Copy Art

Copy Art has been closely associated with Fluxus over the years. While it is not inherently or definitively Fluxus (what is, really?), Copy Art is certainly consistent with the Fluxus ethos, and has been created by many artists who have been associated with Fluxus. One of those artists is my friend Reed Altemus, who wrote this short piece in 2003:

What Is Copy Art?
by Reed Altemus, 2003

Of all the myriad individual ways of describing and defining photocopier art, there are two, in particular, which seem to me the most useful. The first is very broad: photocopier art consists of any instance in which an artist, cultural worker or any individual uses a photocopier as an important step, whatever that may be, in the process of producing creative work. Its set includes very definitelycopy-arts-and-crafts, flypostering, micropress, mail art, and zines. The second useful definition is more mediumistic and specific and says that copy art consists of an artistic and paradoxical reversal of the purpose of the technology, using a copying device to produce an original one-of-a-kind photocopy through an interference with or intervention in the usual functions and operation of the copy machine. The premise of this second take is that copy art is defined as work where the artist purposely uses a copying device to produce something which is not a copy and can therefore only be called an original by using certain more or less well-known techniques to divert the photocopier from its normal function. From this arose the epithet “original copy”. For copy artists, copy art is never a copy of art, but rather the goal is to produce an original work achieved through a process of exploration and experimental intervention. One might call the difference between the two areas as photocopy as a means to an end and photocopy as an end in itself – the ostensible difference being between using the technology as a machine i.e. duplication and using it as a tool i.e. creation. There are also certainly plenty of overlaps between the two, for instance, the production of editions and artists’ book to mention just two. The first catagory is probably more useful in describing the medium in general terms as it is most known, taking into view all the functions photocopiers play in cultural activities, and probably accounts for 99% of the cultural use of photocopier technology while the second is more an experimental and limited domain of specifically copy art praxis limited to the technical aspects of the medium and based on an artistically adopted paradox. The latter amounts to a very small segment of artists who consider use of the photocopier as an art medium in itself.

You can learn more about Copy Art on Reed's TONERWORKS blog, and more about Reed Altemus here.

Reed has also posted a comprehensive Copy Art Bibliography to

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