The digital age reshapes the way we look at many things, including editions in the visual arts.
Where do the reproduction of copies or replicas of artworks made from the original work stand in present day? Has its perceived value shifted over time and space? Do we redefine what editions mean in a world where the only thing constant is change?
Rethinking Editions, a group exhibition curated by Sharmin Parameswaran, is the first show of the year at Our ArtProjects in Kuala Lumpur. It brings together 15 artists, both emerging and mid-career, in a discussion about editions in a visual arts context.
These are artists whose practice are influenced by the consideration of editions, and they include Yee I-Lann, Gan Siong King, Ajim Juxta, Haris Abadi, Rico Leong, Syahnan Anuar, Tsa Meera and Talha KK, Ong Cai Bin, chi too and Dhavinder Singh.
The brief was to produce works in editions of three, in today’s context and interpretation of editions, or multiples.
So what is there to be said about editions in art?
As it turns out, plenty.
“Given the creative space to expand, most of the artists came back with thoughts and ideas which totally ignored the ‘editions of three’!” says Sharmin.
She goes on to explain that editions, which refer to a copy or replica of an artwork from a “master”, was mostly associated with printmaking, including woodcut print on textile, oil-based lithograph ink impressions and etchings on metal plates.
“Historically, the development of editioned prints was spurred by the practicalities of artists being able to produce multiple copies of their work at reduced costs, albeit at a lower market price.
“But as the applicability of editions evolved to other artistic and mechanical processes such as photographs, video, audio, and cast sculptures, it became common for pre-determined editions to be produced in light of valuation,” she says.
So it could be that editions were made available in a limited number of collectibles, or a larger number meant for “mass” consumption. There was also the option of keeping the possibility open for reproducing prints in the future.
Or perhaps the artist would like to produce a unique print and call it a one-off?
And what of editions in a digital context? Post, repost, share, like. Where does it start and end, where do you draw the line between what is yours or mine, original, copied or … an “edition”?
“With digital creations and reproductions through digital images, graphics, augmented reality, virtual reality and interactive media, we are looking at a rapid blending of content and technology,” she says.
Well, the works in this exhibition are as different as they come.
Haris is in playful form in the mixed media wall installation //Open Source<Plant Your Own Tree> as he combines Ikea products – the behemoth of editioned products and mass consumption – with elements of the Pohon Beringin (Tree Of Life). For a donation of RM5, you can also take home a manual of how to build this cosmic jumble of plastic, electronics and soft toy parts.
At the centre of the gallery, Yee’s new work Sayang hangs proudly – and defiantly, if you look at it closely. It presents the indigenous tradition of mengkuang and pandanus weaving, and suggests a gaze that includes both the back and front of her work. Her work is a collaboration with Keningau, Sabah-based bamboo weavers Julitah Kulinting and Lili Naming.
The rich tradition of Malaysian weaving also gets a nod in design outfit Nowornever’s REMix: Anyaman Series. The merging of old world and new school is neatly balanced here.
The five “portrait gallery” silkscreen works from Syahnan, which feature all of the Malaysian Prime Ministers, look the part to get conversations going about national issues – past, present and future. With specific topics – freedom of the media to sexual education – printed in each work. Syahnan, who runs a print store, is on to something good with this series.
On a more mainstream note, Ong’s clay sculptures, tucked in a far corner of the gallery, offer a cute and quirky spin to this show.
“Growing up within the confluence of an analogue childhood and a digital adulthood, we are primed to reflect from the past into the present, with an openness to look ahead. With this exhibition, there was a conscious awareness to engage artists who span the analogue-digital timeline, which automatically will prompt us to ‘rethink’ our ways of doing,” concludes Sharmin.
Rethinking Editions is on at Our ArtProjects, Zhongshan Building, off Jalan Kampung Attap in Kuala Lumpur from Jan 6-15. Open Tuesday to Saturday (11am-7pm). Sunday by appointment, closed Monday. Visit ourartprojects.com for more information.