and the time made possible by money, and so signified financial success along with cultural superiority."41) As the sales and auction prices indicate, the commodity characteristic of these works is more of a symbolic nature, since the artists' genius and the authenticity of the work could not in anyway be weighed in money. This postulated pricelessness makes these art works counterparts to commodities and a residuum of those qualities which consumer goods have long since lost: authenticity, immediacy and originality.
This illusion and the independence of art from the valuation mechanisms of the market, has been relinquished for multiples. Instead, they have proven suitable instruments for investigating the commercial character of art. Piero Manzoni drastically set his analysis of the art market into motion: "In Merda d'Artista, an edition of ninety tin cans, each of which was filled with thirty grams of his excrement and were to be sold at the then current price of gold, [Manzoni demonstrated] ...that only if the market can be seized by an artist with flesh and blood, can shit be converted to gold. It was not the content of the can, albeit 'trace of life' and 'ex-pression' in the most literal sense, but rather its label alone which was of interest; not the false immediacy of actionism and 'body-art', which was asked for but rather the completed abstraction in the commodity exchange. Manzo ni - when he neutralized the smell and sight of his shit in the tin cans - performed one of the fundamental acts of the market, which, namely, in order to bring about an exchange, must establish an exchange value which is independent from the material quality of the item to be exchanged."42) - It is almost superfluous to mention that indeed the price of Merda d'Artista within the art market became independent of the price of gold - Manzoni's shit, per gram, has long since become more expensive than the precious metal .
When Manzoni filled the end products of his consumption, measured by weight into tin cans, he chose one of the iconic forms of the world of commodities and when he, as Germer writes, withdraws their contents from immediate perception, he thus copies a separation which is characteristic of all cans and boxes on the endless rows of shelves in the supermarket: "The product ... is a combination of packaging and content. Seldom is the product bought for its packaging and mostly for its promised content: the target of consumption is not the tetrapak box, but the milk inside. In order to satisfy, a product requires two parts: to utilize or consume it, it must be unpacked. If, then, the package is a signum of mass production and exchangeability of the product, th is must be broken through, removed and at least changed to organize it for individual consumption. This act of destruction, the change, is the real fulfillment of the purchase, the small pleasure of consumption."43) A whole row of multiples sprout from exactly this position: when Andy Warhol's 'Brillo Boxes' imitate a box of laundry detergent; Robert Gober's 'Cat Litter' a bag of kitty litter, or; Sylvie Fleury's 'Vital Perfection' a package of diet pills, they present themselves as art objects whose outer appearance is equal to the consumer product to the last detail. By making both product and art into a fetish, they experience a strange alliance: the promises of the packages are deceiving - the boxes are empty; Gober's bag of kitty litter is a painted solid block of plaster. The destruction of the package does not release any consumer value but at most diminishes both the aesthetic and resa ule value of the objects. It seems to be that the topos of functionless art was taken up here and banalized to such a degree of recognizability, that the art object comes off badly as compared to the consumer article: not only does Warhol's 'Brillo-Box' cost more than a package of the laundry detergent in the supermarket - also, one cannot wash laundry with it. Art which is meant to be free of value is primarily free of an immediate consumer value.
The reflection on the commercial character of art was not only undertaken based on objects; it also includes the industry itself. The fact that the material nature does not necessitate the exchange value of an object was further extended by Spoerri, in that he also ignored the name of the artist as a common price forming category in the art market and, for the first collection of the MAT edition, set a uniform price for all wor ks. The randomness of this procedure was, as well, further highlighted at the sale's exhibit in London's 'Gallery One'. In the invitation to the opening it was announced: "[During the private view] there will be a free lottery by machine which will enable spectators to win any work at a price of double or nothing."44) - For PopArt, the amalgamation of art and supermarket was part of the concept. When they demoted art objects to commodities through mimicry and cheapness, it was not a far cry from adapting the conditions of sale. Thomas Lawson writes about Claes Oldenburg's shop established in 1961 in New York's Lower East Side: "The Store embodied the populist idea of making art accessible to simple people through simple means - one simply went to the little store and bought something - that was what was important. ... It was the attempt to make art that invited the pleasure of familiarity, art that had something to say within its context. The Store imitated its env ironment; it translated the reality of the shabby streets into an arena of happy representation, in which the ruthlessly pleasurable exhibit of hand-made representations of mass-produced goods created an aura of hope."45) The step from retail to wholesale was therefore of no consequence: the American Supermarket in the Gallery Bianchini was completely equipped up to the revolving door at the entrance and not only art but also consumption was offered: below Campbell's silk screen prints stood a pyramid of the original soup cans hand-signed by Andy Warhol. Whoever bought three such cans for $18, much more expensive than normal, must have first recognized them as art and not food. The purchase itself thereby became the first and decisive step in the reception.
This performative act is in no way directly bound to sales situations as in the Gallery One or the American Supermarket. The thirty copies of the XXXX produced multiple Verzichte from Heiner Blum are all exactly the same on the surface - they are little metal boxes with a red bell button which has no further effects when pushed. What differentiates them from each other is the changing price: it goes up 6% with every piece sold. The first piece would be sold for 200 German Marks, the last for 1,083.67 German Marks. Ideally, the conditions of the art market are inscribed into the scene through the price itself becoming a fixed component of the object. The rarity or to be more exact: the availability of the art object decides the price which the buyer cannot determine but controls through the purchase.
Multiples have become common goods on the art market, and what Spoerri predicted has, with a few delays, unavoidably occurred: "in ten years," he wrote in a resigned letter on the occasion of a sales exhibit of the first collection, "this collection will become, like all others, very expensive and what I wanted will be lost."46) The works of the MAT edition, of the Fluxus- and PopArt-artists, will be icons dealt at high prices; the fact that they have failed as instruments of democratization will be hardly considered - and even less so because as consequences are drawn from new works, in place of strategic contributions the operative enters - multiples became a medium and an edition object in the true sense of the word. The stipulations under which the multiples arrived in their time - seriality as a significant component of the content, reflection on the other pieces of an edition, aesthetic equality of all pieces - were t he variables which the artist could use according to need. The design of the objects was diversified as well as the distribution: multiples were produced on the occasion of exhibits and there they could representatively accompany unique pieces and works of conceptual art; they served for both fundraising as well as in the way they were produced for art clubs as yearly gifts, and most of the works are produced until today in cooperation with publishers and artists. There is now even less of a common denominator, a common interpretation to be found than was for the multiples of the first generation. In a time when handed down genre borders have long become questionable, a chance rather than a danger lies therein.
1) Thomas Lawson: Bonbons and andere Annehmlichkeiten: Eine fürsorgliche Erotik. In: Claes Oldenburg: Multiples 1964-1990. Exhibition Catalog Frankfurt/Munich/Vienna 1992, p. 15.
2) Dierk Stemmler, Schellmann 1992, p. 541.
3) Zdenek Felix: Das Jahrhundert des Multiple. In: Das Jahrhundert des Multiple. Exhibition Catalog, Hamburg 1994, p. 9.
4) Linda Albright-Tomb: Introduction. In: The Great American Pop Art Store. Multiples of the Sixties. Catalog for the changing exhibit of the University Art Museum, California State University. Santa Monica 1997, p. 7.
5) Erika Lederman: Multiplication. In: Art Monthly 2/1995, p. 21.
6) Catalog of the Firm Danese, cited from: René Block: Bemerkungen zur Ausstellung, in: Multiples - Ein Versuch die Entwicklung des Auflagenobjektes darzustellen. Exhibition Catalog Berlin 1974, p. 22.
7) René Block, op.cit., p. 23.
8) A detailed history of the MAT edition can be found in the catalog for the exhibit: "Produkt: Kunst!" (Solothurn, Bremen, Gera, Koblenz 1997/98). Katerina Vatsella's dissertation ("Edition MAT. Daniel Spoerri, Karl Gerstner und das Multiple") had not yet been published at the time of completion of this article.
9) Karl Gerstner: Was darf Kunst kosten? In: ars multiplicata. Exhibition Catalog Cologne 1968, p. 29.
10) Letter of Barbara Kulickes to Constance W. Glenn und Linda Albright-Tomb; cited from: The Great American Pop Art Store. Multiples of the Sixties. p. 44.
11) Interview of Katerina Vatsella with Daniel Spoerri, printed in: "Produkt: Kunst!", Exhibition Catalog 1997/98, p. 47.
12) Letter of Denise Renés from October 3, 1997.
14) Jeanne Vilardebo: art . In: Connaissance des Arts, January 1968, p. 62.
15) Hein Stünke also refers to this "aesthetisization" of art objects in an exhibition catalog of the MAT edition, when he appeals to collectors to buy early should they value a low serial number of their edition. See the interview of Katerina Vatsella with Daniel Spoerri, printed in: "Produkt Kunst!", Exhibition Catalog 1997/98, p. 47.
16) Thomas Lawson, op.cit., p. 17 f.
17) See Arturo Schwarz: Marcel Duchamp and the multiple. In: Multiples. Ein Versuch, die Entwicklung des Auflagenobjektes darzustellen. Exhibition Catalog Berlin 1974, p. 40 f. See also Arturo Schwarz: The complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York 1995, Vol. 1, p. 47: "Prompted by the desire to duplicate his originals, Duchamp was the artist who invented what is today called the multiple."
18) Marcel Duchamp: Apropos of "Readymades", in: The Essential Writings of Marcel Duchamp, Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson (Eds.), p. 141. London 1975. Capitals in text.
19) The reconstruction of the Fountain (which was in fact produced as a Readymade by Duchamp in only one edition) was espectially impressive: In 1951, a first replica was produced in New York and signed by Duchamp "R. Mutt 1917" like the lost edition, as was another in Paris in 1953 which was made for an auction to benefit his friend and a third, signed by a stranger's hand, was prepared in 1963 by Ulf Linde in Stockholm for the Moderna Museet. For his edition, Arturo Schwarz allowed the explanations to be changed for a Jday to imitate the production of an Italian factory for sanitation porcelain. The porcelain bowls carried the signature of the fountain of 1917 on the outer side, and in addition were signed and numbered on the back with 'Marcel Duchamp, 1964'. How exact the replicas are and how much they resemble the early reconstruction is debatable; the dimensions of the Fountain of 1917 are unknown. Arturo Schwarz elaborately presents the history and editions of the Fountain in detail, and of the other Readymades in general. For the Fountain see Arturo Schwarz 1995, Vol.2, .p. 648 ff.
20) Otto Hahn: Entretien Marcel Duchamp. In: L'Expreß, Vol. 12, No. 684, Paris 23 July 1964, p. 22-23.
21) Walter Benjamin: Gesammelte Werke, Band I/2, Frankfurt 1991, p. 436.
22) Stefan Germer: "Das Jahrhundertding", in: Das Jahrhundert des Multiple. Exhibition Catalog Hamburg 21995, p. 18 f.
23) Karl Gerstner: "Was darf Kunst kosten?", in: ars multiplicata, Exhibition Catalog Köln 1968, p. 29.
24) René Block, op. cit., p. 20, Exhibition Catalog Berlin 1974.
25) On the production history of: The Critic Laughs see for more detail: Block, op. cit.
26) Stefan Germer, op.cit., p. 34.
27) Just as an aside, it is remarkable how problematic such an opinion was. First of all, art works were given their own peculiar special status as compared with other objects in the material world, which rendered them useless even as art objects. Secondly, tracers were denied their established position as interpreters of art. Thirdly, that kind of view overlooked the fact that already before the development of technical reproduction methods, artists intended for their works to be graphically reproduced.
28) Cited from: Katerina Vatsella: "Produkt: Kunst!" Die Edition MAT. In: "Produkt: Kunst!" Exhibition Catalog 1997/98, p. 13.
29) Gerstner, op. cit., p. 29.
30) Gerstner, op. cit., p. 30.
31) Even the Poubelles fall back at least formally on the earlier work of the artists: in 1961 Armann filled the contents of Jim Dine's garbage can into a plexiglas cylinder.
32) Bernd Klüser, Jörg Schellmann: questions for Joseph Beuys. In: Joseph Beuys - Multiplizierte Kunst. Werkverzeichnis Multiples und Druckgraphik 1965-80. Bernd Klüser and Jörg Schellmann (Eds.). Munich 1980 - no pagination.
35) Germer, op.cit., p. 59
36) Orthography as in the original.
37) I thank Wolfgang Feelisch for pointing this out.
38) Paragraphs are indicated by slashes. Orthography as in the original. Only one additional work planned by Brecht und Robert Filliou 'Anthologie von Mißverständnissen' was realized as an original made from medication which Brecht received by accident from a pharmacy.
39) Rosalind Krauss: Die kulturelle Logik des spätkapitalistischen Museums. In: Texte zur Kunst, Nr. 6, June 1992, p. 133.
40) As a comparison: the 'International Index of Multiples' itemized for Arman 27, for Claes Oldenburg 30, for George Brecht 38 and for Joseph Beuys more than 160 different Multiples.
41) Paul Mattick: Mechanical Reproduction in the Age of Art. In: Arts Magazine, September 1990, p. 68.
42) Germer, op.cit. p. 46.
43) Jonas M. Fehler/Erich F. Jettini: Der Grüne Punkt - Wir machen mit! Hamburg 1996, p. 7
44) In: Harry Ruhé: Multiples et cetera. Amsterdam 1991, p. 82.
45) Thomas Lawson, op.cit., p. 10 f
46) Katerina Vatsella, op.cit., p.16.