October 7, 2012

Icons are Societies Certified Copies

I had already read Scott McCloud's The Vocabulary of Comics because I actually own the book where the chapter can be found: Understanding Comics. A second read was great though, in particular due to the fact last time I hadn't seen the Abbas Kiarostami film: Certified Copy.

The reason I bring this up is because one of the messages found within the film is one I think to be very relatable to this reading. McCloud explores the meaning of art and brings to light the fact that a lot of imagery isn't just one copy, but copies of copies. It brings into question the value of the "original" works. If there's one point that this piece by McCloud argues, it's that these "copies" can make just as much of an impact, or more of an impact, than the original. Think about it in the sense that no work is truly an "original." The Mona Lisa captures an image. The effect is similar to that of a photograph. Especially nowadays, photographs can be altered. So that brings the question to me, why the monetary value?

It's that argument that will make most peoples head spin. What is art? Is there really a price to it when it seems that the art itself will always be unoriginal? They all draw from something. It's all representations, or as McClouds states: Icons. He states that as resemblance caries, so does the level of iconic content. What does this mean? Does it simply mean the closer it is to the real thing, the more iconic? I don't think so, there's so many masterpieces that are so far from reality. Salvador Dali comes to mind. McCloud says, admittedly clumsily, some images are just more iconic (27).

But why?

What separates works like the Mona Lisa or Sunday in the Park With George from a still image from a Hayao Miyazaki film or a panel within the pages of Neil Gaiman's Sand Man?

This is an issue that's always in the back of my mind, that might never be answered. I am curious though, of other peoples thoughts. I wanna know if it has to deal with the test of time, or the time it encompasses, because things are strange in the art world right now.

We can create what feels to be a limitless amount of copies. But do any of these copies have value? Monetarily, it seems not nearly as much as the original. But why is that the case when it can convey the same message? It's because they're certified copies. The copies have the identity of the messenger. They're perceived as an extension of human expression, but not the human expression itself. They're viewed as Frankenstein's monster. To call it anything close to the original would be shocking, because it's viewed as an abomination, but we know it's a progression of science that we can copy it in vast amounts. So will there come a time where this monster will come back to bite us in the ass because we didn't embrace it? Maybe it's an overblown problem? It's hard to gauge currently with the way the world turns.


A Cycene said...

In relation to your question about the monetary value, especially with the Mona Lisa, I think it has more to do with the details of the origins of not only the painting, but of the author of it as well. Da Vinci has beed dead for how long? Several hundred years? Not only that, but it's like you said later on that we have the capability to photoshop and edit pictures. Back then, every brushstroke was carefully placed, and if there was a mistake, a series of four letter word would be yelled and the artist would have to start all over again. With Hayao Miyazaki-even though his work is original and unique and brought a new wave of anime for Japan, it's still something that can be replicated onto DVD's, and he is also still alive. Imagine if he suddenly had a heart attack-his film panels would probably escalate magnificently in value. The value of work and originality does definitely have to do with what is going on in society as well. In Da Vinci's time, his paintings were in style because they were a new style of art, especially with his style of light, shapes and expressions.
I also think some images just have more iconic value to them. The Mona Lisa is not thought of as just a portrait-it's thought of as a representation of society and time back when it was done. How the people dressed, how the classes were viewed, etc.
Now the copies of copies of copies of copies and on have little to no value because they're no longer original. In fact, you can probably go to Kirkland's or another furniture store and get a copy of the Mona Lisa for $20 because it's been duplicated 10 by the 10th power, but the original however, is not going to have a price on it. The only reason it's going to have a price on it is because it's a representation of the original idea-it's an icon.
As for the issue with copies and duplications coming back to bite us in the ass, I'm not sure if that would be a problem so long as there is progression of art, or in other words, some new type of art for each generation. If things keep getting circulated over and over and over, and nothing original is created, then we'll see the same things over and over again and value will go down.

John Smith said...

A good point has been made about the social effects on what you both referred to as value, but another addition to the definition (just for clarity) would be to say that value is not intrinsic. You could break down the concept of the "original" to completely worthless. Value, as it loosely translates to money, has no standard in nature, and thus a cow in nature, apart from our impositions conceptual impositions, can't be associated with worth. The Mona Lisa would probably also be worth nothing if it was not attached with a name. In fact, the very process of naming anything, both secures its place in reality, and removes it from nature as an object, and something that our perceptions can manipulate. I think what is instead "valued," is not its closeness to reality, or removal (just for removals sake) from thereof, but a simple predilection for the various application of proliferation and expropriation of symbols, icons, and language as it appeals to certain individuals.

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