Peter Luining email@ctrlaltdel.org
Thu, 06 Dec 2001 17:49:18 +0100


Multiple Personalities marks Haines Galleryıs first group exhibition 
comprised solely of artist multiples and editions. This show includes 
work by Marina Abramovic, Polly Apfelbaum, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, 
Rob Craigie, Michael Daines, Mark Dion, Douglas Gordon, Valery 
Grancher, Ann Hamilton, Damien Hirst, Mario Hergueta, Barbara Kruger, 
Peter Luining, Michael Mandiberg, MTAA, David Nash, Dennis Oppenheim, 
Alan Rath, Karin Sander, Jonathan Seliger, John F. Simon, Jr., Lorna 
Simpson, Kiki Smith, Fred Tomaselli, Mary Tsiongas, and Andy Warhol. 
The exhibition will exist both physically and virtually, comprised of 
work by traditional and experimental artists and thus emphasizing the 
extent of this art formıs context as a product, a concept and a 

Multiple Personalities comments on the history of the multiple and 
addresses the reasons behind this art form's development over time. 
Simply, a multiple can be defined as an art object that is produced 
in a quantity of more than one copy. However multiples are more than 
a technique used to produce art, they are also "the embodiment of a
theoretical standpoint in relation to the entire artistic 
discipline."(1) The multiple functions as a vehicle for the 
transmission of ideas and as it is repeated referencing a unique
work, it becomes a "denial of appearances and expectations."(2) 
>From the 60ıs to present day, commercial culture thrives on duplication 
just as modern communication depends on repetition as seen in news 
media, corporate ad campaigns, and political rhetoric, repetition is 
a technique used to reiterate a messageıs importance and to give it
validity, clarity and strength. 

In the late 1950s multiples became popular with artists who wished to
make their work available to the many people who could not afford a 
unique painting or sculpture.
Multiples took on several forms including handmade objects, 
ready-mades, printed materials, film, video, audiotapes, and books. 
Beginning in the 1960s, artists published multiples or object-editions 
by themselves, Piero Manzoni created a work entitled "Merda dıArtista", 
which was comprised of 100 cans of his own excrement. "The conceptual
relevance of the fact that more than one copy exist is independent from
the actual size of the edition. Manzoniıs piece gives an unforgettable 
twist to the notion of artistic production, it is irrelevant whether 
this is repeated 9 or 9,000 times."(3) 

In New York, George Maciunas began the production and distribution of 
Fluxus multiples, which were based on the premise that art should 
belong to everyone by the means of mechanical reproduction. For Fluxus 
artists, multiples were not only economical and easy to distribute, 
but they were the best art form to present the ongoing developments
of the artistsı ideas. Joseph Beuys in particular wanted to "break down 
the traditional gallery system of art exhibition" and wanted to use 
the concept of the multiple to "spread his ideas beyond the confines 
of institutions and into the rest of society".(4) Beuysıs Intuition 
Box is one of his most recognizable and most fundamental Fluxus
multiples as these make shift boxes were hand-constructed, signed and 
distributed on the streets of Dusseldorf. It is actually unknown how 
many boxes were purchased, although 8,000 had been made by 1974.(5) 
"It is exactly the vastness of its distribution that gives this 
multiple its particular significance as the most successful attempt to
exploit the format potential to transform a single idea into an endless 

Even though the latter half of the decade multiples became associated 
with the democratization of art, Pop artists utilized mass-produced 
objects as a commentary on consumerism. Pop art not only sought to 
elevate the vernacular object to the status of fine art, but multiples
like Andy Warholıs Campbellıs Soup Can on a Shopping Bag, "epitomized 
the consumer society of the 1960ıs".(7) This edition of shopping bags 
printed with the quintessential Pop image satirized the appetite of 
mass consumerism and the "utopian allegiance to modernity, with its 
implication of an endless series of identically constructed and 
identically furnished houses inhabited by a uniformly wealthy and
uniformly tasteful bourgeoisie."(8) As America became a world power, 
driven by postwar prosperity, consumer desires and material possessions
there was born a new popular culture and a new art world. The Pop Art 
multiple was defined as an "editioned original, usually made using 
mass-production techniques," which was "instantly recognizable and 
widely available". "It was their hope to break down the barriers 
between art and life by making their new art accessible to a wider 

However bold and insightful this art form was and still remains, the 
multiple has always been denounced as a lesser form of art. "The 
second class status of the multiple in art has historically been 
attributed to" concerns related to "artistic invention, quality, 
commercial affiliation, and the accessibility of a formal 
However today, technology has introduced a new element to the 
discussion. The concept of the multiple has been duped by electronic 
media as it offers an "updated and analogous fascination and tension 
around issues of authorship, originality and function".(11) All of 
these issues have lead to "confrontations with a definition of value 
in contemporary art."(12) There exists both links and divergences 
"between the tangible multiple and digitally produced work" and the 
attitudes surrounding the reconfiguration of value.(13)
We can agree that the tangible object has obvious value, however "how 
is art culture navigating the shift in importance/influence away from 
the unique fixed object towards the seductive and seemingly inclusive 
landscape of information?"(14) 

Throughout history, the multiple has been seen as a vehicle for 
information and way to de-emphasize the obsession and privileges of 
the art "object". Utilizing the mass-distribution and communication of
the Internet, innovative printing equipment and model building 
software, net artists have continued the philosophy of the art multiple 
to the highest degree. Essentially, everything that is created on the 
net is a multiple. Technology has given artists the means to truly 
dematerialize art. 

Digital mediums exist without the confines or restrictions experienced 
by other mediums. Perpetual multiplicity is inherent in this new medium 
and thus makes the idea of a limited edition obsolete. Net multiples 
such as Michael Mandibergıs AfterSherrieLevine.com allows users to 
download and print out a Walker Evans photograph along with a 
certificate of authenticity for each image that you print out and sign 
yourself. Mandibergıs conceptual net art piece takes a jab at art 
history and in the process "creates a physical object with cultural 
value but little or no economic value." He utilizes the accessibility 
of the web and the duplicity of the medium to appropriate and usurp 
the convention of the printed edition. 

Other net art projects such as Every Icon by John F. Simon Jr. and by Peter Luining produce nothing physical or tangible 
but simply remain digital. The name of the buyer is displayed somewhere 
within the program and thereby giving the edition its authenticity and 
value. Every Icon is a personal applet that increments through the set
of possible outcomes on a 32 x 32 pixel grid of each pixel being either 
black or white beginning with the date of purchase and ending 5 billion
years later when all possible outcomes have been attempted. Every time 
the user starts her copy of Every Icon, the software computes the icon 
to display based on how much time has elapsed since the date of 
purchase. This unlimited edition acts as an hourglass as well as 
reductive painting working independently of any artist or engineer.

Peter Luiningıs exists as a shockwave engine which 
produces digital color fields. The value is credited once the owner 
purchases the piece, their name is placed on the first screen and the
"nag" screen is removed. Then the user is allowed to enjoy uninter-
rupted streams of minimal art right on his computer screen. The Body of 
Michael Daines allows the viewer to purchase for $50.00 a signed print
of the torso and lower body of a 16-year old boy. The print of Dainesı 
body was auctioned on EBAY with a description indicating the body was 
in "overall good condition with minor imperfections". As Daines 
suggests with his multiple "everybody gets a piece" and follows the 
same thought as Joseph Beuys in the late Œ60s as he believed that 
people who owned his multiples were "staying in touch with him" 
and thus were able to extend the life of his own concepts.(15) 

Examining the trajectory of the multiple leaves little doubt that the 
definition of this art form has changed with time. "The multiple was 
informed by a spirit of accessibility, invention and explorationŠmaking 
art for ordinary people" and continues to shape the ideas of artists 
and influence art culture.(16) Perhaps with the concepts fostered in 
the Œ60s united with the technological potential of mediums today, art 
will be the catalyst to change the way we value and consume all things. 

(1) Daniel Buchholz & Gregorio Magnani, "International Index of 
Multiples: From Duchamp to the Present" 1992, p 7.
(2) Id. p 8.
(3) Id. p 7.
(4) Aidan Campbell, "Joseph Beuys ­ Multiples", Exhibition at the 
Barbican, referenced on www.culturewars.org.uk
(5) Buchholz, p 7.
(6) Id. p 7.
(7) "Pop Impressions Europe/USA: Prints and Multiples from The 
Museum of Modern Art", press release referenced on www.moma.org. 1999. 
(8) Buchholz, p 10.
(9) Id. 
(10) Laurel Beckman, "Something For Nothing: The New Multiple In 
Contemporary Art", referenced on www.ubu.com. 
(11) Id.
(12) Id.
(13) Id.
(14) Id.
(15) Emily Rekow, Walker Art Center Department of Education and 
Community Programs 
(16) Buchholz, p 11.