original vs. replica: spot the difference

Think the ‘original’ has the most value? Think again

Yaoyao Ding - Second Hand Images

Yaoyao Ding - Second Hand Images

 

We have been taught that if there are replica, there is an original. The immediate assumption is that the original holds a greater value over its replica. However, in our post-digital society, replication is common. It has become accepted and as a result, the desire for authenticity has grown from a conversational buzzword, into a lifestyle.

The term ‘original’ carries connotations of preciousness where artwork is concerned, particularly since the Industrial Revolution - as replication became the core of large-scale manufacturing. In response, there has been a huge backlash and increasing appreciation for the artisanal, the local and the handmade – qualities that could be deemed as unique and authentic.

Should our convictions adjust in the instance that an original is born digitally or genetically?

Redd Angelo

Redd Angelo

Eric Terrade

Eric Terrade

We are in a world where genetic engineering allows replicas to be identical copies (clones) and ubiquitous computing contradicts the very notion of an original existing in the digital space. With this in mind, originality no longer appears a straightforward concept.

The intangible, digital life, can at times foster a certain discomfort – the reassurance of grasping something real is simply not feasible in the digital world. It feels more natural to think of anything digital as the digital version of something physical (an original) – rather than acknowledging the existence of multiple originals.

Today, bio-engineering possesses the technological ability to collect and analyse DNA – to literally produce life in a lab. Some believe that it is expected that dinosaurs will be attractions in zoos and their meat available in burgers by the end of this century. As fun as it might sound, the ethical consequences of such technologies are at the centre of heated discussions – which will increasingly come to a head when policies and regulations need to be agreed upon. With life and death involved, how do we even begin discussing the ‘common good’ – the key condition for any good regulatory system – when society is yet to crack the concerns surrounding other controversial topics such as euthanasia? The grand scale of this will manifest at its height in the seemingly inevitable conflicts between social morality and the governments’ investment plans.

Technological progress is making the established concept of originality crumble before our eyes. Will it become outdated, a nostalgic point of reference? Maybe not, but it is definitely being redefined, as a substantial number of projects across various disciplines suggest.

 
 

The notion of the original is shifting from a comfortable fact and into a multi-layered liquid concept. Will we progressively abandon the idea of an ‘original’ being the first-and-true version of something? Or simply shift our ancestral crave for ‘authenticity’ towards something different? Or make it irrelevant completely once we can successfully revive tissue from those who have departed? What seems certain is that the value of an original will no longer be a given but something to be negotiated.

Take Gorjanc’s ‘celebrity, human skin’ jacket, how would a brand justify a premium price of something replicable? Technically, it is not an original: how can it retain its ‘luxury’ tag if genetic manipulation becomes a large-scale commodity? Perhaps, brands will simply employ genetic engineers to protect themselves from counterfeits. Evidently, it is at this point in history, that ‘uniqueness’ will be again redefined.