The Reproduction of the Other: Originality and Copy in a Cross-Cultural, Trans-Historical Perspective.
Discussion on concepts such as originality, authenticity, and uniqueness and, on the other hand, fake, copy, and reproduction often tend to ignore that the status of an original, the procedure of copying, and the evaluation of the reproduction vary, sometimes dramatically, across historical epochs and semiotic ideologies. The theme is fraught with cross-cultural, post-colonial, and orientalist complicacies and paradoxes: when another civilization is accused of “lacking in originality” or of being “prone to copying”, is there perhaps a bias in such a judgment? Moreover, doesn’t this prejudice manifest itself also in the way past civilizations are sometimes evaluated from the standing point of the present time? The aesthetic value and social role of emulation also changes in time and space.
A fruitful approach to this thorny subject consists in taking into account the semiotic specificities of originality and reproduction as they are embodied in different media, styles, and expressions. Also, it consists in revising the usual oppositions of ethnocentric common sense through subtler articulation of the dialectics between the original and the copy. Isn’t it possible to innovate through repetition, as Umberto Eco already pointed out in a seminal essay (1985) and, conversely, to be repetitive in innovation? A comparative look at the way in which texts and images are deemed as “authentic” or “copies” across different times and spaces is meant to be conducive to such more nuanced articulation of the topic.
The session is meant to attract both theoretical and analytical papers dealing with the pitfalls, but also with the opportunities, of a cross-cultural, trans-historical reflection on originality and reproduction in the arts. Papers building on in-depth knowledge of non-Western histories, aesthetics, and semiotic ideologies will be particularly welcome.